Sunday, December 02, 2007


Despite my pessimism over the state of general medical care in this country, watching Sicko recently reminded me that there are certainly times when the American medical system works well, and saves lives.

Back in the late 70s, I saw the system save the life of my grandfather.

I must have been about 14 years old when my grandpa had what I think was his first heart attack. He lived next door, and I happened to be visiting when he began experiencing extreme pain in his chest. He laid down in bed, while my grandmother Evelyn called for an ambulance.

I've described my grandpa many times before as "eccentric," and that's a fair description, I suppose. In the objective reality, though, the term probably doesn't fully describe his unusual perspective on life, his compulsive behavior and his obsessive thinking. His obsessive-compulsive personality was sometimes maddening and sometimes amusing, but was always present. He became anxious around clutter, cleaned constantly and could never figure out why others didn't.

About 45 minutes after my grandma called for the ambulance, the paramedics arrived. (Their station, in Summersville, WV, was more than a far piece from our home.) They quickly concluded grandpa was having a heart attack, and set up an IV line into his arm. Being 14 and rather curious, I stood at the foot of the bed, watching the men do their work. Even while I was really worried for my grandpa, I was really impressed at how the emergency workers performed their job.

Suddenly, after a few moments of the IV, my grandpa yelled out in a weak, but very urgent, voice:


Grandma was just around the corner, giving the paramedics room to work in the small bedroom. She heard him yell her name, and peeked into the bedroom. She was sure he was dying.

"Evelyn!" He said it again, and this time his yell carried a bit more urgency than the previous call. "Evelyn, come here."

As she rushed to the bedside, he reached up and touched her softly on the arm:

"Evelyn, get these gentlemen a bucket. They're dripping IV fluid all over my carpet."

I started laughing, really loud and hard. There was just something damn funny about a man staying true to his obsessive compulsive nature even when facing possible death. The paramedics were not amused.

"Mr. Summers,' the lead guy said, very calmly, 'we're here trying to save your life."

"I know, and I really appreciate it." My grandpa's voice sounded better, fuller. "I really do. But you don't have to ruin my carpet in the process."

Evelyn brought him the bucket. She always did.


denny said...

Hi Film Geek!!! Stopping by for a visit... very cool story. :)
Hope All Is Well!!!!

Evil Twin's Wife said...

My son was born at 28 weeks gestation, weighing only 2lbs, 5oz. He spent almost 7 weeks in the NICU and when he came home, he was worth nearly $150,000. We're lucky to have excellent insurance, but they didn't turn away babies whose parents didn't. And, all the babies were treated the same, which is to say, unbelievable attention from the nurses. Even if the baby was born to a crack addict or whatever. Those nurses were amazing. I will forever be grateful to all the docs and nurses there. They saved my son's life and now he's a nearly 10 yr old straight A student.

Buzzardbilly said...

Excellent story. My sister is a nurse with Hospice. Some of the stories she shares are so touching, like the one you just told. Some people are pretty amazing.

The Film Geek said...

Right back at ya, Denny. Travel safely!

ETW: I rarely think it's the medical professionals themselves who cause this health care problem. Most, as you describe, want to help and heal.

Buzzardbilly: Thank you. And they are, aren't they.

Lisa said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, my pics are my treasures! I really enjoyed your story, I work in the healthcare field and I can relate to it. I once had a patient who would not touch the sink faucets, door handles, or sit on the toilet because she was afraid of catching a bug. People are funny and amazing!