My wife, Mia, had just had a major surgery the night before. She’d had her gall bladder removed, but that is another story for another time. Today, she was recovering; she looked good and felt good and was looking forward to just going home. At lunchtime, a tiny, Vietnamese nurse came to bring her lunch. Her name tag said “Vinh,” but the dry erase board listed her as “Vicky.” Vicky was friendly and attentive and told my wife that they had to move her from the bed to the chair in order to change her sheets and it seemed like a opportune time to feed her; if she wanted to go home that day, she was going to need to meet some benchmarks. Mia eased herself down to the floor and then sat in the chair while Vicky opened up the lunch and placed it on the tray.
Mia paled and turned to look at me. “Wes, I don’t feel good.”
She then began seizing. Vicky tried to get Mia to respond and told me to hit the “Code Blue” button on the wall, near the bed. I followed instructions. Almost immediately, another nurse, Hope (Huan on her name tag) ran into the room. These two tiny women, perhaps 180 pounds altogether, tossed my wife onto the bed like a sack of potatoes as more nurses walked and jogged into the room. In order to be helpful, I pulled chairs and tables and trays out of everyone’s way.
I was still an active police officer at this time and all my instincts told me to DO SOMETHING. And yet there was nothing I could do. Nurses were attending my wife and I was just trying to stand out of their way. Waiting, outside the flurry of activity at my wife’s bed.
“Is she breathing?” I heard a nurse ask.
I did not hear an answer.
I saw a single doctor standing in the doorway, hand on his chin, contemplating. I wanted to scream at him, “Why aren’t you doing anything?”
“Does anyone have a pulse?” I heard another nurse ask.
I did not hear an answer. Again.
A deep pain throbbed inside my chest. I had lost her. I had not prepared for this and it was just beginning to hit. There were no tears yet.
“Okay, she’s looking good.” A lead nurse thanked everyone as they began to file out of the room.
Hope and Vicky continued to attend to Mia and a third nurse turned around and startled as she saw me standing there for the first time.
“Oh my God. Have you been there the whole time?”
I didn’t answer, as I could not form words, and I just nodded my head.
She could obviously see the tears forming in my eyes and she just stepped forward and hugged me. She held me tightly and then there were tears. Tears of fear, tears of frustration, tears of relief. She hugged me until the tears were gone and then she disappeared into the hospital, just like the angels that nurses are.
It turns out that Mia suffers occasionally from Vasovagal Syncope, a neurologically induced drop in blood pressure that can mimic a seizure and cause a brief loss of consciousness. Usually the most serious complication is injury from a fall.
That is the story of how I lost my wife for about twenty seconds and I can’t comprehend or fathom what that loss would feel like if it were any longer. It is her birthday this week. She’ll be XX years old and each birthday that she shares with me is a gift that I try not to squander.
Happy Birthday, my love.