the worst time to have a heart attack

the wrong time to have a heart attack is right after the doctor has left the car.  i mean, woo was in my mini–i had just dropped her off–she’s a doctor, she has her own clinic and in fact, when i picked her up at that same clinic, i believe she put a stethoscope in her purse–so she could perform cpr on me.  she might even have a scalpel and she could cut open my chest and reach in and squeeze my heart back into working order.

instead, i ended up in the parking lot across from the emergency room entrance at evanston hospital.  popping two ativan.  drinking vitamin water zero.  taking my pulse with the stopwatch app on my phone.  and wondering do i go in or not?

nobody does sarcasm better than an emergency room nurse who knows damn well you’re not having a heart attack when you know damn well you are.

i had been having a nice afternoon visit with dr. louise berner-holmberg, whom most people know as “woo”.  woo is fifty, like me, and has decided to do what she really wants with her life–which is to open a medical clinic for poor people.  a free clinic in a heavily hispanic neighborhood between my house and wisconsin.  a free clinic?  she could perform cpr on me and all i’d be obligated to do is send her flowers and a thank you note afterwards.

woo has treated this clinic with the same care as a great work of art.  for instance, the lobby is very comfortable and clean–she thinks of it as an insult to patients to make them wait in a scruffy area.  she has a tiny door built into one wall of the lobby so that kids can access a play area of the joint and spine rehabilitation clinic next door to hers.  woo even has medical charts where patients can see them–it is of great comfort to see lots of medical charts even if they are full of blank printing paper.

woo, like most other doctors these days, keeps medical records on her computer. therefore, these charts are not necessary but they look all efficient!

she has examining rooms decorated with pictures made by her children, or in this case, a framed hermes scarf.  tres chic!

is it wrong that i would lust after the hermes scarf?

she works seven days a week at the fenix clinic and has enlisted many volunteers in her effort to provide medical care to those who are uninsured and without resources.  she draws no salary, though she isn’t opposed to the idea of a paycheck.  i admire what she’s doing and as i drove her to her meeting to plan a fundraiser for next weekend, we talked about how lucky we are to do something bold and something quite scary and outsized for our fiftieth year.

every night woo worries about whether this cilnic is going to stay afloat. look at all the paperwork! i worry every day whether this project will stay afloat.

we hugged.  we said “see you next week at the fundraiser” and then i drove away with a funny pain in my chest that got worse.  and then came the little fear.  and the bigger one.  i drove directly to the parking lot of evanston hospital.

i’ve done this before.  i’m close enough that if it gets any worse i can go inside but not so close that the security guard starts thinking that i’m a stalker.  which i decide i won’t today.  i think the ativan are working.  i come home and i am writing at the dining room table. feeling very sheepish.  and not at all like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

i am definitely going to woo’s party at fenix on friday the twenty fourth from five thirty to eight p.m. it’s at 130 washington avenue in highwood.  for more information about her incredible work, go to

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