Tag Archives: heart attacks

facebook, friendship, fear. . . and the power of index cards

i woke up yesterday morning with a feeling of unbearable dread.  it didn’t help that i was in ohio, having drove six hundred miles to drop off my son eastman at college, and  that there was a steady gray rain tapping at the window.  tapping and remind me that i had promised to drive to michigan.  i couldn’t do it.  i couldn’t take the highway, the cars, the trucks, the lights, the police.  put that pillow back over my head.

i drive a mini-cooper. sometimes the driver's seat makes me feel like the victor hugo character quasimoto. add a few cups of coffee to create acid reflux. which has the same symptoms as a heart attack.

still, i had made a promise to molly parshall.  she’s a new facebook friend.  i had never met her.  a lot of her friends on facebook have probably never met her because she is housebound.  her agoraphobia has reached a point that she is confined to the house although she can and does try to walk out onto the front porch and pick up the mail once a day.  but she does spend a considerable amount of time confined to her bedroom.  she asked for me to come see her.  i could not refuse her.  i drove  along the ohio turnpike which was the route i had to use to get to chicago anyway, but there was a point where i would have to make a choice.  east to chicago and home and safely.  north to michigan to molly’s house.

i sat at the rest stop for a while.  i ate seven pepcids.  then i got sort of stubborn.  i headed north, into michigan.  i realized  i was going to be late. i called molly.  it was the first time we had ever spoken.  her voice was trembling.  i asked her how she was and she said nervous.  i said i was too.  and that i was going to be late.

i was wrong about one thing, well, two.  i was probably just as scared of her as she was of me.  and i needed her as much as she needed me.   i’m fifty one years old and my children don’t need me as much.  once you are a mother, the part of you that needs to be needed is permanently installed.  a facebook friend needed me.  i parked the car.

this is a terrible picture of her house taken on a rainy, gray day. the parshalls live in a quiet, family friendly neighborhood in a small town in michigan. they have a row of trees out back and a river just beyond the trees. every new yorker with a rent controlled eight by ten loft apartment is now officially jealous and should be.

i knocked on the door.  i heard a dog barking from inside.  i waited.  and waited.  i had thought it was possible she would simply decide not to talk to me.  but at last the door opened.  she was crying, or had been.  i started crying and i did the only thing that moms know how to do.  i hugged her.

but only after she got the dog settled down.  i realize i’m sort of scared of being bitten by a dog.  we sat down in her living room and held hands.

molly is a beautiful twenty six year old wife and mother.  when she was seventeen she became engaged, then discovered she was pregnant, then lost her beloved grandmother, married, and then nursed her father through his final illness.  all this within the course of a year.  and that’s when she started being afraid.  she has had periods of time in which she has been able to leave the house.  but there’s been a definite slide and now it’s the bedroom, the living room, the kitchen, then back to the bedroom.  she is trapped but communicates with the world with her cell phone and facebook.  facebook is a fun diversion and a way to stay in touch with friends (even to make new friends) but she wants more than that.  and i sort of wonder if she couldn’t communicate through facebook and phone, what would happen to her. . .

i had brought her a present for her son blake.  it’s a magic set (shhhh!  that’s supposed to be a surprise) and i had brought her a set of yarn.  she crochets and i wanted her to have something to distract her when she was nervous.  because i was going to ask her to do some things that would make her nervous.   over the next hour we came up with a plan–taking the scary things and putting them in order, least scary to utterly terrifying.  we used index cards. i’m a believer in index cards.

at the end of the visit, i realized she was nervous again.  so was i.  i drove the four hours home, thinking the whole time that maybe i shouldn’t have interfered in her life.  but we’re friends and that’s what friends do, right?

molly and i said goodbye and i promised i'd be back. she countered by saying maybe she should come to chicago. that made me so happy!

i got home and had a message from her:  she has created a blog in which she’ll write about her progress.  i’m a subscriber already!  and she had felt the urge to go out for a car ride with her husband jeff.  jeff is her “safe” person and being in the car is something that she used to be able to do with him.  i don’t know if they went for a drive, but just the optimism is wonderful.  today, i hope my friend molly gets out on the front porch for fifteen minutes, just like she promised on the index cards.  why?  because she’s crocheting me a damn scarf, that’s why!  🙂

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 fenixclinic.org