It was one of those down times on the roller coaster of our early married life. My husband was about to embark on a new job in a different state and we had no insurance. I had remained in our old state until our house would sell. All three of our kids had the chicken pox. The only vehicle we had available to us was a broken down Ford Fairlaine, which barely made it to the end of the driveway.
I was beginning to feel our house would never sell and that we’d be apart for the rest of our marriage or at least until the kids were out of college. It was in that dark time that the phone rang. It was a doctor from hospital in St. Paul, MN. He said my husband had admitted himself to the ER after experiencing tachycardia (rapid heart rate). He said if there was anyway I could get there as soon as possible, the better it would be.
We had just recovered from a long time of unemployment. Our bank account had about 45 cents in it. I couldn’t drive that old beater more than a mile. My kids were contagious, and according to the doctor, my husband didn’t have long for this world. I called my parents and asked if they could drive to our town and let me use their car to reach him. Just after hanging up, my husband was on the phone.
Apparently, he heard the doctor making the call and felt sure that it wasn’t necessary for me to make a trip. He was in a hospital ward, mind you. There were no private phones, no cell phones – just lines of hospital beds holding sick people. So he detached his IV and all the cords which attached to the machines showing his vitals and ran down the hall to a pay phone. Of course pandemonium set in as lights were going off and on and alerts were sounding. They thought my husband had crashed. Imagine their surprise, when they found he was no longer in his bed!
He spent a few days in that ward as a large number of tests were run. He felt like he was sitting in a cab watching the meter running – as dollar signs turned over and over. His stress over not being able to pay the huge bill only added to his distress Tests were done to see what was causing his rapid heart rate. Stress tests were done. Any anxiety or depression they were looking for, didn’t show up until he was there for a few days.
During his time there, a drug addict pulled out his IV and was bleeding profusely. Paul administered first aid. An elderly gentlemen streaked the nurses’ station creating quite a stir. Someone got in bed with him and proceeded to wet the bed. Paul’s room was right next to the communal rest room. I suppose the poor fellow thought he was there.
Since he was in a university hospital, a large staff of doctors, nurses and interns were making rounds one day. One of the interns suggested checking for hyper-active thyroid. They did and discovered that he indeed did suffer from this condition. It was a relief, but only added to more anxiety.
He was led down a long hall way. At the end of the hall was a room with a danger sign. This was the room they led him to. He was told to wait. While waiting he noticed a metal cup with a syringe. After a few minutes of waiting and wondering what would happen next, a young nurse came in draped in a radio active apron. She carried a metal container with heavily gloved hands. She took the syringe and drew some of the liquid from the metal container and placed it in the cup. Paul was told to drink it.
As you can imagine, it wasn’t very reassuring for him to do so, after all the precautions he witnessed. The radio active iodine was administered to kill his thyroid and rid him of this problem.
So the story ended well, at least until the bill arrived.