I have two memories from the ER: a nurse telling me that they were starting CPR (as unlikely as that sounds, since I was essentially dead), and a nurse holding my hand as I lay in some diagnostic machine, my arms and legs as cold as ice. The results revealed a shocking reason for the cold in my extremities: I had suffered an arterial aneurysm and blood was continuing to spill into my abdomen.
Ray watched a rotating team of doctors and nurses surround me: a radiologist stopped the bleed arthroscopically by weaving a metal coil up through the artery from my groin; other doctors secured a dialysis machine and several others to keep my vital organs going; yet another team created a drain in my abdomen through which to drain out the accumulated blood.
Periodically, staff came out to update Ray with lots more information and kindness than he expected. It was a hint that not only was the medical care here extraordinary, the attention to patients and families was too.
Ray sat, stunned. He kept replaying the incredible events of the past hour, increasingly angry at himself for not insisting that the first ambulance take me immediately to the hospital. Now, I was hovering between life and death and had been wheeled into the Intensive Care Unit. With the lead doctor at his side, Ray called Victoria who was staying at our house in Lake Worth before beginning her residency in Gainesville.
“Your mother’s in the ER,” Ray said. The doctor took the call from there. “Your mother is very ill.”
Victoria will have to fill in the rest of what was said then. What I know is that she resolved to get to our side. “I’m not asking, I’m coming.” She was on a plane that night, as was my sister, Susie, from Colorado.
Meantime, others came to Ray’s assistance. A hospital aide set up a cot in a private room and brought him dinner. A remarkable Turkish family assembled in the ICU to attend to the father took Ray in with food and friendship.
Still, there was no sleep for him that night. His breathing hampered and chest wracked by bronchitis, and his mind swirling with anguish, guilt, and the agony of not knowing whether I could possibly pull out of this crisis, Ray paced the halls.