If you live with a chronic illness, you know that nothing surprises you. You are used to new symptoms arising out of the blue, and you are accustomed to doctors’ visits, diagnostic tests, and hospitalizations.

About a year ago, I swore off doctors for treatment of my fibromyalgia. Weary of chasing a cure and reaching a level of tolerable pain, I cleared my calendar and said “no more” to any appointments related to health.

That intention dissolved when I contracted scabies in early February. I’ve become a regular at the dermatologist’s office and have totally broken my” no more doctors” vow.

But that’s not all.  I’ve even outdone myself. In a matter of minutes last Friday, I went from looking forward to breakfast out with my husband to taking him along with me for a ride in an ambulance.

It seems that during a routine follow-up appointment with my internist, updating him on my scabies progress, my chest decided to entertain the instant crush of a boulder. The boulder rapidly moved up to my neck and teeth and then darted through my body. I guess if the boulder decided to visit, it did not want to miss my back. Not expecting this guest, I calmly announced, “I think something is wrong.”

Within minutes I was whisked away on a portable chair, down a freight elevator, through an office building lobby, to the fire department ambulance double parked out front. Have you ever had this kind of ride? It’s unnerving. I scanned the faces of all the people in my wake. What were they thinking? I’m glad it’s you and not me. Or were they saying a prayer for me as I rolled by, a habit I’ve picked up ever since my last ambulance ride in 2005 when I broke my hip. Whatever those people were doing, I had an urge to wave, but thought that behavior would be inappropriate.

Marv soon joined me and off we went: sirens screaming, traffic stopping, pedestrians gawking. “So, this is what it’s like to ride in one of these,” my husband said wisely. Meanwhile I was worrying about the boulder and the tablespoons of blood dripped on my new sweater during attempts to start an IV.

At the ER, while morphine attended my boulder, Marv called our kids, both living hundreds of miles away, both very concerned, both wanting to jump on planes instantly. Apparently their dad led them to believe it was less than a perfect day.

As I slid from the CT scanner back to the ER cart, I thought of a way I could hope to assuage their long distance concerns. I had my newish iPhone in my purse, and my purse was hidden under my heated blanket.

By the way, did you read that article on health care costs a few weeks ago in Time magazine? It listed an itemized cost for heated blankets, so naturally dollar signs  blazed in my head, especially when the technician brought me a second one.

Anyway, I thought I would take pictures to text our kids so they would know I was alive and well, and that, as a retired  nurse with a sense of humor, I was up to this untoward event .

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The best thing that happened during this two-day one-night stay was when I wandered next door to see with whom I shared a bathroom. I hoped it would be a woman! She saw me wearing my slacks and tennis shoes under my patient gown, and she hopped out of bed to put on hers. We modeled our Easter blue dresses, complemented by white terry cloth shawls (aka bath towels), for Marv and then roamed the hallways until we found a window. Windowless rooms were not our thing. We compared stories and it quickly became clear we shared a sense of humor, plus a tad of angst, about our unplanned side trips on this Easter weekend.


I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that after my friend had her final test earlier than I did, and she was discharged, I became a bit (or a lot) impatient and asked the nurse about signing out AMA (against medical advice) and coming in the next day outpatient. I texted that info to my daughter. Her response: “Do not leave.”‘ At the same time, she sent out a family email asking if folks remembered the commercial in which someone is crabby until they get their Snickers bar. She had diagnosed my problem! I’d been fasting for my second 18-hour stretch since admission, and I was CRABBY and ready to sign myself out. But I listened. And I stayed.

Marv left, but not before he brought me a sandwich that I could grab the instant I was cleared to eat. And on the way home, I directed the cab to an ice cream shop. I thought I deserved CALORIES after my two lengthy fasts. So I was home sweet home at last, hot fudge sundae in hand.


The next day was Easter. I was teary as I entered our church. The results of my tests had been normal, and I’ll be following up with my doctor, so I’ll have to go on breaking my “no doctor” vow, but to be able to sit in church on this special day, thinking of its significance, was an overwhelming experience.

My spirits cheered as the brass and the choir ended the service with the triumphant, Hallelujah! Hallelujah, indeed!


Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago