On October 25, 2014, I was all settled on my couch with my blankie, Kleenexes, remote, Vitamin Water, snacks and my cigarettes, all at the ready to enjoy the ancient rivalry between my beloved Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans in their annual football slugfest.
I had been feeling quite icky for the past couple of days, running a low-grade temperature, with a slightly congested head, and that annoying all-over body ache.
So I made sure I had all the essentials for my bad cold with me on the coffee table so I wouldn’t have to miss one second of this most important game.
The Spartans were having a great football season so far while the Wolverines were not. They needed this win, not only for their college division rankings, but to also earn the chance to have a prestigious post-season bowl game entry.
Shortly after the first quarter had begun, I received a phone call from the supervising nurse at the Maplewoods Manor Nursing Home in Clio, MI where my mother was a resident.
My mother, Margaret Behme, was 90 years old and she had been living on borrowed time for several years. She had had problems for many decades with her heart and already had a quadruple by-pass surgery about 25 years before.
Unfortunately, she needed another one but 3 years previously her cardiologist frankly told her that because of her age and other health issues, he didn’t think she would make it off the operating table alive. But he said he would leave the decision up to her as to whether or not she wanted the surgery.
After consulting with us three kids, she decided that she wouldn’t go through with it. But she knew, as well as the rest of her family knew, that her heart would get weaker and weaker and that her lungs would begin to fill up with fluid because of her heart problems and that her health would go downhill.
The supervising nurse told me that my mother was having a lot of chest pains, her blood pressure was low and her lungs sounded quite congested. So she had just been taken by ambulance to go to the Genesys Medical Center’s emergency room in Grand Blanc.
I profusely thanked the nurse for calling me and I quickly called my daughter, Tara, to tell her that Grandma was on her way to the E.R. with chest pains and could she please drive down to Genesys to be with Grandma?
Tara knew I had not been feeling well and so she immediately agreed with me that I should not be with my mom since I could be contagious with something.
Tara said her, her two children, and her boyfriend, Justin, would immediately leave and make that long drive to be with Grandma. I thanked her and told her to please tell my mom that I love her and to also keep me updated on her condition. Tara promised me she would do all of that.
We all live in Bay County which is two counties north of our former home in Genesee County. And Grand Blanc, where the Genesys Hospital is located, is at the southern end of Genesee County. So it is more than 50 miles from our houses to the hospital.
While keeping an eye on the football game, I called my two younger brothers, Keith and Eugene, to let them know that mom had been sent by ambulance to the emergency room and for what reasons.
I also told them that Tara had just left to make that long drive to be with Grandma and that she was going to keep me updated on her condition. I would then keep them informed as well. I also explained why both Tara and I had agreed that it was best that I stayed home because I was coming down with a bad cold.
Keith lives in Wisconsin and he asked me if I thought he should try to come here and I told him to hold on until we knew more about what was going on with Mom.
Eugene was working at his job in Detroit and he said he was leaving work early to drive up to Grand Blanc to also be with Mom as well as Tara.
Intensely concerned and distracted, I tried to focus on the football game while I nervously sat on the couch, eager to hear some news, any news, from either Tara or from Eugene about how my mom was doing.
Shortly after the third quarter had started, Tara called me and told me that her and Eugene had both met in the emergency room parking lot at the same time.
Mom was comfortable and awake and alert and her chest pains had subsided a bit but her blood pressure and blood oxygen levels were still low. The staff had done an X-ray on her lungs, and she was very congested with fluids. They were waiting for a pulmonologist and a cardiologist to further evaluate her.
Tara had given my Mom a big hug and a kiss from me as she explained why I was unable to come down to be with her. Tara told her that I loved her and that I was sending good thoughts down to her.
I thanked Tara for letting me know and that I loved her too. Then I called Keith and gave him the little we knew at this time.
I sat back again on my couch, relieved that my Mom didn’t seem to be doing that bad. I then was able to concentrate on the football game with an easier mind.
During the fourth quarter, Michigan State intercepted the football again, like they had been doing throughout the whole game! I groaned in frustration at the ineptitude of this year’s Michigan team, most especially for this most important game.
A few minutes after this, my chest began to hurt, and I began to cough a little bit in a reflex manner. But it still hurt and my chest just felt weirdly different somehow.
But when I began to feel slightly nauseated, I immediately grabbed my phone and called 9-1-1 to have an ambulance come get me.
My good friend, Barb Humphrey, had suffered a massive heart attack about 10 years previously. She had told me several times about her symptoms and the detail that had always stuck in my head was that she had been very nauseated along with the immense chest pains.
I didn’t know if I was having a heart attack or not but I was feeling weird in ways I had never experienced before and I figured I had better be checked out.
While I was speaking to the 9-1-1 dispatcher, I went into my bedroom to get out my CPAP (sleep apnea) carrying case from my closet. I began to dismantle my CPAP machine but my chest pains suddenly worsened and I was having a lot of difficulty catching my breath.
I had already given the dispatcher my most important address information and I told him I had to hang up now because I couldn’t talk because I was having a lot of problems breathing.
I told him I would have my apartment door unlocked because I did not want them to break my door down. The dispatcher began to tell me to not hang up on him, but I did so anyways because I really needed all of the oxygen I could get.
I went out to unlock my door, then I went back into my bedroom to continue to put my CPAP machine in its travel case. The phone rang back and I saw on the Caller ID that it was the dispatcher but I couldn’t answer the phone.
I was quickly becoming a bit faint but I fought hard to stay awake and alert and finish what I needed to do. I managed to get my CPAP machine ready to go. I had my wallet with my medical information and my cell phone and its charger in the CPAP travel case as well.
My apartment door was opened and I heard the paramedics call out to me and I got up with my travel case and left my bedroom. One of them was asking me all sorts of questions while I hurriedly sat on my couch, gasping for air.
Then as he checked my vitals and asked me other questions, the other paramedic began to roughly shove my Amigo scooter out of the way so that he could bring in the gurney.
I jumped and yelled at him, “What the hell are you trying to do, break it? You just can’t shove it around, you have to disengage its drive system!” And I then got in my scooter’s seat and moved it closer to my couch so that they could get the gurney in. My scooter cost over $4,000 and I cannot afford to have it mistreated.
Then when I began to feel much worse, I got out of the scooter and walked outside my apartment to sit down on the gurney, just to make things easier for everybody and to keep my scooter safe.
The astonished paramedics followed me out to the hallway. I gave one of them my apartment keys so that he could lock my door while the other one put a blanket over me. Then they hooked up a blood pressure cuff on my arm and a blood oxygen meter on one of my fingers, as well as putting an oxygen mask on me.
I was able to breathe a little easier now that I had the mask on me but my chest was still hurting like crazy and I was still feeling slightly nauseated.
As they rolled me down the hallway to the elevators, I sent Tara a text that I was on my way in an ambulance to Bay Regional Medical Center with chest pains.
After I was placed in the ambulance in my apartment building’s parking lot, the paramedics were quite busy for several minutes taking my blood pressure, blood oxygen levels and faxing them to the emergency room.
They asked me what had I been doing just before I started having chest pains. I told them that if I was having a heart attack, it was the fault of the Michigan Wolverines football team because I was just sitting on my couch getting depressed at how bad Michigan was losing.
The paramedic driver said, “Yeah, that game today would have given any Michigan fan a heart attack it was so horrible” and I cracked up laughing in agreement with him.
They gave me an injection of something that I cannot remember but I started feeling much worse, like I was going to black out or something. But I was fighting hard to stay awake and alert.
My cell phone rang back with a text that I knew would be from Tara and I asked the paramedics to please hand me my phone but they refused to do so, they said I had to concentrate on staying alert.
I began to get angry and quite anxious because all I wanted was to communicate with Tara, and ask her to please come back up to Bay City because I was now thinking I was close to dying. And I just needed to see her, to hug her, that is all I wanted!
Not being allowed to have my cell phone given to me was stressing me out worse but the paramedics then got the word to get me to the E.R. IMMEDIATELY so they took off with the lights and sirens going off.
That’s when I knew I was definitely in serious trouble. I’ve been taken to other hospitals’ emergency rooms by ambulance before but I have never been given the full flashing lights and sirens blazing special treatment before.
I pleaded with the paramedic in the back of the ambulance with me, who was giving me another injection of some kind, to please give me back my cell phone because I could hear it going off again for the third time. I knew Tara was frantic with worry now over me!
He shook his head no as he told me that I had to just concentrate on staying alert. But then when he read the numbers coming out of the machine he had hooked up to me, he grabbed some scissors as he apologetically told me that he had to cut my cute T-shirt up the front.
“What? Why? No, don’t cut my shirt, it’s one of my favorites, I will just take it off!” But too late, he had already begun to slice it up. Then he put these big sticker things on my chest.
Later on I realized that he had cut up my shirt because my blood pressure and my blood oxygen levels had dangerously dropped down and he was getting ready just in case he had to quickly use the defibrillator on me.
At that time, I was fighting to get enough air, fighting to stay awake, mad as hell that one of my favorite shirts was now cut up but worse of all, I needed to communicate with Tara and I wasn’t being allowed to do that!
We reached the emergency room and I was quickly wheeled into one of the rooms where about 6-8 people swarmed all over me, hooking me up to various machines, putting a different blood pressure cuff and blood oxygen monitor on me while asking me all sorts of questions.
I would answer their questions and then plead to be given my cell phone, that my daughter now knew that I had gone to the E.R. with chest pains but I knew that she was frantic not knowing what was going on.
I explained that she was now all the way down in Grand Blanc in the Genesys E.R. to be with my mom who had also been taken care there for chest pains. I pleaded to be allowed to call her or text her because I needed, I absolutely needed to have her here with me!
They kept telling me to calm down, to keep fighting to stay awake and stay alert but all they were doing was making me angrier and angrier and more stressed out than I needed to be.
One of the nurses saw that they were being counter-productive so she asked me where my cell phone was and I gratefully told her in what pocket of my CPAP case it was in.
So as all of these people kept working on me and around me, I tried calling Tara but I could not get a signal because I was inside the emergency room. Then I tried sending her a text but that didn’t go through either.
I was now so frustrated and angry, I slammed my cell phone down on my lap and I was fighting to keep tears from falling from my eyes. I then asked if I could use one of their phones but there wasn’t one in that treatment room.
I leaned back against the pillow and closed my eyes, still gasping for air despite the oxygen mask. My breathing problems were made so much worse by my stress and by my frustration and my fears that I would never be able to talk to Tara or communicate with her again, let alone see her again.
That nurse noticed the tears oozing out from under my eyes and she asked me if I just wanted to have my daughter here with me and I opened my eyes and tearfully nodded at her.
She started yelling at people to call both the Genesys emergency room from the nurses’ station phone and tell them to get a message, STAT, to my daughter who was there with my mother, as well as to keep trying to reach my daughter at her cell phone number. Several people immediately jumped up and started making phone calls.
With much grateful relief, I smiled at the nurse and I whispered thank you to her. Just then some bells and alarms went off and people started doing several different things around me at the same time.
I was starting to get woozier and woozier and I asked the nurse if they had given me a pain shot of something and she said yes, they had. But I still thought it would be a good thing to stay awake even though every part of my body was urging me to just close my eyes again and go to sleep.
Then I felt something warm trickling down my left hand and I looked down and there was blood dripping all over the place. The staff had been trying to get an I.V. going and for some reason they were having a lot of problems and I was now bleeding badly from all of their attempts.
I later found out that I had been giving a blood-thinner injection and that had made me bleed like Niagara Falls. My blood pressure was now down in the 20s and because of that, my veins had collapsed and the E.R. staff was now having a lot of difficulties getting an I.V. line going.
When I looked down at my bleeding hand, I was quite astonished to see the paramedic who had been in the back of the ambulance with me, was still here. Usually they hand their patients over to the E.R. staff, fill out a few forms and then leave.
The paramedic was on one knee, holding my hand steady, as a nurse tried to put in another I.V. line. Another nurse said that the paramedic looked like he was about ready to propose to me and I began to laugh because she was right!
I cracked everybody up laughing when I told the paramedic that I didn’t care much for diamonds but that I wanted a big, fat, absolutely real emerald from Brazil for an engagement ring and he looked up at me and grinned.
Then he and I laughed even harder when I announced that he had better hurry up and put a ring on it because he had already tried to take my clothes off in the ambulance!
Then one of the people who had jumped up to make the phone calls for me came in and told me that she had spoken to my brother, Eugene, at the Genesys emergency room and she had told him that he had to get an urgent message to my daughter, Tara.
Eugene had personally gone down to the cafeteria where Tara and Justin had taken the kids for dinner after they had found out that my mom was being admitted into the hospital and everybody was now just waiting for her to be moved into a hospital room and a bed. He had tried calling her cell phone as well but he was unable to get through too.
Eugene had told Tara that I was having a heart attack at Bay Regional and that she needed to get back up there immediately. He then called the nurse back from my E.R. to tell her that Tara was on her way back up to Bay City.
The nurse said she was to pass on a message to me from Tara, that Tara had said for me to stay away from any bright lights, that lights are dangerous. I started to laugh and cry at the same time because that was a special joke between us.
When I had had my hysterectomy almost 20 years ago because I had been diagnosed with uterine cancer, Tara had an asthma attack while visiting me in Genesys hospital.
My mom had accompanied her to the emergency room downstairs and Tara had been given an injection of a drug that she then had an anaphylactic reaction to. It was a life-threatening dangerous allergic reaction to the drug solumedrol.
She had almost died and when I finally had wheel chaired myself down to the E.R. to be with her because she was frantically calling for me, I kept telling her to stay here, stay awake, to stay away from any bright lights, that lights are bad, and to always run away from any bright lights.
That became kind of a macabre joke between us but it was a joke I really needed right now and most especially from my Tara.
I relaxed a lot more because I knew that Tara would soon be here and I was determined that I would also stay away from any bright lights as well.
Finally an I.V. line was hooked up and then I was being frantically wheeled in my bed to another room, a room that was frigid, North Pole cold. And it was eerily dim in that room as well.
Scared that perhaps my body was shutting down and I was now feeling a cold that no one else could feel or that my eyesight was becoming dim, I asked in a very frightened tone to a male nurse who was standing by the head of my bed if that room was really cold and dim or was it just me?
He said it was both cold and dim and that it was not just me. I gave an exaggerated, “Whew!” and he laughed. He patted my shoulder as he told me, “You are so funny! I like you! Here you are having a heart attack and you are being so hilarious!”
I asked him, “So I am definitely having a heart attack? Nobody bothered to tell me if I was or not. Man, it sucks always being the last person to find out things!” And he laughed even harder.
He told me, “Yes, you are having a heart attack but we are going to put a stent into your heart to open up one of the arteries and then you will be just fine.”
Just then, Dr. Daniel Lee, my cardiologist, came in and winked at me, “Yep, you will be feeling a lot better in just a few more minutes, Jeneane.”
I winked back at him and I asked him if I would be feeling better enough to order a sandwich delivered by Jimmy John’s because I had just realized I hadn’t had a thing to eat all day and I was starving! I’d even order enough for all of us too because it would be rude for me to pig out by myself in front of all of them! And everybody laughed and that nurse patted me on the shoulder again and told me how much he liked me.
Dr. Lee then explained that they were going to put a clamp on my lower right arm and then make a big hole in my artery so that he could then thread the stent up through my arm and across my chest into my heart. That I might be able to feel the pressure from that procedure but I would not feel any pain.
I anxiously asked him, “Are you sure?” because that sounded like it would be an extremely painful process but the male nurse at my head laughed as he told me that he had made sure I had had plenty of the “good stuff” and that I would not feel one bit of pain.
So it was interesting to watch Dr. Lee poke me in the arm and I could feel the pressure of the stent moving up my arm, across my chest and into my heart but nope, I could not feel a bit of pain.
Suddenly my chest seemed to expand with relief and I was able to breathe so much better and easier now. Surprised, I told Dr. Lee, “I do feel a lot better!” and he laughed.
Then I told my male nurse, “You were right, I feel no pain at all! Can I take any of that “good stuff” home with me?” And he laughed as he told me he would see what he could do to hook me up.
I was kept in that cold, dim room for a bit longer while Dr. Lee and his staff kept monitoring me and my vital signs. I kept closing my eyes still feeling like I could just nod off but I kept making myself stay awake until I could see Tara again.
Finally it was decided that I could then be put into a private room in the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) and I was wheeled upstairs and then transferred into that hospital bed in the room.
My male nurse had come up with me and he winked at me as he left and told me to page him if I did decide to call Jimmy John’s and place an order and I laughed back at him and told him I would most certainly let him know.
While the floor nurse was writing down my vitals and asking me different admission questions, Tara and Justin, Ava, Evvie and Charlotte came running into my room.
Tara and I both started crying at the same time as we gave each other long, big hugs, telling each other how much we loved one another.
She said that after she had received the one text from me, she had tried calling me and when I didn’t answer my cell phone, and then she couldn’t get through at all with either phone calls or texts to my phone, she didn’t know what to think or what to do next. Should she leave and come back? Stay there with Grandma until she heard something definitive?
I explained to her that I had been so mad that the paramedics would not let me answer my cell phone. Then when I was finally given my cell phone in the E.R., the same thing had happened to me when I had tried to call and text her back, nothing would go through.
Tara said she didn’t know whether to stay with Grandma or leave and come here but that she had needed to get the kids something to eat at Genesys because they had not had any food since breakfast.
She was trying to use both her phone and Justin’s cell to get back in touch with me when Eugene had come running into the cafeteria to tell her that I was having a heart attack and that she needed to get back up to Bay City immediately.
I told her I was sorry that her and Justin had had to drive all the way down to Grand Blanc just to turn around and drive like mad all the way back.
Just then my cell phone began ringing and did so multiple times in a row to indicate that I was either receiving several texts or voice messages. I checked and I started laughing and crying again as I read out loud the several texts that Tara had been trying to send me.
Most of them were like this: “Mom, I love you and hang on, we will be there asap! Run away from any bright lights, remember lights are bad, stay away from them!”
The girls and Justin all then gave me hugs and kisses too and they all sat in chairs in the corner of the room until the nurse could finish up her admission work on me.
After she was done, I told them what I had been doing and what all had happened while I was watching that awful Michigan-Michigan State football game.
Tara laughed when I told her that I knew I was in trouble when I got the lights and siren treatment and she laughed even harder when I told her that I was now apparently engaged to one of the paramedics and how that had come about.
We both got teary-eyed again when I told her that all I had wanted was just to talk to her on the phone or see her one last time and I had been so frustrated when they wouldn’t let me answer the phone when she had kept calling back. That I had kept fighting so hard to stay awake until I had done one or the other.
So after we had all chatted a little bit more, Tara said that she could see how drained and tired I really was, and I had to admit she was right, so after promising that they would be up to visit with me the next day, they all left and I gratefully fell asleep.
Early the next morning Dr. Lee came in to check up on me and after going over my vitals since he had last seen me, he asked me if I would like to go home.
Astonished, I stammered that yes, I would love to go back home! He grinned at me as he told me that my blood pressure and my blood oxygen levels had immediately jumped up to normal since the stent had been installed and that I had been just doing great all night long.
So I happily called Tara with the good news and I asked her if she could come and get me within an hour because I still had to go through all of the paperwork and stuff. So I was soon home, relieved to be back when I wasn’t sure the day before if I was going to be coming back at all.
But I still say, with tongue in cheek, that I should have sued the University of Michigan for their lousy 2014 football team. Those damned Wolverines and their turnovers gave me a heart attack!