Close to Home, pt.1

"What should I make for dinner," she asks me.
"Grandma, it doesn't matter. Ben's a twenty-something member of the male population. He'll eat whatever you put in front of him."
"But, does he eat chicken?"
"What about beef?"
"What's his favorite thing to eat?"
"Whatever's in front of him, Grandma."

She sighs and adjusts her jewelry. She's sitting behind me in the car. Mom's driving and laughing at the conversation taking place, and my grandfather is inspecting the GPS. I roll my eyes as I adjust my pillow. This is going to be a long roadtrip.

"I just want the dinner to be perfect when you bring your boyfriend home to meet us."
"Grandma, it will be, I promise."
"What about desserts?"
"You know you're the queen of desserts. He'll love whatever you make."
"Well maybe I could make..."

I turn around to look at her from the passenger's seat.

"Are...the cookies...are the cookies too big?"

She's started slurring her words, and something inside me snaps. TIA. CVA. My mind is blank, except for the word "STROKE" flashing in big, red letters.

My mom locks eyes with me from her seat, and I reach over to the GPS. I click "Hospitals," and click the first one on the list. We're somewhere in the mountains of Virginia, and I silently thank God for the GPS.

"Do you think we should stop and call 911," Mom asks me quietly. I check my cell phone and see that I have no service.
"N...no, just drive to the hospital...quickly."

I turn back around to look at grandma. I see a little bit of facial droop, but it's nothing significant.
"Could you do me a big favor and squeeze my hands really tight for me? Just squeeze them as hard as you can."
"Okay," she says as she obliges. Her grip is strong and equal.
"Now I want you to smile really big for me," I say as I demonstrate, "show me those pretty teeth!"
"Like thissh," she asks as she smiles.
"Perfect," I reply. I don't bother asking her to say a sentence for me; I already know she's slurring.
"Now put your arms out in front of you like a zombie. Okay, now close your eyes."
"Thisshis silly," she slurs as her left arm drifts away from the left. I try to chaulk it up to being in the car, but I keep it at the back of my mind.

I panic. The Cincinnatti Stroke Scale is great and everything, but what do I do for the next 10 miles until we get to the hospital? I have no equipment. I have no partners. I imagine the worst case scenario in my mind and prepare for that.

I check my cell phone again, and I have one little bar of service hanging on for dear life. I dial the number quickly and wait for it to ring.
"Ben? It's Sam. 70-something year old female, rapid onset slurred speech, no history of diabetes. Go." I'm not really breathing or thinking at this point, so I realize I've probably completely confused him.
"Uh...CVA, TIA, I'd check her blood sugar. When's the last time she had something to eat?"
"This morning."
"Yeah I'd think CVA or TIA."
"Okay, thank you."
"Are you driving to a hospital?"
"When did it happen?"
"Like ten minutes ago."
"Everything's going to be okay."

I hang up the phone and sit in silence for a second.

"I'm soo thirshty," she says, and for some reason this triggers something in me.
"Hey Grandma, remember when I was little, and you used to tell me about Magic Mountain?"
"Ohh yessh," she says.
"Tell me about it again. I've forgotten."

She starts explaining it to me. Everything she says makes sense, it's just a little off. She smiles and giggles every now and then, but it's not the usual way she acts. I get chills every time I process what's happening, so I stop processing and just keep her talking.

Mom's driving with a purpose, and I try to use some hidden powers of telepathy to move the cars in front of us.

Move, move, move, move is the silent mantra I'm repeating in my head in time with the tattooed staccato the road beats out. I urge the car to become an ambulance, fitted with lights and siren. I close my eyes and assure myself that when I open them, the familiar controls will be inbetween my mother and me--not the two cup holders.

When my eyes open, I'm let down. Grasping for straws. My composure is slipping, my emotions creeping their way into my mission.

With teary eyes, I turn back to her. She's snoozing against my grandfather contentedly.

"Grandma, I need you to stay awake, okay? I know you're tired, but just keep talking to me."
"Wellll fine."
"Let me tell you about Ben."
"Oh tell me about him."
"He's a firefighter," I say as my voice waivers.
"Ooo very shtrong."
"Yes, and he's a medic. He's very caring and sweet, and really knows how to take care of his patients. He's smart, and funny, and you know what?"
"His hand is like...the size of five of yours." She giggles and I continue telling her about him, focusing on the dinner we'll all be having together soon. The dinner we'll be having when everything is okay, and no one is panicking.

As we pull into the emergency room parking lot, I turn back around.
"We're going to the hospital, Grandma, I'm afraid you could be having a transient ischemic episode."
"But whyy the hoshpital?"
"Because it's for my peace of mind. I'm sure you're okay, but if we keep driving to New York like this, I'm going to be freaking out the whole time. Is that okay?"
"You know I'd do anything for you."


Bernice said...

No more reading your blog at work. Crying at work is definitely a faux pas.

I hope grandma is okay. :(

Anonymous said...

Yes, I hope that your grand-ma is okay.

Later Samantha.

Michael Morse said...

Like I don't already compulsively check everybody's blogs already, sheesh.

I hope all is well.

Hey Bernice, Love the big "B"

Evil Transport Lady said...

Oh wow, I NEED to read part 2!

Epijunky said...

Oh honey.

If you need to talk you know where to find me.

I'm praying for her.

Paula said...

Ohhh so many things to say.
First: I did not know this happened to Grandma. Why did you not tell me?!
Second: I can TOTALLY picture Grandma fiddling with her rings. Five bucks says she wsa either rotating her rings or playing with the pendant on her necklace.
Third: (should probably go with #2) Pop playing with the GPS... Priceless. :)
Fourth: This is just more proof you do what you love and love what you dooo. You care care of everyone.


Ali said...

Ooooh... I hope grandma is ok.

Anonymous said...

I hope everything is okay. (((Hug)))

stephan said...

hope all is well

WanabeMD said...

Jesus Sam, I hope everything turns out, you'll be in my thoughts. Sounds like you did everything right, you're a great EMT...

Chris said...

Hope she (and you) is OK. Get part 2 up soon - we need to know how she is!

Hope you're OK

Alaina said...

you = amazing writer

Philip said...

Yeah, I hope all's well (as well) =o . /joins the crew of folks awaiting part deux.

Ambulance Mommy said...

Been waiting for an update to comment, but none is coming, and it's making me nervous for you.

Sending good thoughts and wishes your way.

Anonymous said...


Nothing harder than knowing what's happening and knowing you are helpless to do anything. I went through a very similiar situation with my mom. Please hang in there and know my heart is with you! Let us know when you have time how she's doing! I sincerely hope she was treated promptly and is doing well!

Jedi Master Daryl said...

Wow! I hope she is okay. That was a very convenient time for that to happen--when you were with her. You have done the best you could, nothing will change that, no matter what happens to her!

Anonymous said...

Phew! I held my breath all the way through reading this. I hope with all my heart that your grandmother is ok.

Sandi McBride said...

I hope your Grandmother recovered well and the road trip continued along!

Hilary said...

Darn that David at Authorblog for sending me to another must-read blog! The tenderness and suspense of this story is so worthy of co-POTD.. congrats for that. I'm so glad I've peeked ahead to see that you've since posted more parts of this story. Off to read them now.

(Thanks, David. You always find the best!)