When I finally came to I found myself in a regrettably familiar place. I was in the back of an ambulance. I looked to my left and saw Jo sitting alongside a paramedic.
“I should be asked you that,” he said.
“I don’t know. You were rubbing my leg, then my heart started to race. I sat up and everything went dark. Next thing I know I wake up here. Did you put something in my drink?”
Joe and the ambulance driver exchanged glances and smirked.
“That must have been on hell of a foot massage,” the paramedic said as he nudged Jo as he burst into laughter.
“Ha, ha I’m glad you find this so amusing. Well, I told my version of the story. Your turn,“ I said as I fixed my eyes on Jo.
“Well, I was massaging your leg and I really thought you were enjoying it. I was just about to do your left leg when you mumbled something and sat up quickly and pulled back. Then you just kind of passed out. It’s kind of becoming our thing. I mean I thought it was kind of cute the first time you did it in the salon but now it’s very been there seen that ya know?
He shot me a sly smile that made it so hard to hate him.
“Well trust me it’s no trick and it looks like your little Chinese foot massage is no magic treatment because I relaxed and look what happened. The first time it happened you were there, and I join you tonight and it happens again. I’m starting to think it’s the salon, or you.”
“Well, I can’t help it if me trying to be a good friend gets your heart going. The way I see it, I helped you if anything. If you weren’t feeling my massage you never would have got all hot and bothered and the next time this little heart fluttery thing happened you could have been behind the wheel of your car and killed someone or worse, killed yourself. Now what would Jo be without his Mo. Admit it, I’m your hero.”
“First of all, you don’t get me all hot and bothered ok. I just sat up too fast and my blood pressure probably dropped and my heart was simply trying to work over time to get it back up. It happens to little old ladies all the time.”
“Well, I hate to poke holes in your little desperate attempt to act like my massage was not stellar, but you are not a little old lady. You couldn’t be more than what, 23 or 24?”
“Nothing, I mean I never would have guessed you were that old that’s all. I guess what they say about black women is true then.”
“Oh, really? What is it that they say about black women and watch your words. I’m sure that I could find something on this rig to stab you with if you say the wrong thing.”
“No pressure there. Well, they say and I’m not saying that I say this or that this is a direct quote or anything…”
“Please, sometime before I die.”
“They say that black women are like fine wine, they get better with age.”
“Oh.” I was speechless and grateful that we were pulling up to the hospital. I was taken inside and Jo was sent to wait in the lobby.
“Ms. Jones we meet again.”
“Hey Dr. Hwang.”
“Well, at least this time you were wearing the monitor so we can see what caused you to pass out. Now what were you doing when you began to have symptoms?”
Oh God, I did not want to the tell Dr. Hwang that I was getting a foot massage while having a semi pornographic day dream about a guy I just met fingering me. All of a sudden I felt warm and felt my heart begin to skip. I went out.
The next time I opened my eyes Dr. Hwang was prying them open and shining a bright light in my eye.
“Welcome back sunshine. Well, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is we know what is causing you to keep blacking out.”
“That’s great. What’s is it?”
“You are suffering from an arrhythmia called, atrial flutter. We had you attached to the monitor and just before you passed out you went into this rhythm and your heart began going very fast. Your heart was going so fast it didn’t have time to completely fill and you weren’t able to get enough blood to your brain and you passed out.”
“Ok, so that’s good news right? We know what it is so now you can give me some medicine and I will go about my way. So get to writing doc because I am ready to roll.”
“Not so fast, now for the not so good news.”
“You will need to be admitted to the hospital.”
“Admitted? No, I can’t be admitted here. I work here.”
“Why do you think I am being so cautious? Nurses are very valuable and we can’t afford to be lax with one of our best now can we? I want to admit you to start you on some medication and monitor your heart rate over night to make sure the medications are working. Also we need to consult cardiology so that they can get more test and find out why you went into the rhythm in the first place. If these medications don’t work, then you may require a procedure.”
“I appreciate you wanting to look out for me but I’m a nurse. I can monitor my heart rate from home and I promise if you let me go then I will be at the cardiologist office first thing in the morning.”
“Nurses make the worst patients. Now I can’t make you stay but if you want to leave you will have to sign out AMA.”
“Ok, well I will sign myself out.”
“Oooook but if you do, then I will put on your discharge instructions that you are not allowed to drive until you are cleared by a cardiologist and have been six months without an episode. So if you hurt someone….”
“You play dirty,” I said as I folded my arms and plopped down on my stretcher.
“I thought you may see things my way,” he said as he chuckled. “Let me call the hospitalist and get you admitted.”
“Fine but I want the UMC hospitalist. If you admit me to that money mill I will leave right now and take my chances. Oh, there is a guy in the lobby who came with me on the ambulance. Do you think you could ask him to come in for a minute?
A few minutes later a nurse escorted Jo to my room. “Listen, they are going to keep me overnight for observation and I should be getting out of here tomorrow. Thank you for everything. I want to pay for your Uber. It was so nice of you to come out here with me.”
“I mean I feel kind of guilty. I did get your heart racing,” he laughed. I started to speak when he cut me off. “I’m just kidding. I don’t have to go. I can stay with you. Cai can handle things at the salon.”
“That’s very kind of you but I will be fine. They will put me on some medicine, do their test and I will be out of here tomorrow good as new. Go home!”
“Ok, well call me tomorrow and let me know how everything goes. I can come pick you up when you get discharged.”
“I can find my way home but if I promise to call will you leave?”
He stuck out his pinky and forced me to pinky promise him that I would call then left. What a bummer. I was in the hospital with no real clothes, no cell phone charger, and no access to any real form of entertainment. It was going to be a long night.
“Good morning Ms. Jones”
Ugh, it was 4:30am and I was convinced that this cheery phlebotomist was a special angel of Satan sent to kill any hope of me actually sleeping. I had been awakened no less than 7 times by well-meaning people “checking on me”. My echo was scheduled for 7 so in just a few more hours I could get my test and get the heck out of here. I called the house supervisor and told them that I was being admitted to the hospital and wouldn’t be in for the next week or so. I was pretty sure I heard cheers from the night staff upstairs. I bet they were all glad the tyrant had finally been brought to her knees. The idea of all of my hard work being undone was enough to send me into aflutter. I imagined them all huddled at the nurses station wrapped in patient blankets with their drinks on the desk.
I dosed off and on until it was time to have my test. Afterwards, I was returned to my room to wait for my doctors. Dr. Bui, one of the hospitalist came by and said that the cardiologist was going to have to read my echo and see me before I could be discharged. If everything went as expected then I would be discharged later that afternoon. I did my best to be patient. It was a little after 11 when I heard a knock at the door. Finally, I thought, the cardiologist was here to set me free of my prison, but it wasn’t. It was Jo Bae.
“What are you doing here? I told you that I would call you.”
“I know but you made it seem like you would be busting out of here pretty early so I stopped by to make sure that you were ok and give you a ride home.”
“You are very pushy you know that?”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t trying to be pushy. Would you like me to leave?”
“No, no you can stay. I’m sorry. You can keep me company. I’m actually going crazy waiting on this doctor to come by and let me out of here.”
“Great so your test went well?”
“Well, I don’t know that yet. I had it done this morning so the cardiologist is going to read it then talk to me later this afternoon. If everything is good then I will be going home.”
“So it’s not definite.”
“It pretty much is. I’m a young healthy person and all this hoopla is just a formality.”
“But you passed out for a reason. Don’t you want to know what’s wrong?”
“Don’t you want to mind your business?”
“Sorry, I wasn’t trying to be negative. I just think that if I passed out, twice and had a rhythm issue I would want more than a band aid.”
“It was three times. I did it again in the ER last night. Look, sometimes we don’t get to know all the answers. These things just happen.”
“I guess you’re right. Anyway, you must be hungry. Have you ordered lunch?”
“No, I was gone for my test this morning when they picked up the menus. I will just eat whatever they bring.”
“Nonsense. I have a car, I will go and get you something. What would you like?”
“I would say that’s not necessary but I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t keep you from asking again so if you could get me a sub, a bag of baked chips, an apple and some water that would be great.”
“So healthy when you are sick. My mom always felt bad for me when I was sick so it was the only time she would let me eat all the junk food I wanted. It always seemed kind of backwards to me that she would let me eat junk when my body needed to be nursed back to health but I never complained. Anyway, I will run out and grab your food and text me if you need anything else.”
“Ok great, thanks.”
I didn’t want to admit it to anyone but I was actually pretty scared. I had never been in a hospital other than being born. What if something was really wrong? What if I needed open heart surgery? I would never be able to wear one of those sexy deep v-neck dresses I always admired. This whole thing was starting to stress me out. When I got stressed I craved sweets and I really wanted a cookie. A short while later Jo returned with the food. We chatted as we ate. As I finished my chips the cardiologist walked in.
“Good afternoon Ms. Jones I am Dr. Byrd, the cardiologist. Tell me what happened just prior to you passing out.
“Oh doc I can tell you that,” Jo interrupted. “I was rubbing her down and…”
I cut him off, “I was getting a foot massage and sat up too quickly. My heart began to race then I passed out,” I said as I glared at Jo.
“Ok, well I reviewed your echo and you heart muscle over all, the valves, the size and function all look pretty good. I reviewed your rhythm strips from overnight and you seem to be responding well to the medication.”
“Great! So when can I go home?”
“So while most of your echo looked good overall there is one area of your heart that is hypokinetic or is not moving like it should. This could be why you are having this heart rhythm.”
“Ok, well I will see you in clinic and we can just keep an eye on it.”
“We could give you a trial on the beta blocker and see how you do, or we could keep you here overnight and have you walk around and see if the medications continue to keep you in normal rhythm. If not, then we will need to do a heart cath to take a closer look and may possibly need to consult an EP specialist and do an ablation.”
“Whoa, that sounds deep. I think I would be more comfortable just going home and seeing you in the office.”
“Bandaid, Jo coughed.”
I rolled my eyes. I knew that he was right but I hated to admit it.
“Ok, I will stay.”
“Great. So just make sure to get up this evening and walk around or maybe your friend here can give you another foot massage,” he joked. “If everything remains normal overnight then I will have you follow up with me in a week to have an outpatient heart cath. If not then we will do the cath tomorrow. Either way I don’t want you to eat or drink anything after midnight.”
When he left I turned to Jo and said, “I blame you for this.”
“Me? Oh come on. I did not force you to say yes.”
“Maybe not directly but you guilted me into it with your logic. Ugh, now I have to stay another night, my cell phone is dead and I have no clothes.”
“Well, you look pretty hot in that green patient gown. Why don’t you walk to the bathroom and let me see the back,” he cackled. Seriously, how about I run to your place and grab some of your things and bring them back for you.”
“Why are you doing all this? Seriously, guys aren’t this nice or attentive without a motive. What do you want from me?”
“Right now I want you to get better and to be your friend. Later, maybe more. Now here.”
He handed me a pen and some paper so I could write him a list. As I scribbled down a list of important items I wanted him to retrieve from my house it took everything in me to keep myself from writing his name at the bottom of my list.
After sent Jo off on a mission to secure my personal items I laid back on the bed. I realized that there was something else in the bottom of my lunch bag. It was a cookie.