by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
June 19, 2002
PRESCRIPTION FOR A STICKY DILEMNA
SAN DIEGO -- I picked him up from the front of the hospital where he was waiting for me, barefoot in a wheel chair. Released from the cardiac unit after three days and alot of morphine, he was going home on sustained-release nitroglycerin and happy as a man freshly saved from Hell.
He didn't want to give up his coffee and nicotine. Didn't, couldn't, it's all the same at some point and I couldn't say as I blamed him. Some addictions aren't worth living without: a cup of coffee in the morning; a smoke after a meal.
It was his marriage he really needed to give up. That particular addiction was attacking his heart with a ferocity that substance abuse had never quite managed. He had survived several heart attacks, angioplasties and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease but he didn't know if he could survive the savagery of divorce; the pain of loosing his son.
Morose by nature, he had only in his latter years come to a Buddhist type of serenity. He was as comfortable with the void as any man can be; knew it intimately and its many faces. He was something of a cross between Woody Guthrie and Rasputin.The ultimate Dharma bum and my good friend.
We headed up the hill, him spinning Tanglewood Tales, of machines and monitors and time standing still like a pillar of salt.
Meanwhile, my worst nightmare was preparing to visit. My left rear tire went flat around the first turn of a treacherous canyon road notoriously unfriendly to stranded motorists. I ran on the rim until I could pull over onto a thin shoulder which just barely got us off the road, setting us up just around a nearly blind curve cars uniformly took at speedway velocities.
The patient and the nurse got out and conferred about the spare tire ... hastily and after a brief argument about who was going to change the tire, I gave in to his gallantry. Against better judgment and all cardiac protocols, I allowed him the dignity of risking the exertion so he could save the day.
He was tired of getting shown up by women.
So I grabbed the single orange road work cone by side of the road and placed it in the middle of the lane just at the turn and took my place to flag down the cars as they approached. My friend worked as calmly and quickly as he could knowing his precarious position.
I got pretty good at flagging my hometown folks down and waving to them with grateful smile as they cooperated and slowed. A lady in a white lab coat standing in the middle of the road acting the fool is pretty hard to ignore.
Great theatre of the absurd as I blessed the mostly good Samaritans who slowed down but hurled great blue thunderbolts of invective against the reprobates who refused to take their foot off the gas as they passed us by. Eventually I was calling out peanuts and popcorn, soliciting votes and sounding very much like W.C. Fields but neversomuch as when addressing flyby recalcitrant bungholes.
My friend was laughing as he successfully turned the last lugnuts like a real he-man. Tire and male ego properly inflated he discovered his constant Angina pain had completely left him. We headed up the hill grateful for life, limb and internal organs intact.
Idiotic levity in the face of sudden death, divorce and other existential flat tires proved to be very therapeutic. As good doctors and nurses knows: humor is as vital to a damaged heart as any nitroglycerin drip.
Cindy Hasz is a nurse and writer, living in San Diego. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.