Thursday, April 21, 2011
A HEARTBEAT AWAY FROM DEATH
Darla and I were on our way to the hospital to check on our ninety-eight-year-old neighbor’s condition. When Leon went to check on Zelda, he couldn’t wake her up. Having learned a hard lesson when a similar incident occurred last year, he called 911 this time, instead of the mortuary. The mortician almost went into cardiac arrest when Zelda rose up from the cold stainless steel table and said, “Where the hell are my clothes?”
Leon is a seventy-year-old retired bank robber, who checks on Zelda every day to make sure she is still breathing. She is a psychic who occasionally goes into deep sleep. Actually, she sleeps a great deal of the time. After his fiasco last year, Zelda decided Leon would be the best person to continue checking in on her, thinking he wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.
The paramedics told him she was one heartbeat away from death. When the ambulance pulled away from Zelda’s trailer with the lights flashing and the siren at full wail, he called me and told me to get my butt to the hospital. I called my other neighbor, Darla and asked her if she wanted to ride with me. She did. Darla is twenty-two and married to Eddy, who was working at the Co-Op Store loading trucks, or I would have asked him to go too. By the time we arrived at the hospital, Darla was pretty upset thinking we might be too late. I had mentioned to her that Leon had said it was urgent we get to the hospital as soon as possible. Allowing time for her to change clothes, brush her hair, and decide on the right color shoes to wear, I calculated we might arrive in time to see the nurses rolling Zelda down to the morgue.
I parked the car in the visitor’s parking lot. Darla and I were routed to a third floor room. I took that to be a good indication we weren't too late, since the morgue was located on the first floor.
As Darla and I approached the room, I noticed the curtain pulled back allowing us a view inside. Zelda's frail body lay beneath a sheet, with her hands holding the sheet up over her head. Darla grabbed my hand. I gently knocked on the hospital door with my other one and pushed it open.
Darla and I walked into the room.
"Why does she have the sheet over her head?" Darla whispered in my ear.
Zelda pulled the sheet down so she could see. "Oh, I thought you were Leon. I wanted him to think I had starved to death. I sent him to get me something to eat."
“Hi, Zelda,” Darla said, releasing my hand. “You look great.”
I took that to mean as in alive and not dead. Zelda is as thin as a bargain toothpick. I guessed her weigh to be around eighty-five pounds. The hospital bed was raised so Zelda could sit up.
She turned her head toward Darla. “You need to have your eyes checked, dear.”
I touched Zelda’s hand and held on to it. “I see you haven’t lost your sense of humor.”
“Have the doctor’s determined what’s wrong?” Darla asked.
“Yes, and it didn’t take them long. They're absolutely certain I'm going to die.”
“Oh, Zelda, I’m so sorry.” Darla started to tear up.
“Is it your heart?” I asked.
“No, it's not that. The cardiologist told me my heart is fine. According to what their tests showed, I’m dying of old age. In my case, they said the process might take another four or five years to complete.”
Darla jerked her head up. “I thought you were dying right now.”
“You’re awfully sweet to think that, but I’ll be around for a while, if those doctors are right.”
“What's taking Leon so long to get back?” I asked.
“Flirting with one of the nurses would be my guest,” Zelda replied, winking at us.
After visiting with Zelda for about an hour, we were run out by a nurse, who told us her patient needed lots of rest. Apparently, Leon didn’t tell them mostly what she does is sleep. Before we went downstairs, I talked to the doctor. He assured us Zelda would be returning home in a day or two, if they could get her weight up a bit.
A few minutes later, Darla and I ran into Leon. He was indeed flirting with a nurse, or just holding the elevator door open for her. However one wishes to look at it. The nurse was pushing a roll cart with food trays on it.
"We're stopping at Zelda's room first," Leon said, following the nurse down the hallway.
On the way back home, Darla didn’t have must to say. Although another major crisis had been averted, and Zelda told us she would be around for awhile longer, Darla knew it was just a matter of time when the day would come that Zelda wouldn’t be returning from the hospital.
That’s why we need to tell our friends and loved ones how we feel while they are still living and not wait until it’s too late. We all love Zelda. I pulled the car over.
Darla gazed at me. “Why are we stopping?”
“I want to go back to the hospital.”
“There’s something I need to tell Zelda.”