Today I awoke as the sun was rising—such a luxury. For the past few days I have been awake before dawn, tending to the matters of my father who had open-heart surgery this week. I awoke thinking about yesterday’s events and laughed in retrospect because it seemed so much like a dream. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.
Everything is a bit blurred in terms of the timing, but at some point late yesterday my father was being moved from one intensive care unit to another. The nurse instructed me to go upstairs to the new unit where my father was being transported. So I went through the rat-maze hallways to find the correct elevator to get me to the correct floor in the correct wing and the correct unit. I walked through the doorway and could see my father on a gurney. The unit nurse told me to go away and wait in the family waiting room until she called me. So I dutifully found the family waiting room, which was housing an entire tribe from one of the tribal regions of Pakistan. They had sleeping pallets on the floor and they were cooking a goat on a grill. I think Osama bin Laden was in the group. (Now wouldn’t that just be the ultimate irony? Osama bin Laden is hiding in a waiting room at the Washington Hospital Center.) So I sat on the floor in the hallway beside a window where I could see in the distance the spires of the National Cathedral. And I cried. Various hospital staff walked past me to go into the adjacent stairway. Some made eye contact, some didn’t. I’ll bet they see crying people sitting on the floor all the time.
Meanwhile, several floors below my sister-in-law was bringing my mother into the hospital emergency room. My mother was having difficulty breathing. The day before, while we were waiting during my father’s surgery, my brother and I kept thinking our pager was going off—we heard rhythmic errwww errwww sounds. It was not the pager; it was my mother wheezing.
So after my father got settled in to the intensive care unit, I saw him and headed down to the emergency room to check in with my mother. I got on the elevator with two EMS guys from Fairfax County. Don’t ask me why they were at the Washington Hospital Center, far from their jurisdiction. They said to follow them and they would direct me to the emergency room. After another rat maze of hallways and double doors, we were deep into a patient treatment area. There were people with bloody heads and tubes coming out of them and all manner of human misery. The EMS guys went one way and told me to go straight ahead and turn right. I think I walked through an MRI scanner somewhere in there and I’m wondering if I’ll get test results. A big burly woman security guard stopped me and asked me for my visitor sticker. Yes, I had one. I could see my mother, just a couple of yards away, sitting in a chair. The security guard said my mother was in a patient holding area and I couldn’t go there. So I shouted to her that my father had been moved and he was doing okay. My sister-in-law, bless her heart, was going to handle my mother’s situation. I went home to sleep.