Would Mike make it home okay? What if he’s crashed into another car somewhere along I-5? If he hurt someone else, then we’d have more bills to pay. We could lose our new house. Oh, God, no! Please let him get home safely. Damn that diabetes.
I swung around the long, curved exit at Woodinville and into the westward bound lane for Bothell. The traffic signal in the middle of town turned from yellow to red as I approached. I stopped. Each minute of waiting passed ten times slower than the beat of my nervous heart. "Come on. Change!" No matter how insistent my demands, the light took its own sweet time to turn green. When it did, I zipped around the bend toward home.
Mike’s county truck was in the driveway when I got therea welcome pittance of relief. I raced upstairs to find him. "Mike?"
"I’m in here." His voice came from the bedroom.
I hurried in to see him barely balanced on the edge of the bed, steadying himself with a hand to the corner of the night stand. His face was ashen, the color of death, and my body shivered at the sight of it. Dear God, help me to help him.
"I’m taking you to the doctor," I said, reaching out to pull him up from the bed. "Lean on me."
He did, too weak to argue. Somehow we made it down the stairs, into the car and on to Northgate. I clutched his arm around my neck and we staggered into the hospital lobby. I pressed the up arrow for the elevator and when its doors opened, we entered. Mike immediately caught his foot on the carpet and we stumbled together to the back wall of the gurney-accommodating compartment, both grabbing the handrail to keep us upright.
"You okay?" I asked.
"Uh huh," he mumbled.
"Then hang on. Tight." I stepped away to press the fourth-floor button, then returned to help Mike keep his balance. The doors closed and the elevator leapt upward.
Mike’s head fell forward. “I’m gonna throw up.”
“Don’t you dare!” I hollered. Dear God, no. I don't need vomit running down my shoulder on top of everything else! My eyes darted back and forth, back and forth, between Mike and the floor numbers as they lit in sluggish sequence above the elevator door. One more floor and a walk down the hallthat’s all that stood between us and the doctor.
The elevator slowed to a stop. As the doors opened and I turned to Mike, his eyes rolled up under half-closed lids. His body began to slump.
“Don’t faint on me now,” I ordered, strengthening my hold on him so we could exit. The automatic door began to close. I dropped my hold and dashed forward to jab the “hold door” button, then turned again to Mike who was now halfway to the floor. God, help me. I strained to pull him upward, somehow working my way under his good shoulder to muscle us out of the elevator and into the hallway.
We stood there in the corridor with Mike leaning against the wall and me trying to move him four doors along to the doctor’s office. Please, God, only a few steps more. Too late. All I could do was ease his descent as he slithered to the floor. Dammit!
I checked in both directions for someone, anyone, who might help. Imagine—a building loaded with doctors and nurses and patients, but not a soul in sight. My focus darted back to an open door not far down the hall from us. I took a step toward it, then hesitated, not wanting to leave Mike alone on the hallway floor. But I must. I had to find help.
I ran into the open office. Empty. I stepped to the reception desk and called, "Hello?" No answer. I rapped my knuckles on the desktop and yelled down the exam-room hallway "Hello!"
A young lady poked her head out of one of the rooms. "Can I help you?" She came toward me.
"Yes. Please! I’ve got a diabetic in trouble out in the hallway. Do you have any juice, a sugary drink, some candy? He needs it right now! I’m trying to get him to our doctor’s office down the hall, but now he’s collapsed onto the floor."
She ran to her desk, pulled out a piece of chewing gum and held it out to me. "Here, maybe this’ll help."
“Thanks, but no.” She couldn’t know it wouldn’t work, he was in no shape to chew gum. She returned to her desk and picked up the phone. I ran back to the hallway and Mike. I was trying to lift him up when two strangers intercepted my attempt.
"Where do you want him?" One of them asked, bending over Mike to help the other one lift him.
I pointed down the hall and took the lead. "Room 425."
They followed me into our doctor's office where the nurse behind the reception counter rose immediately and directed them into an exam room. I trailed behind, uttering a meek "thank you” at the anonymous rescuers as they whisked past me on their way out.
I hastily related the morning’s black-poop story to our doctor and ten minutes later found myself waiting outside a hospital room two floors down while a medical team hovered over Mike. Once again, as it was in 1966 in California, a young doctor I didn’t know handed a clipboard to me and asked if I would sign a permission slip so he could administer transfusions.
"Yes. Of course. But why? What is it . . . ?"
"His blood count is very low, most likely a bleeding ulcer. We’re confirming that now . . . "
"He’s diabetic, you know?"
"Yes. We know."
I signed the paper, secured the pen to the clipboard and handed it back.
"Thanks." He hurried off, waving the board and its flapping contents high in the air while barking at me over his shoulder, "Next time go right to the Emergency Room. Or better yet, call an ambulance!" He put a shoulder to the door of Mike’s room and pushed his way in.
My face warmed with embarrassment. Dumb me. I should have known better. If Mike bleeds to death, it’ll be because of my stupidity. I wish he would have let me take him to the doctor this morning when I wanted to. My self-assured, invincible Mikewhy do the qualities that make him so disarming become the very cause of such havoc for us?
"Helen?" A nurse interrupted my thoughts.
"You can go in now." She smiled and motioned toward the door.