A dear friend called me a few days ago, early in the morning. She felt sick, short of breath, her chest hurt, and she was too tired to move. I was pulling on pants and a t-shirt and grabbing for my car keys when she called again, feeling much worse. Scared. That’s when I called 911.
It felt like a tropical storm outside. Rain was blowing in sideways sheets when I pulled to the curb a few feet behind the ambulance. I could see my friend’s bare feet and she waved at me wanly. I spoke to the nearest EMT to be sure of which hospital they were going to, and then ran up the driveway and sidewalk to the front door.
Sobbing children met me and in that intuitive way of dogs, the older one sat with her chin solemnly on my knee while the children and I hugged and talked.
My friend had some tests run, gradually felt better, and went back home with her husband. That’s her own story, and for her alone.
What I can tell you is that the experience of trailing an ambulance through stormy streets when a friend is inside is unforgettable. The only thing scarier than an ambulance that speeds through traffic and lights, their siren splitting the air, is one that goes very slowly.
The peanut butter sandwich and cup of milk that Buck thrust into my hands as I was heading out the door went uneaten. I tried a bite, but it stuck in my throat and the one swallow of milk felt like it curdled on my tongue. At each traffic light, I wanted to spring from the car, run to the ambulance and fling open the panel doors to look in and be sure my friend was okay.
At the emergency room, I followed behind the calm, burly EMTs like a wraith, slipping into a corner of the examination room while they transferred their charge to the team of nurses, who immediately began the appropriate protocols.
My friend smiled across the room at me as the EKG tags were being placed on her like a whole memo full of sticky notes. I leaned against the wall, sighed, and suddenly was hungry as a bear.