Did last week happen?


The day started as most of my Thursdays do. I hit the gym, got showered and headed to Long Island to visit my mother. She had a doctor’s appointment, then we were going to get lunch at our favorite diner. As we were leaving the medical complex, my mother and I noticed a car double parked in front of ours. Annoyed, mom said, “Look at this guy, we have to sit and wait now. I’m hungry!” We were both distracted by the inconvenience. Then, in a split second my mother tripped and I attempted to break her fall but she hit the cement, hard. I yelled for help, got out my phone but before I could call 911 a nurse appeared, then a doctor, then the paramedics. A crowd developed, the EMTS were asking her all sorts of questions. My mother was screaming in pain. Next thing I know I’m tailing the ambulance to North Shore Hospital’s Emergency Room.

The doctors said she fractured her hip and needed surgery, stat. I was sick to my stomach because I knew the implications. My mom has advanced emphysema. General anesthesia requires intubation which could be life threatening for her. She was scheduled for surgery the following day. We needed to speak with the surgical team but only had the opportunity a half hour before, during pre-op.  My sister Natalie is a physician and was advocating for us, thank God. The best option was a spinal tap but since my mother has a slight heart condition, Dr. Miller, the anesthesiologist said they’d need to administer an epidural instead, but warned it may not work, in which case, they’d have no choice but to intubate. “This is how old people die.” I thought. My whole family was terrified. While we waited, Dr. Miller had conversed with his colleagues. He came back a third time, “This is like a Grey’s Anatomy episode — I can’t believe it!” he said. The team felt the risk of the spinal tap affecting her heart was less than the risk of extubation. Meaning, when the vent is removed, my mother’s lungs probably didn’t have the capacity to “restart”. Dr. Miller was still worried about getting the spinal tap in due to the location of her injury. He informed us there was still a chance she might need general anesthesia /  intubation. My sister Natalie insisted someone notify us if they had to do this.

We waited.

45 minutes later Dr. Miller came out. His smile was so big — I don’t think I’ll ever forget his face. He put his thumbs up and said “We got it”.  My family started crying with relief. Natalie told us how rare it is for a doctor to scrub out of a surgery and then back in to tell a family news. Usually it’s a physician’s assistant. We met Dr. Miller for a total of 50 minutes that day and probably will never see him again. He was humble, reaching out to his superiors for input. He took a risk knowing the severity of my mother’s situation. He cared.

2019 didn’t start out how I expected. I felt like I lost three days of time in a foggy Twilight Zone waiting game. Now that the urgency has past, I’ve been thinking about what’s really important to me – my family and friends. A major event like this makes you realize the little day-to-day issues mean nothing. It was also a reminder that people care — even strangers — and that there is hope and goodness in our world, despite the doom and gloom we hear and read in the news. I’m going to keep these thoughts in the forefront of my mind as I continue on in 2019.

It will be a few months of rehabilitation for my mother but she’s on the mend. She’s a fighter! We have a running joke every time she has a health set back “Flo’s circling the drain but we plunged her out again!”