Emergency that turned out not to be, or why I still haven’t answered your email

In the wee hours, Mr. Maud and I finished wrapping most of our gifts and packed them up for mailing. We even pulled out some holiday cards and addressed them to family members before abandoning the notion that we were going to send any to our friends. After all, why should this year be different from any other? Besides, we told ourselves, we should be proud: at least we wouldn’t have to send everything two-day mail this time.

We drank some liquor-heavy eggnog to dull our guilt over the holiday cards, and then went to bed.

This morning, just as the alarm was going off, I heard Mr. Maud calling my name from the other side of the apartment. His voice sounded weak.

I hustled out there and found him sitting on the floor, pale and sweating, saying he felt like he might pass out. He had abdominal surgery a few years ago and has been told he may at some very distant, future point need more, so I didn’t mess around. I called 911 and asked for an ambulance.

As soon as I hung up the phone, we started having second thoughts.

You know how it is, right? You call the ambulance or visit the E.R. because you feel like shit, are convinced you’re dying. But as soon as you’ve gone down that road, you begin to wonder if you’ve overreacted.

Calling for an ambulance is kind of dramatic, after all. Dramatic and expensive. Maybe you don’t feel that bad, even though your hands are shaking and your forehead is covered with sweat and there’s a fiery ball of glass shards in your abdomen.

On the other hand, you always hear about people dying when they don’t go with the paramedics. They say, “Oh, never mind. I feel fine.” Thirty minutes later they suffer a massive heart attack. Cut to the weeping loved ones in front of the casket.

We went back and forth, debating like Jesuit priests: should he go in the ambulance, should we cancel it? At last we decided to take a car instead and I called to cancel.

Not long after I hung up the phone, the EMTs arrived anyway. I buzzed them in and they tromped through the door, stepping over our packages, nearly slipping on ribbons and the pile of scraps from our wrapping fiesta of the night before. They tracked small red and green and silver and blue scraps across the floor, so it looked like we were all standing amid the remnants of a holiday piñata.

The EMTs took the vitals, said they looked okay, and were gracious when Mr. Maud held his ground and said we’d go to the hospital on our own.

Then came the inevitable four-hour wait for the doctor, during which Mr. Maud dealt with all manner of digestive atrocities. Shortly before we were called, he began to feel better–still weak, but no longer sweaty and queasy. That must be the strategy: to make patients sit in the waiting room until they die or recover of their own accord.

The diagnosis was food poisoning, the short-lived kind.

By the time we got home, Mr. Maud was sipping at Gatorade, cracking jokes, reading his email and talking about setting up our new router.

When I called to fill in The Powers That Be at work, the first question wasn’t “How’s your husband?” or “Aren’t you tired after waiting in the E.R. all day?”

It was “Do you have any days left?” (Read: Although we force you to use up all of your time off before the end of the year, and will not let you take days off in December on short notice, if you actually have taken all of the days–aside from the one you were planning to use for your trip to South Florida on December 31, and the half day you kept open for emergencies–but need to take a full day off before new vacation time kicks in on January 1, regardless of the reason for the absence, you will be forced to grovel and then perhaps we will consider allowing you to take a half day without pay. But we will leave early for our dentist appointments, so that when you come in to grovel in person we will not be available to see you.)

I’ll be working late tonight and may not post tomorrow.

Happy weekend, everyone.


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