cath lab waiting room

In ILLNESS by Stephanie Klein23 Comments

Phil is in surgery now, wheeled off at 9:30AM. At 9:45 a “code blue” was called over the intercom. Well, no one wants to hear that business. Still, I google, “code blue” because I’m completely sadistic. “Code Blue” is generally used to indicate a patient requiring resuscitation or otherwise in need of immediate medical attention, most often as the result of a respiratory arrest or cardiac arrest. Lovely. This can’t be Phil, I assure myself, because all of his nurses are wearing purple scrubs; they’re all cardiac nurses. And if he ever needed emergency care, he’d be in the right place already, with a built-in defibrillator already in his heart, they wouldn’t need to page a team. I could be wrong on all counts, but with the blank, I make up my own answers, which seem to keep my anxiety in the pen. I look around at the other people waiting in the room with me, strangers with headphones and sucking candies, bifocals and New York Magazine. One woman catches my gaze.

“Angiogram,” she says. “My husband has chest pains and shortness of breath. They might put in a stent today, we’ll see.” I nod and offer her a smile. “But that’s the least of it,” she says. “He has Tourette’s and bi-polar disorder and an auto-immune disorder. What I’ve been through, you could fill a book. I did, actually, five books, but the first three were fantasy novels–and my son, thank God, since he was six we had early intervention, his tics were so bad, he couldn’t walk. I gave up a thriving business, you know, to take him everywhere for help. Taking care of these two men has become my life. But he’s twenty-four now, and know what he does? He plays football. Of all the things, all my sacrifices, and here he’s playing football. He’s very masculine, you know, always with all the girls around him. You’d never know we went through all that we did.”

Actually, I though for the briefest of moments, “We would know. Because you’d tell us.” We all eat stress differently, some of us playing Chuzzle on an iPhone, refusing to take off our coats, others with arms crossed trying to doze. Some of us on a laptop blogging to pass the time and leave the head. For the rest of my silent moments in the waiting room I thought about our journeys, how we never know what’s next, how I might be better off hanging out at the Au Bon Pain cafe down the hall. If you only live once, you might want that life to include warm croissant.

UPDATE: Everything went smoothly. When they tested the new ICD, they shocked his heart, and he went back into atrial fibrillation (not good), but then they cardioverted him (that’s when they take out the paddles and say “clear!”), and the a-fib corrected. Let’s hope that it stays that way. Tonight he spends the evening here at the hospital for IV antibiotics and observation.


  1. SusanC

    Thinking about you today! Sending hugs and love your way that everything goes smoothly. XOXO

  2. 3 teens' mom

    Having spent most of last year in ER or surgical waiting rooms with first mom, then dad, I totally relate to this post.

    We had everything from traditional polygamist sister wives anxiously awaiting the fate of their husband to a Hell’s Angel family who turned the waiting room into a KFC party town as they waited to hear their son crashed his bike and they removed a leg.

    During one of mom’s surgeries, dad read an entire Scientific American and we discussed in great length why Siri is so stupid. Another time mom and I located a set of dentures underneath one of the ‘sterile’ cabinets. My son and I were visited by the biggest service dog any of us had ever seen. I was grossed out by the fact that people would put their faces down on the seats of the chairs and breathe in all those germs – but ERs do weird things to people.

  3. priscilla

    It sounds like you are at North Shore? I’ve spent many hours there waiting on my son.
    So happy to hear Phil came through okay. And you too.

  4. Marlee

    Take care of yourself! Remember to “adjust your oxygen mask” before you help others…

  5. Joseph

    Spent way too much time at St. Francis in Roslyn over the years on heart issues. Good luck in this difficult time.

  6. Sallie

    Tics, not ticks.

    Sorry to be a total noodge, but my youngest son has Tourette Syndrome.

    Au Bon Pain has a pretty kicking split pea soup.

    Hope Phil continues to mend happily.

  7. cc

    So stressful..I keep forgetting the situation with Phil is ongoing in terms of monitoring his heart. I am so glad he is ok for now. I am sure you appreciate him all the more after waiting like this.

  8. Thought you were done

    Wait- did i read that right? You snarked a woman who spoke you in the hospital whose son and husband have serious health issues? I don’t get it. Are you trying to be witty?

    Phil might be better off without you.

    1. Alexandra

      Yes. Someone unloaded annoyingly on Stephanie at a stressful moment and she had the! nerve! to write about it on her very own blog. Yes. If anyone just snarked on a woman whose husband has a serious health issue, it was you. Yes. You don’t get it, indeed.

    2. Lynn

      Whoa. I don’t come to this site often, but comments from “Thought you were done” are seriously the most toxic things I ever read online. I feel spit on and they aren’t even directed at me. What a miserable life.

      Good wishes to you Stephanie and Phil and the beans.

  9. Cynda

    Glad for Phil that this procedure is now behind him, onward to improved health and some worry free days!

  10. Alexandra

    Healing vibes to Phil & best wishes to you & family while you go through it. It’s not easy. Hugs.

  11. Deb

    So glad that went well…and I think your “in your head” comment for the woman in the waiting room was totally appropriate and funny. And, obviously, best kept in your head…and on your blog. :)

  12. joan

    Glad to hear everything went smoothly—hope Phil is home tomorrow and things can get back or close to normal. And I loved this— “We would know. Because you’d tell us.” I know the feeling…

  13. Maricris

    Hi Stephanie I used to read your site wayyyyyy back in the day. So I just happened upon you on twitter and came here to see updates on Phil. I hope he is still doing well, I’m from the n. shore on LI and I am hoping Phil is getting his treatment at st. Francis?
    I live up the block from St F. My father incidentally just went in for an angiogram at Winthrop and we were hoping for St Francis. My parents would have preferred North Shore but I can’t tell you how many people I know, friends and friends of friends who have family members that died surprisingly and lawsuits they all brought on North Shore. So I was pleased with Winthrop!

    I wish you and your family the best. I remember when you had the twins and you had that gorgeous house in Austin, not sure if you are still there and just here temporarily.

    Maybe I’ll see you at the local cvs!
    Warmest to you and health to Phil.

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