Thursday: I was assigned to a CPR class at work. The annual CPR class is a requirement for each employee. The teacher told us that on average, each person will have to use CPR at least once in a lifetime. As I was getting ready to leave the class for the day I had a feeling I would be using the skills I relearned. I scowled at the thought. But the thought occurred to me I’d be using it soon. Perhaps, even that weekend.
Immediately after work I traveled the 187 miles to Utah where my sister lives. My mom has been undergoing chemotherapy at the Huntsman Cancer Institute since late spring. My dad has been doing a superhuman feat since that time. He insists on working at his job Monday through Wednesday in Wyoming. My dad is a salesman and travels about 200 miles each day on his route. Thursday mornings he makes phone calls and sees his local customers in town. At noon, he is done for the week. Since my mom started treatments, he has been going to Utah Thursday afternoons so that he can take her to the Huntsman Center on Fridays. He comes home on Saturday and begins the whole crazy schedule again on Monday.
This particular week I offered to help out. I adjusted my work schedule so that I could have Friday off. After work on Thursday, I drove to Utah and left dad at home. My hope was that he would rest. I should have known better.
Friday: I was able to take my mom in the morning to her treatment and was introduced to her new world. She’s a star of the infusion room. Maybe that’s just how the nurses make everyone feel under their care. We walked in the room and almost every nurse knew my mom by name. I felt like I was following Norm into Cheers. My mom filled me in on details she had learned. She knew personal things about some nurses, she knew her routine, and when presented with a paper filled with names of human fluids and numbers, she explained which were the good numbers and which ones had her worried.
After her treatment, I took her back to my sister’s house where she slept the afternoon. The thought during my CPR class the previous day surfaced briefly but I shook my head to get it out of my mind. If I was going to use what I had learned, it would probably be with my mom and I didn’t want to think about it.
Saturday: I went home in the afternoon to get ready for a Young Women activity that evening. As I pulled into my driveway I saw my dad outside. His face was red and I could tell he had been working in the sun. That was not what I had in mind when I let him stay home for the weekend. It was hot out and the heat was getting to him. He was just finishing up when I pulled in. I fixed us a quick dinner so that I could get ready for the activity.
Sunday: I could tell during Sacrament meeting at church that dad wasn’t feeling well. For some time now, he gets episodes of intense sickness that usually last an afternoon. I could tell one was coming on now though he told me it wasn’t that bad and he had it under control. After the meeting he said he was going home. He’d be back for the last meeting; he just had to rest for awhile. He assured me he would be all right.
During the last hour of church, I was in the Young Women room. WM, the 2nd Counselor, was teaching the lesson and there were only ten minutes left. We heard some young men out in the hallway hollering, “Help!” I looked at JL and she raised her eyebrows. It sounded like somebody was messing around in the hall. I turned to TN, the 1st Counselor. We heard another call for help. She got up and went to check on it. As she opened the door, we heard, “Call 911.” Things got serious just that fast.
My first instinct was to stay in the room with the young women. But then the thought occurred to me, “Make sure it isn’t dad.” If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have gone out. The last time I saw dad, he was heading home. He wasn’t at the church. Even though he said he’d be back, if he was too sick, he’d stay home. But the thought was quick and I acted quickly. I stood up and walked to the door to make sure it wasn’t dad.
I saw the crowd gathered around someone on the floor. It was a man with white hair. It was my dad. “No, no, no!” I’m not sure if the words came out as a yell or as a mumble or if they were even audible. TN saw me and braced me.
“Call 911,” a woman was kneeling by my dad. TN hurried into the Young Women room to get her phone. I followed her. By the time we got a phone to use, somebody else had already called 911.
I knelt down beside him. “Hi dad,” I tried to sound calm but tears had already formed in my eyes. He smiled to reassure me. I carefully picked up his hand and it was ice-cold. “You’re cold,” I said and somebody from the small crowd of on-lookers took off his suit jacket and laid it on dad. He wasn’t saying anything. A nurse who attends the other ward arrived. I moved so that she could take my spot. As much as I wanted to be by him and know what was going on, I preferred somebody who could actually help be closer. I was trying to think of my CPR class and what I should be doing. My mind was blank.
TN asked if I wanted to call my brother. Yes, I wanted to but no, I couldn’t. I don’t bring my cell phone to church and I had no idea what his cell number was. She works for my brother and had his number in her phone. “I’ll call him,” she said.
The ambulance made good time considering the fact they were given the wrong address. The EMT’s came in and checked dad out. He was awake, which was a good sign. One asked dad if he knew what year it was.
“Yeah,” dad replied. “It’s…” He chuckled. “I guess I don’t know.”
“Do you know what holiday is coming up?” the EMT asked.
“Fourth of July,” dad responded. I couldn’t have been happier if he had just given his final answer for a million dollar question.
“So, what month is this?” asked the EMT.
“I’m not sure,” dad replied.
“Would the Fourth of July be closer to June or December?”
“I don’t know.” His answer caused no small amount of panic in me.
“Do you know who the president is?” the EMT asked.
“That one might be selective.” I whispered to those around me.
They took him to the hospital and my uncle and aunt drove me there. TN took all my things and drove my car home for me. My brother and his family were already at the hospital waiting. We waited outside in a family cluster while they were filled in with details. I felt a little foolish to be the only one with watery eyes until I saw my nephew. He looked like me which made me feel better.
The ambulance pulled in and dad was admitted while we waited. My visiting teaching partner came to make sure I was all right and waited with the family. Dad was given an IV and almost immediately revived. The doctor asked him more questions. He knew it was Sunday and that he was supposed to eat with his brother-in-law and his wife at 5:30. However, he never did answer the question about the president.
It turns out dad was suffering from severe dehydration and stress. Not as serious as it could have been but a serious wake-up call for me. I want to be the kind of person that knows what to do when things like this happen. I want to be the person that drives another person’s car home for someone or who comes to the emergency room to wait with a friend. I want to be the person who is calm and cool under pressure and remembers her CPR training from a few days before. I also want to be the person who says, “I love you,” just because I can. Because I know life can turn on a dime.