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April 1, 2012 vol 8 no 1

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Ray Rasmussen

Chest Pains!

A voice in my head says 'have it checked', but the one that likes the lawn to get long before mowing it, says: "just a muscle spasm, don't worry about it."

One day passes, two, three . . . seven now. The pain has ebbed and flowed, but not gone away. The possibilities dance through my mind: heart attack, cancer, ulcer, kidney stone, gall bladder—the list goes on and on.

And I drive to EMERGENCY.

The triage nurse asks how long I've had the pains. I confess to only 2 days. She pats my hand: "You mustn't wait when you have chest pains. Sit over there and we'll take you next."

"NEXT!" That NEXT echoes in my mind. Who gets immediate attention in an emergency ward? I imagine metal tongs prying my chest open, a quadruple by-pass, a dead person's heart being jammed into my empty chest cavity.

Soon I'm squeezed into one of those tiny hospital gowns with too many personal parts hanging out. They draw blood, take temperature, read blood pressure, administer ECG, x-ray bones—everything but floss my teeth.

Wait time . . . minutes like hours . . . white coats pass by . . . but none stop. Have they forgotten me? Or, better, perhaps they've decided to ignore me because there's no immediate problem.

My imagination's evil doctor, the one with the pencil line moustache and snide smile, whispers to the charge nurse: "As punishment for waiting seven days, let him sit for a few more hours.

I can't quite accept the possibility of death, but related thoughts stream in: I should have done my will, pre-arranged the cremation, hugged my kids more, told someone I was coming in . . .

gurney wheels squeak—
the sound of a monitor

Startled, I consider getting dressed, bolting out the door. I imagine orderlies dragging me back, the triage nurse's 'tut-tut' as they lash me to a stretcher.

And, then, the DOCTOR arrives, scans the paperwork, says: "ALL CLEAR. Guess you had a bit of a scare, eh? Next time come in right away.

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