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These Folks Are Good Medicine

By Jerry Zezima

I have never been an ambulance chaser, mainly because I can’t run that fast, but if the producers of “Chicago Fire” are looking for a stunt driver, or even a guest star to provide comic relief, I’d be happy to sign up.

In a scene straight out of the popular TV show, I jumped in my car and managed to keep up with an emergency vehicle that recently rushed my wife, Sue, to the hospital, where she was successfully treated for an intestinal issue and I should have been admitted for having a bleeding knuckle and only half a brain.

The adventure began a little after midnight when Sue complained of the same symptoms she had when she suffered a heart attack late last year.

Springing into action, which almost resulted in a sprained ankle, I called 911.

About five minutes later, an ambulance pulled into the driveway and a pair of paramedics, Tom and Steve, knocked on the door.

“You’re bleeding,” Tom said when I let them in.

I looked at the knuckle on the middle finger of my right hand and said, “I have dry skin.”

“You called an ambulance for that?” Steve said incredulously.

“No, but if you have a Band-Aid, I’d appreciate it,” I replied. “Actually, it’s my wife. I think she’s having a heart attack.”

I led the dynamic duo into the family room, where Sue was sitting in a chair. They gave her an EKG (results: normal) and gave me a warning:

“Don’t try to follow us,” Tom said.

“People do that all the time,” Steve added. “They run red lights and stop signs to keep up with us.”

After Sue was put into the back of the ambulance, Tom said to me, “We’ll see you at the hospital. Drive safely!”

Sue said later that the guys regaled her with stories during the ride.

“Crazy drivers are constantly bumping the ambulance,” Tom told her. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been knocked around.”

“One time I hit my noggin on the door,” Steve chimed in.

“This is fun!” Sue squealed. “It’s like ‘Chicago Fire.’ ”

Tom shook his head and responded, “We’re better than ‘Chicago Fire.’ ”

Ten minutes later, I met Sue and the paramedics at the hospital.

“Some idiot was right on our tail,” Sue said while lying on a stretcher in the emergency room.

“It was me,” I confessed.

“We tell people not to do that,” Tom said. “The one person we don’t tell is the one who will do that.”

“If I got pulled over by a cop, I would have said you told me it was OK,” I said.

“Thanks for having our backs,” said Steve.

“You guys are the ones who should be thanked,” I told the two paramedics. “You’re lifesavers.”

“Wintergreen?” Tom asked.

“Yes,” I answered. “The best kind.”

Overhearing this exchange, Sue confided, “It’s a good thing I brushed my teeth.”

“Otherwise, I could just imagine the diagnosis,” I told her. “Bad breath.”

After Tom and Steve left, a nurse took Sue’s vitals. Then I gave her a list of the medications that Sue has to take.

“I never used to take anything,” Sue said. “Now I have my own pharmacy.”

When Sue was settled in Chest Pain 1, a unit next to the ER, a doctor came in and said, “Susan?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m Jerry. This,” I added, pointing to the patient, “is Susan.”

As the doctor examined Sue, a woman from the billing department, who was on the job at 1 a.m., handed me a piece of paper. It was headlined “Your Rights and Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills.”

“I don’t like bills, even if they’re not a surprise,” I told her.

“I don’t blame you,” she said.

“Can I make this into a paper airplane and fly it across the room?” I asked.

“Sure,” she replied. “I just gave a copy to the patient on the other side. You can fly the planes to each other.”

Unfortunately, there wasn’t time for an air show because the nurse had to take Sue’s blood. She tends to pass out when this happens, so I had to hold her hand — the other one was where the needle would go — and assure her that it would be all right. This entailed telling her stupid jokes to distract her.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “It won’t be in vain. Well, actually, it will be in vein, but it won’t be in vain.”

The nurse chuckled. Sue rolled her eyes.

“I think I’m going to pass out,” I said, feigning a faint.

Sue smiled and said, “Stop it!”

I stopped at 3:30 a.m., when it was decided that Sue would stay and I would go.

When I returned the following afternoon, I greeted Sue, who had slept comfortably, and went to the nurses’ station because my knuckle was bleeding again.

“Would you by any chance have a Band-Aid?” I asked.

“A Band-Aid? What’s that?” said a nurse named Victoria.

“I just found the last one,” said Kristen, a nurse’s assistant.

When she gave me a plain adhesive bandage, I said, “Thanks, but don’t you have Hello Kitty or Care Bears Band-Aids?”

“Not even Smurfs,” Kristen said.

“We’re getting Batman next week,” Victoria added.

In the next bed, on the other side of the curtain, was Jim, a heart patient who was being visited by his wife, Bonnie.

“I have plaque,” Jim told me.

“You should see a dentist,” I replied.

“I already blew off a dental appointment the other day,” Jim said. “Now I have plaque in my heart, too.”

A hospital staffer named Don came in to give Sue a nuclear stress test.

He prepped her with saline, then said, “Here’s the chaser.”

“How about red wine?” I suggested. “It’s good for the heart.”

“We serve that at dinner,” said Don, adding that the test tricks the body into thinking it’s getting exercise.

“When I watch sports on TV, do I trick my body into thinking it’s getting exercise?” I asked.

“Sure, if your body really thinks so,” Don replied.

“Since this test is nuclear, will Sue be radioactive?” I wondered.

“No,” said Don, “but you could cut down on your electric bill.”

I looked at Sue and said, “You glow, girl!”

All the tests administered to Sue, including a CT scan, showed that she wasn’t having heart issues.

“My colon is swollen,” she informed me.

“Hey,” I said, “that rhymes!”

It wasn’t pleasant, but the news was good because things could have been worse. The three stents that were inserted when Sue had her heart attack a little over three months ago were working fine.

“I guess they’re still under warranty,” I noted.

Sue, who hadn’t eaten in 24 hours, wolfed down a meal of chicken, rice and carrots before she was released.

Full credit goes to the doctors, nurses and technicians at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, as well as to the paramedics at the Coram Fire Department, for taking such good care of Sue.

“Thanks for saving my life,” I said to the nurses as we were leaving.

“That’s our job,” replied Victoria.

Kristen smiled and added, “You owe us a Band-Aid.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service, which distributes it to newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of six books, Leave It to BoomerThe Empty Nest ChroniclesGrandfather Knows BestNini and Poppie’s Excellent AdventuresEvery Day Is Saturday and One for the Ageless, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.

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