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The love of his life slept calmly on the passenger seat as he drove along the tree-covered street. The trees were making the sunlight flicker as he drove through their shadows. Elliot felt that it was a wonderful day. Reaching over to grab Amelia’s hand, Elliot began thinking of the time they met. It was so long ago. They were both so young.

To him, she is still just as beautiful, even as she slept with her mouth open and drools just a little bit. It was their little secret. Her hand felt just as warm and comforting as it had done fifty years before, when they first held hands on their first date. She clasped his hand a little bit, though it was mostly just a reflex. It reminded Elliot of the time when she was delivering their first child, Alexandra. Amelia grabbed on to his hand and squeezed with incredible strength as their daughter was being born. He would love Amelia forever for that little girl.

A few minutes later, as he was driving into their daughter’s driveway, Elliot noticed that Amelia was not gripping his hand like they always did. He looked over at her, and she looked to be very sound asleep, very peaceful. “Sweetheart,” he said in a soft tone to wake her up without startling her. She didn’t respond. “Amelia?” he asked a little bit more sternly. His heart started to accelerate. He shook her hand. As it had done so many times before, his brain began to race. It projected all the possible outcomes of the situation. Yet it was his heart that wanted him not to think. One of those thoughts was the thought of the worst, and Elliot didn’t want the worst. He wanted to be with her forever. He stopped the car.

Amelia opened her eyes to the most beautiful sight she had ever seen.

Categories: Stories

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René F. Najera, DrPH

I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.

3 replies

  1. A true story:
    At a local Friendly’s, eleven years ago, my wife and two daughters were enjoying a dinner treat.
    Suddenly, something was different. Due to my military experiences, I’ve learned to look for that which is different. Different can be bad, sometimes lethally bad.
    SILENCE. Silence across from me. Edge of eye, bugged eyes from our youngest daughter, age 11.
    Noticing hands, I looked up quickly and saw her holding her throat.
    Her mouth gaping, some drool and weak retching, but no sound. Eyes wide.
    Noticing a half eaten mozzarella strip that was dropped onto the table.

    “Are you OK?”
    Negative and panicked shake of the head.
    “Are you choking?”
    Even more frantic affirmative nod.

    I quickly got up, pulled her up and instructed her to stand. Began Heimlich maneuvers.
    Negative effect.
    Continued thrusts. No effect.
    People were getting up to help…
    Grabbed her and carried her to the ladies room, booted open the door and a stall door and continued efforts uninterrupted.
    Still no effect.
    As I was noticing a change in color and the technique was being ineffective, I was beginning to consider available resources for an emergency cricothyrotomy, something normally contraindicated in anyone younger than 12.
    I had my contingency plan in place and initiated one further thrust, with all of my strength, which could have resulted in a rupture of the diaphragm.
    Finally, a chunk of mozzarella stick was ejected.

    While all of this was going on, my wife as gently advising a rather alarmed woman who came from an adjacent stall that our daughter was choking and I was there to help her uninterrupted and advising the manager that I am a Special Forces medic treating our youngest daughter who was choking to death.

    We returned to our table and received some applause from those close to us and understood what had happened.
    We cut our visit immediately short and returned home, called our family doctor for a prophylactic antibiotic, as the breading of the stick may well have abraded her throat enough to permit an infection and have since enjoyed our lives.

    The only reason this ended well was, I learned the hard way to put that panicked part of my mind in its thumb sucking corner of my head and continue on using my mind. Even while my body is seriously considering soiling my undergarment. Even if it does.
    I can fix soiled. Nobody can fix dead.

    A similar story to the above is with my own father, who has repeatedly suffered congestive heart failure and now, kidney failure.
    Not holding hands, but not noticing chest movement of breathing.
    Fortunately, he awakened from his deep sleep in his chair while “watching television” well.
    Until one night a month ago, when he called us from bed wanting our “television pillow” because he couldn’t breathe.
    His audible breath sounds were lousy. He tripoded to breathe.
    “Oh, crap! He JUST got out of the hospital for pneumonia.” in my mind, I asked my wife for my stethoscope.
    As I have 45 db hearing loss from an IED, I asked my wife to listen to his lung sounds.
    She went pale. I taught her how to listen to all lung fields. I taught her many things EMS related over the decades of our marriage. Often enough that she remembers them instinctively.
    Rales and rhonchi, all fields.

    All fields= no BP, pulse or even pulse ox, hospital is less than five minutes away.

    The local hospital, the recently discharged from hospital (as in two days), initiated TX of the very same antibiotics as before. Huh?!?!
    Also, initiated BiPap therapy and later, nasal flow of 38 liters and called it a week.
    Then I had him transferred to a more competent facility. Initiated vanco and piperacillin, as well as starting other therapies to relive him of excess fluids, as he was, the previous day, diagnosed with end stage renal disease and required dialysis.
    Lousy timing, life is lousy with it.
    The physicians got an incorrect assessment on our ability to care for my father from a family member, namely one cousin who “knows medicine” from her vast experience gained as a secretary for a plastic bottle company and her Alzheimer’s husband and eldest son. So, she assessed that my wife and I could not care for my father and the team of physicians then concluded to do nothing.
    Well, after a brief conversation with the lead of the team, then my father’s cardiologist, we’ll suffice it to say he got what was required. Dialysis.
    Though, we now have uremic encephalopathy on top of his previous diabetic encephalopathy and existing and exasperated vascular dementia.
    Still, he’s in good spirits, his short term memory is a shotgun thing, depending on the day, which doesn’t give great hope long term. He’s amazed his treatment team in his ability to recover, once dialysis was initiated.
    He may well get to great his third great grandchild, as our eldest is with child again. By six weeks of pregnancy.
    Only time will tell and it’ll be a race.

    Yes, part of me is crying. But, I learned long ago, crying is for downtime, not immediately.
    Yet another military lesson. For, I helped treat a very close friend when an IED blew off a hand, half of his foot, an ear and eye, along with half of his face to shreds and burned tissue. Collected the parts of another very close friend for two hours, some part under fire.
    The former’s family won’t permit contact with his buddies. The latter had justice served, as the IED bomber was arrested and in prison.
    Amazingly, arrested in Louisville, Kentucky!
    I’m actually cool with that. For, he’ll get to meet his new fiancee, Bubba.

    And yes, both stories are true.


    1. Didn’t see an edit button, so an addendum.
      My father is now in a rehab facility, as he’s thoroughly deconditioned from his month long hospital stay.
      I placed him in a facility where we have family attending, as our eldest is an RN at that facility.
      The facility is middling, out of a wealth of lousy ones and only a few good ones.
      But, they’re more than barely competent and so far, out of one day and change there, the only “misadventures” were one shaving cut and a day one missed dialysis session. At day one, logistics are a really big bit-, erm, BIRCH…
      For the shaving cut, oops. Do it myself to my own self. Did it to a patient on my clinical rotation. Oops. Heparin only complicated it a little.
      Plus, he has rosacea. That rather complicates something as simple as shaving.

      Evaluating his mental condition is complicated, as he is profoundly deaf, I’m at the 45db level loss. So, for both of us, the phone is always ringing…
      And he refuses to use his hearing aids. I only usually forget to wear the #$*&! things. Though, mine are better than his. I have compander technology to reduce loud noises and filter better for speech, as well as possessing a telecoil.
      He only has cheap amplifier models that he can’t remember how to use properly.


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