Pain Relief Chapter 32


Hatzolah rushes Hindy to the emergency room, and she is taken to intensive care. One of the EMTs calls her son, Aharon, who is finding it difficult to grasp the seriousness of his mother’s condition.

*   *   *

Feigenbaum led Aharon to the elevator and up three floors to the ICU. It was beginning to dawn on Aharon that his mother really was very sick. They approached the nurse and gave Hindy’s name and the nurse nodded her head.

“Mrs. Fishman? She just came in. She’s in Bed 4.” She pointed in that general direction, and when Aharon saw his mother all wired up to monitors and machines he finally understood how ill she was. He felt a wave of panic.

“Can we speak to a doctor?” said Feigenbaum.

“Of course. He’ll be here shortly. Have a seat.”

“Can’t we go in?” said Aharon.

“Oh, no. Not yet. She’s far from stabilized. We still don’t know what’s wrong.”

Aharon sat down heavily, leaned over, and put his head in his hands, then stood up and started to pace.

“What do you think it is?” said Aharon. “What was she like when you got to the house?”

“Pretty much as she is now,” said Feigenbaum. “Her friend said she’d fallen to the floor.”

“Her friend? Which friend?” said Aharon.

“Didn’t get her name.”

Aharon tried to figure out who it could have been, knowing that his mother didn’t actually have “friends.” She was always busy with clients, but he didn’t think any of them were friends.

“You wanna call your father?” Feigenbaum nudged.

“Yes, of course. Thanks.” He dialed the number then hung up quickly. “Voice mail. I don’t want to leave him such a message. I’ll try again later.”

“Aharon, you need to tell someone,” said the rough-around-the-edges Feigenbaum, trying to sound supportive. “Your grandparents, maybe?”

Aharon shook his head. “I don’t want to worry them.”

“Do you have any brothers and sisters?”

“Only one I could call, but she’s on the outs with my mother,” said Aharon.

“Call her anyway.”

Feigenbaum had stopped asking, and was now giving orders. “Call her now.”

Zalman answered the phone and was very curt with Aharon. The two men had never really hit it off, and the gap that existed between them was a real hindrance now.

“I need to speak to Miriam,” said Aharon.

“What about?”

Aharon felt his hackles rise. “Put her on, please.”

“She’s not available.”

Feigenbaum, overhearing, grabbed the phone from his hand.

“This is Feigenbaum from Hatzolah. Mrs. Fishman was taken to the ICU in critical condition. Please tell your wife to come right away. She’s needed here.”

Feigenbaum disconnected the call and handed the phone back to Aharon. His crisp efficiency and cool head in a crisis might have bothered Aharon if he’d been aware of his own inadequacies. As it was, Aharon felt admiration for the EMT.

“Can you manage from here?” Feigenbaum asked.

“I don’t know,” said Aharon. “What if the doctor comes out to speak to me?”

“Listen to what he has to say. Fishman, sorry but I’ve really got to go. Remember —  call your father…and refuah sheleimah to your mother.” With a little wave he walked to the elevator, got in and was gone.

Aharon walked over to the glass partition and stared at the patients ensconced in the strange and sterile ward. The beds were placed in a semi-circle with a large island in the center made up of four narrow desks, the nurses’ work space. Most of the patients were sleeping; some, like his mother, were unconscious. A few were awake.

Aharon kept checking his watch, wondering where his sister was, as his eyes lit intermittently on his mother’s hospital bed. He was surprised at how small and frail she looked, diminished even more by the large machines that surrounded her. He watched the green zigzagging lines on the monitor, and realized he was sweating, breathing heavily and feeling alone and afraid. Even though he was the oldest, he had always felt like a third wheel, and now, when he finally found himself in a situation where someone needed to take charge, he didn’t feel up to it. He wished his father were here, or even Miriam. He took off his hat and ran his hands through his hair. The waiting room made him feel claustrophobic, but he didn’t know where else to go.

“Nurse,” he said, walking over to the desk. “Any word from the doctor?”

“I paged him,” she said curtly. “He should be here shortly.”

“Why aren’t they working on my mother?” he asked.

“Every patient is under constant monitoring and care. They did a lot of tests already, and they are waiting for the results. They won’t know how to best treat her until they know what’s wrong, and it might take time. Do you have anyone you could call?”

Aharon mumbled a thank you and retreated back into his corner. He tried his father again, and this time Asher answered the phone.

“What do you need, Aharon? I’m a little busy here.”

Aharon couldn’t even count the number of times his parents had said those words to him. He’d seen how other parents doted on their firstborn child, and he felt he’d missed out on that for some reason.

“Abba, I’m at the hospital. Ima’s in a coma.”

“What? Is this some sort of joke? Aharon, what are you talking about?”

“Abba, I’m serious. I’m at Memorial. Ima was with a client and she passed out, and she still hasn’t woken up. She’s in the ICU.”

“You’re serious.”

“Of course I’m serious.”

“Aharon, I’m upstate. It’s going to take me at least three hours to get home. I was planning on leaving first thing tomorrow morning …” Asher’s voice drifted off, as if he was thinking out loud. “I guess that’s going to have to change.”

To be continued  . . .