Aharon, Miriam, and Tzippy are allowed in to see their mother, who is still unconscious. A team comes in to start having her stomach pumped. Aharon realizes in horror that they are checking his mother for an overdose.
* * *
The three children were hustled out of the room while the team went to work. A small machine mounted on a moving table was wheeled next to Hindy’s bed. Two nurses held her in position while a third inserted the tube into Hindy’s mouth and down her esophagus. One of the nurses turned on the machine and a hefty sucking sound filled the room as the contents of Hindy’s stomach were drawn out.
The procedure complete, an aide stayed behind to add another bag of liquid to the IV in order to rehydrate her. The doctor pulled off his gloves and headed into the waiting room.
“Hello,” he said, his accent thick and foreign. “I am Dr. Bandopadhyay. If that is too difficult for you to say, please call me Dr. Bando. Everyone does.” They all nodded toward each other. “Now, we couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong with your mother — test after test came back negative. Finally, I had them run a toxicology screening just to be thorough, but I’ll admit I did it to cover all the bases.”
“Will you stop saying that?” Aharon snapped. “My mother is not a drug addict!”
“Aharon,” said Tzippy. “Please calm down. Let’s hear what the doctor has to say. By the way, what is a toxicology screen?”
Dr. Bando cleared his throat. “When we do a tox screen we check the blood, urine, or saliva for the presence of drugs or chemicals. The normal, maximum amount of acetaminophen we should find in the blood, let’s say two capsules every four hours, shouldn’t be more than 4,000 milligrams. Your mother’s level was 20,000. Not only that … wait a moment. Is there a Mr. Fishman?”
“He’s out of town on business,” said Aharon. “He will be back as soon as he can. You can talk to us.”
Dr. Bando considered this for a moment but realizing that he was talking to a group of adults, he continued. “We also found toxic levels of codeine in your mother’s blood. A toxic dose is 240 mg; your mother’s level was 400. I think it is a miracle that she’s still alive. Keep in mind these are preliminary tests. We won’t know the full story for another 48 to 72 hours. Meanwhile we will keep her here where we can monitor her progress. She is on oxygen and we have a respirator standing by.”
He looked over at the four family members, who had now formed a little huddle in front of him. Their faces registered a mixture of shock and confusion. Finally Zalman spoke up.
“I’m sorry Doctor, but there must be some mistake.”
Dr. Bando nodded empathetically. “Your mother —”
“Mother-in-law,” Zalman interjected. “I’m married to Mrs. Fishman’s daughter.” He indicated Miriam. Tzippy looked at Miriam with irritation.
“Your mother — and mother-in-law,” Dr. Bando continued, deliberately, “is not the first person to be rushed here in this condition. It’s more common than you think. Does Mrs. Fishman have some sort of chronic pain, perhaps, maybe from a broken leg or something like that?”
They looked at each other, recognition replacing confusion. Tzippy spoke up. “She fell down the stairs and was in a lot of pain. She couldn’t even move at first. But that was months ago.”
“Exactly,” said Dr. Bando. “Did you notice her taking excessive amounts of Tylenol?”
Tzippy clapped her hand to her mouth.
“What is it, Tzippy?” said Zalman.
“Right after she fell she was taking Tylenol like crazy. I mean, entire bottles were disappearing.”
“How do you know that?” said Miriam.
“I didn’t know it consciously. I just knew that every time I went to take a Tylenol the bottle was nearly empty. It was weird, but it didn’t register.”
“That makes sense,” said Dr. Bando. “Your mother was in pain, so she started to take Tylenol. After a while, it stops alleviating the pain so she started taking more and more. Eventually she must have switched to Tylenol with codeine.”
Tzippy nodded again. “Yeah, she had that. I took one by accident from the bottle in her bag and it knocked me right out.”
“So what’s the next step?” said Aharon, who was still overwhelmed by the news. He was desperate to move on to a solution.
“First of all, find your father. The next 48 hours will be crucial. The first thing we have to do is stabilize her. Her kidneys and her liver have to return to normal function. You can be sure we will be doing everything we can.” He looked at the heartsick group and shifted his tone from clinical to concern and kindness. “I’m very sorry. This must come as a shock to you all. Your mother needs your prayers now.” He nodded at them and padded down the hallway in his yellow Crocs.
To be continued . . .