I’m Going Home At Five

I was tagged with a plastic wristband, then wheeled upstairs to a room. After my children left, I was bored and asked if I could walk around with my dangling bag of saline on a pole. They let me walk the halls, but wouldn’t allow me into the waiting room.

That night as I listened to the chirping of machines, the low rumble of cart wheels, and the clank and swish of mop buckets in the hall, all I could think was, “I need to get out of here.” A man across the hall was hacking so hard it sounded like his lungs were going to come up his throat, and a lady’s moans sliced sharply through the quiet. “I don’t want to catch something from some resistant bug scouting the halls, and I don’t want to walk the halls while the chorus of snores and squeak of nurse shoes were the dominant sounds. Besides they will just tell me to get some sleep, again.”

The next morning before the limp breakfast sausage, dry scrambled eggs, burnt coffee and warm juice, hit the trays, I stopped at the desk on my morning walk to bug the  receptionist who was rubbing her eyes and holding a cup of coffee. “Where is the doctor who said he would see me this morning? When do I get the MRI?”

“They’re busy, it might be best if you wait in your room.”

“Well, just to let you know. I’m going home at five. There’s nothing wrong with me and I need to take care of my dog. Please let the doctor know.”

I picked at my cold breakfast, looked out the window at the lazy clouds, paced the halls some more, and asked the nurses hourly, “Where’s the doctor?”

Sarah and my best friend Margaret came to visit before noon, giving temporary relief to the nurses. One nurse who came to check my vitals, had a very kind mannerism which helped put me at ease, so my guard was down when she mentioned, “You might as well get some sleep because the doctor probably won’t be able to see you today, it’s Saturday.”

“But, I’m going home at five because there’s no reason to keep me here. My blood pressure is normal and they’ve already said my x-rays and e.k.g. were fine.

The nurse shrugged and threw her hands in the air, and then turned to my daughter. “Tell your mom she needs to stay.”

“Oh no, I can’t tell my mother what to do.” Before she left, my daughter said to call when I was ready.

The doctor never arrived. I heard the nurses talking to him on the phone about me saying I was going home at five. He told them, “She will have to sign against medical advice papers.”

I said I would sign if they weren’t there by five.

The MRI tech appeared around 3:00pm. He said he was pulled out of an E.R. and told to go to Community to give me the procedure. I still needed to see a neurologist, who supposedly wasn’t available that day. I began to get my things ready to leave. I called my daughter and asked her to come get me.

A few minutes to five, a neurologist arrived, and did a complete exam. I said, “You sure were thorough, have you been doing this a long time?” “No, this is my first time doing this alone. I just finished my residency.”

Finally, I heard the nurse on the phone telling the E.R. doctor that I passed the exam. But he wanted me to stay one more night to get the results from the MRI. I told them it was after five and I was leaving. He gave in. I went home.

They never found out what was wrong.

A few days later I was helping Sarah with a poetry event at Fox Coffee House. Dav walked in as we were setting up.

I walked up to him and said, “Hi, do you still want to go out for pie?”

A few months after we were married, I was in the front yard trimming the hedges. I felt the bushes sway and sounds become muffled. I climbed down and made it into the house. I plopped onto my office chair and began to look up my symptoms. I was sweating and nauseous when Dav walked in.

“Are you okay?” he asked “No, I’m not.” We barely made it to the bathroom. My reflection in the mirror was white as a sheet.

Conclusion: I was once more taken by ambulance, but to a different hospital. Hours later a doctor came in and said I had acute vertigo. I was sent home with a prescription. I finally was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease by House Clinic in L.A.

Who Will Take Care of Joey

Who Will Take Care of Joey


A few days before the date Dav and I had made to go out for pie, I woke up feeling a little off, so I ate oatmeal and blueberries for breakfast thinking it was just hunger pangs. Then I drove up the hill to Costco for gas, but as I began to pump I suddenly felt the earth swaying like I was in a small boat in a wild storm. “I need to get home,”  was all I could think.


On the drive home I believe that I had angels guiding the car because I sure wasn’t. As I parked in the parallel space in front of my garage, my car seemed to bend like a slinky. Somehow I knew to keep my cell phone in my right hand as I opened the front door with my left. I let my dog Joey go in ahead of me. My legs buckled under me as the door slammed behind me. I couldn’t stop my descent and my head hit the floor. My little dog sat nearby while I made a few attempts to lift my head. I was able to call 911 and tell the operator I needed help. She connected me with a fireman who asked if I could get up and retrieve some papers from my room. I believe this was a test to see if I really could get up.


“I can’t even lift my head.”


“Turn on your side in case you throw up.”


I did as instructed and promptly lost my breakfast.


I heard the fire truck and ambulance sirens within minutes. I was the only person on the block with a door facing the alley. They quickly checked my vital signs and determined I needed immediate transport to the hospital. I could hear Joey barking anxiously. I asked one of the fireman to get on his level and call him. I heard him say, “Come here buddy, it’s okay.” My dog calmed down as the fireman picked him up and shut him in my room. I asked them to leave the door unlocked so someone could reach him if needed.


At the E.R., I was unable to lift one leg to cross the other or touch the doctor’s finger as instructed. Everything became a blur of rectangular lights  and far away voices as I was hoisted onto a cold metal table and slapped all over my head and chest with round sticky objects. I didn’t stop throwing up.


I could see white uniformed figures coming and going for what seemed like hours while a nearby machine beeps incessantly. Finally I was able to keep my stomach fluids inside, and the little pills that were supposed to do that job. I heard the garbled sound of people asking me questions which I was unable to answer. It was like being in a nightmare where you’re yelling but no sound comes out. Slowly I began to recover enough to answer questions and I was finally able to touch the doctor’s finger and cross my leg.


“Ms. Skarin, we need to keep you overnight for more tests.” The doctor said.


“What kind of tests, I’m fine now.”


“We are concerned that you weren’t able to lift your leg or touch my finger. We need to do a neurological assessment and an MRI, even though your x-rays and e.k.g. were fine.”


“But, I need to get home and take care of my dog. He’s home alone.”


“Is there anyone you can call?”


“Yes, my daughter lives in Lakewood.” My cellphone was brought to me.


“Sarah, could you go over to the house and feed Joey and let him out ”


“Why, where are you?”  I never asked her to take care of Joey.


“I’m in the hospital.”


“What? Why?”


“I fell and I couldn’t get up. I had to call an ambulance.”


“Mom, I’m coming right now. Which hospital?”


“Community. But, what about Joey, who’s going to take care of him?”


“I’ll call Jeremy and ask him to take care of Joey.” (I later found out that the firemen had locked all the doors with my dog still in the bedroom. My son didn’t have the keys so he had to pry a window open and move my microwave and toaster oven off the stand to squeeze in through the narrow opening. My son is 6 feet 3 inches tall.)