There are Times When Others Have to get us There
Fall of ‘97 our young women’s mission group (IBITS) took me for a walk. They allowed me to lean on a stick and my bride. Lean I did, and lean and lean. It would be a lie to say that we walked the whole five miles for the March of Dimes Walk America—but we did walk further than some other lads and lasses more than a wee bit younger.
Then sundown hit, and the weight of the world did not stop at my shoulders, it hit me squarely in the chest. Sunday was a long night. Monday morning awoke without relief and I found myself at the Bon Secours Rappahannock General Hospital emergency room.
There, they pounded, pumped, bled, shocked, medicated, oxygenated me and sent me packing to a bed in ICU. Well, the unmitigated gall of those former friends on the staff, my bed also was a scale. They weighed me often, and in front of the gaggle of visitors for whom “no visitor” signs were an ignored challenge. It was rather like patient show & tell.
A day or two in the ICU, then a room down the hall and Drs. Tingle and Bryant shipped me off to Chippenham Hospital, Richmond. That medical spa sits where once the countyline of Chesterfield waived at the city folks. My youngest child had been left there for us by the stork. Many family members had used Chippenham Hospital, some died there; too familiar, too familiar. It was my home away from home until week’s end.
Several thousand dollars-worth of diagnostic tests later it appeared as if that hospital was done with me as well. They begged my wife to remove me to the country for rest, relaxation, diet and exercise!
Wait. What I really wanted to tell you about was traveling to Richmond in an ambulance, backwards. For the youthful reader (there are some aren’t there?) I compared it to “Wrong-Way Corrigan.” On July 17, 1938, Douglas Corrigan applied for an FAA permit to fly Trans-Atlantic. It was denied. He filed a counter plan, destination California. He lifted off at the Brooklyn airport and 29 hours later arrived in Ireland.
Ireland? He claimed his compass had failed. His stunt caught the imagination of the public and he became known as “Wrong Way” Corrigan. He became so famous that he actually appeared in a 1938 movie “The Flying Irishman” cast in the roll of the pilot. He died in 1995.
That’s how I went to Richmond. The wrong way. Two most helpful and cordial young chaps fetched me from the RGH ICU, rolled me back out through the emergency room. They loaded my hulk onto the (or is it into?) the ambulance. Here a cinch, there a strap, and soon I was a contiguous unit at one with the conveyance, bolted strapped and locked in. Hauled onward.
We had hardly cleared the hospital grounds when I realized that if I was to survive this jaunt I would have to be in a more upright position. The lad encapsulated in the back with me unbuckled himself and in a jiffy, had me propped up so as to see out of the rear door windows. Whew, that was much better. Bad enough to be some 15-stone heavy and waving about tied to a stretcher. At least now I could see. What I saw was humorous to me. But, then, many things are.
Most of the time when I am in a motor vehicle I am driving. When not driving I am usually in the front seat and gawking here and there at all the marvels my eyes have missed on the trips when I was busy with eyes straight to the fore.
Each venue was interesting, as soon as it came into view it began to disapp-and-a-half worth of reverse.
As familiar as it was, the landscape between the Northern Neck and Richmond (by then I had been plying those roads for at least a decade) it took on a bizarre connotation. First a familiar scene, and then it disappeared. Somewhat like Corrigan I was rushing somewhere in the wrong direction. But, it was no stunt.
My rear-view panorama did help me to focus better. Look quick, focus fast and note the changes, for things soon slipped from view. I began to anticipate what was around the bend over behind me and coming into sight. Unlike looking far off down the road I had to rest my eyes at each spot. In doing so I realized that I was missing a lot of other scenes.
Those fine young men delivered me in excellent shape, for the shape I was in. They did so in a cheerful manner. Reverse or not they knew that getting me there was what mattered, not how disoriented I was. I trusted them. They did their job. Trusting others to take us where we cannot see—destination known, route confused, you know, that’ll almost preach, won’t it?
Oh, how did it end? After the city docs had their way with me, Hazel fetched me home with the request I not snore too loudly while she concentrated on the road ahead!