More of the numbers story:


Her blood pressure was 136/82. Higher than normal. Clicking along at a rapid pace, a pulse of 102 was definitely abnormal. The pulse oximetry captured her oxygen saturation, displaying the 97% on the screen above her hospital bed. Numbers.

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She looked around frantically for her purse.

“Where’s my purse?” She yelled to no one in particular. She looked for a call button while she continued to yell. “Hey! Hello! Someone! Hey I need help here!” The sound of panic in her voice increasing with each ever louder sentence. Finally a person arrived, someone male in blue scrubs, his hospital name badge clipped to the front pocket of his top.

“Who is the attending today?” She commanded. The man’s countenance shifted, his defensiveness blatant. Cynicism pervaded every level, easily encountered with the slightest confrontation.

“You need to lie back Ma’am. Tests will need to be run and we’re busy. You’re not in any eminent danger, so just calm down. The doctor will get to you.”

Condescension provoked her.

“It’s doctor. Dr. Casperin. And I am on staff here, young man.” She looked down at his badge before continuing. “Are you a resident? Intern? Nurse? Or just a ward secretary? I want to know the attending and you might want to let him now that I am conscious and possibly combative. Go!”

Had she been distracted by his insolence or simply oversensitive? She tried to calm herself before her colleague arrived. She watched the monitors and controlled her breathing, tuning out the bustle and noise from the outer area of the emergency room. She began her mediation exercise, focusing inward; her anger so palpable.  The memory of tadpoles came into focus behind her closed eyes. Thousands of plump, wriggling tadpoles, their flagellate tails rapidly flicking, their heads pressing against each other and against the water’s undersurface. During the rainy season, large puddles formed in the swale in front of her childhood home. Within weeks, the stagnant ponds hatched thousands of tadpoles. The miraculous, nearly magical transformation of the tadpoles into thousands of miniature toads was coupled to the macabre theatrics when they hopped out of the water.  Patiently waiting on the telephone lines across the street, as calm as a posse of gang bangers on their street corner, perched the flock of birds that feasted upon the toads as the hopped through the sticky mud, oblivious to the brevity of their existence. Her anger dissipated as she remembered. The meditation exercise was the one piece of worthy advice the shrink had given. He had instructed her to find a metaphor for her anger and an equal metaphor that could disperse her anger. When she had shared the memory from her childhood, the look of horror on the shrinks face had been priceless. Her anger wasn’t a problem. Not for her. Just for everyone else. It was why she’d gone to the therapist, ‘to manage her stress’ everyone had said. She went to the therapist so everyone would stop talking about her stress. Talking about it didn’t change it. Then she remembered.

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“Where’s my purse?” She blurted when Dr. Doyle arrived.

“Cool it Diane. And stop being such a pain to the MA, he was just doing his job. You know the drill. When you hit the door unconscious, you get to be the patient.”

His bluntness diffused her ego.

“I hyperventilated. That’s it.”

“Maybe, but you drove you car into the guard rail on the top floor of the parking garage and the impact deployed your airbags. You get the work up.”

The severity of the impact shocked her. She had no recall and realizing she had retrograde amnesia muted her. She took a deep breath, conceding he point. She turned to the young man and spoke, “I apologize.”

“We’ll blame it on the concussion.” The young man offered.

Doyle spoke first, “No. That is her baseline affect. She’s bitchy. High velocity deceleration concussions will not be maligned for her rude behavior.” Doyle winked at her and the stunned tech was momentarily unsure if Doyle was joking or serious.

“He’s right. I am not very friendly, especially on first meeting.”

“It’s part of her charm, though.” Doyle handed the clipboard to him and then pulled a penlight from his pocket to shine in her eyes. “So why the game of chicken with the guardrail? Hoping to total your car?”

“I told you. I hyperventilated.”

Doyle stepped back and looked at her. Something in her voice had shifted and she sounded almost frail. “Diane?”

“I just got upset. I don’t know.” She was being evasive but Blake Doyle knew her well enough to know she was withholding information.




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