The Phone Call
Unable to get through to my step-mother, I step into the next exam room to see Mr. P, a 72-year-old man with stable coronary disease and Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). He has difficulty hearing and is here with his protective wife for a routine checkup.
My twins were born just twelve hours after I came home from work, but six weeks earlier than expected, so I extended my maternity leave for as long as possible. My partners were accommodating and generous while I was away, but they were plenty glad to have me in the call rotation when I came back. So, after my four months' leave, I was on the schedule within a week or two of returning to work.
On a cold December day, I heard a knock on our clinic door. "Hello? Can someone help me?"
Her name was Sara. She wore an oversized blue jacket, black rain boots and a scarf over her head. With my bright blue Health Leads patient advocate polo shirt, I greeted Sara as she sat down in the chair next to me.
"I need some childcare vouchers. They've stopped giving me money and I can't seem to make ends meet any more," she told me quietly.
The phone call came just as Dad and I had finished lunch and were about to enjoy some window-shopping at the mall. It was the nursing home informing us that Ma had again fallen out of bed and was again being taken by ambulance to a nearby emergency room.
The call came twenty years ago, but it stands out in my mind like it was yesterday. I was a student nurse on a psychiatric rotation, and my clinical instructor called to inform me that the patient that I had been caring for had died. The death occured after discharge from the hospital. And the cause of death was suicide.
My parents and I were rushing to D.C. to be by my grandmother's side--I from Boston by plane, they from Pittsburgh by automobile. It was a cloudy morning.
Upon reaching Reagan National Airport, I switched my mobile out of airplane mode and saw a text from my sister: call mum right now. Despite being the older sibling, I always followed my sister’s instructions and obediently called our mum.