I will admit the weird and wonderful world of hospitals is a bit of a mystery to an outsider like me. My knowledge comes from watching one too many TV hospital dramas which will explain my reaction to th following:

The scene was set with my mother looking somewhat less than a faded beauty rose and more like a wilted dandelion as we headed into the 12th hour of this visit to the ER. She was “resting” (by resting I mean sitting up wide awake) on the “bed” (by bed I mean large flat rectangle; covered in plastic with matching plastic pillow thing in the middle of the room) attached to a myriad of wires and finger clamps dedicated to recording her every erratic heart beat. I will admit that for “yuks”, we occasionally put the finger clamp on my finger just to see if anyone would notice the rate change and then collapsed around the place laughing at the naughtiness of it.

Out of nowhere, my mother’s heart monitor number started to jump around. So I watched and tried to appear normal as the number went from 87 to 132 to 52 to 67 to 13 to 90 to 0!!!! ZERO ?!??!!! What the..?? I had certainly learned over time to say lots of medical buzz words and knew how to toss them correctly into sentences without really understanding what they meant BUT I did understand one thing and that was as far as hearts go, zero wasn’t a great number. What to do? What to do? I said tentatively over top of the beeps “How are you feeling Mom?” She said “Cranky. This noise is a little wearing could you go find someone and make it stop?” Thinking quickly, I said sure. Hmmm..where were those crash carts? Where were the people running in at breakneck speed to yell things like STAT and CLEAR? Surely a ZERO heart rate had to be worthy of some extra attention? As I walked (scampered?) looking for Nurse Cathy to turn off the damn monitor OR bring in the paddles or whatever else they had to do to stop the beeps and/or revive my mother whose heart rate was a ZERO. I thought to myself that the brain, seemingly unaided by a beating heart, was a marvelous thing. Or maybe it was a case of and/or her will to live being so strong that although her heart rate said ZERO she hadn’t acknowledged it yet and was therefore upright in her “bed” frowning at me when I returned without anyone. I was relieved to see that her rate was up to 71, then 132, 64, 89, 13, 47, 63, 7..”beep, beep, beep” “What’s my number?” said my Mom who couldn’t see the screen. “Um .um 88!” I said triumphantly (and at that moment, it was). “PLEASE go get someone” she said. Out again I went and I was not going to be deterred this time. I mean, it would be way more embarrassing if my mother died because I didn’t want to disturb someone. How would I explain that in a well-written G & M Obit?

Suffice to say, I found a warm body who assured me that a heart rate bouncing between 158 and ZERO was nothing more than a loose wire somewhere between Mom and the monitor and definitely not worth a “Code Blue Hair” or whatever they say over the loud speaker when a senior goes for a little in-house cardiac excitement.

I returned to the room confident in my newly-found knowledge and secure in the fact that her body wasn’t going to slump over in a heap when her brain finally caught up with her heart’s ZERO reading. Whew – paperwork and tricky questions averted!

“What number is it?” my Mother asked me again as the monitor resumed its’ incessant beeping.

“Funny enough, it’s ZERO but you look like a 93…so it’s all good.”

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