Off North Road

A smooth ride on a bumpy road

By Russell Hoxsie - April 5, 2007

One evening this past fall my wife Mary Ann and I got into the car in the driveway and started out to dinner with friends a couple of houses down the road. Before we had even turned around to start out, Mary Ann said, "I'm not feeling well at all; we'd better not go." I looked over and she seemed pale in the poor light. By reflex, I grasped her wrist and found her pulse rate was racing at twice the normal 60 to 70 beats per minute. We went back into the house and called 911 and waited. Within 10 minutes the flashing lights were casting shadows in our living room and heavy steps sounded at the back door. The dog barked once and began to wag her tail. Dinner was postponed indefinitely and the activity of transferring Mary Ann to the ambulance jumped into full swing. Rick, the paramedic and Jennifer the EMT, and several others including a Chilmark police officer, took over. I knew enough that this was no longer my call and I kept strictly out of the way. I found a seat somewhere in the back of the bus. They took her blood pressure, pulse, temperature and administered oxygen by mask. While still sitting in the parking area, Rick ran an electrocardiogram. By the time we passed up-Island Cronig's an intravenous was running in her arm and the heart pattern on the monitor showed a very rapid pulse rate.

Later, Mary Ann wrote down her impressions of her emergency trip. "What happens in an ambulance is helping you to be ready for the hospital admission. It's a time of fear and confusion as you leave home and hope you'll return. I was so surprised at the loving care and skill which they all showed me while they were working on me."

Jennifer said, "We're here to help you," and Rick explained everything that was going on.

"Are you hungry?" he asked. "Very!" Mary Ann replied. Within minutes he reported that her blood glucose (sugar) was very low and he gave her an injection of glucose immediately. Almost instantly Mary Ann said she began to feel better.

When they all exited the ambulance at the hospital, her pulse rate was still rapid and the hospital staff took over quickly. Cardiac monitoring began again and oxygen was administered. We were all uneasy. Except, by then, Mary Ann was making jokes and telling the nurses how great they were. I wondered if she realized the situation might be serious. Suddenly the nurse at the head of the examining table called out for everybody to "come see." The rapid cardiac rate had suddenly slowed and the EKG pattern had returned to a familiar state. The crisis seemed to have passed. Good for Rick and the IV glucose, I thought. There would be some difference of opinion about the nature of Mary Ann's attack and the reason it stopped so suddenly, but that could wait for another time and some serious thought. Lab tests were negative and her vital signs (pulse, blood pressure, temperature, etc.) remained normal. We left for home with raised spirits although with not a little bit of unease after our exercise in reality for us older folk. Things can happen with surprises around any corner for us senior citizens.

Mary Ann's last notes on her pad were, "Never fear if you must go by ambulance to the hospital. You have warm and caring people around helping you to forget the bumps. They have you under good control."

The bumps in our dirt road cannot always be evened out in time for emergencies but somehow the Tri-town Ambulance Service housed at the Chilmark fire station seems to make a smooth ride out of it with a crew assembled in Jim-dandy time and a road often fraught with uneven gravel and wash-outs along the way.