I’m betting virtually every person reading my column today has at one time dropped a coin and pulled the handle on a “One Arm Bandit,” placed a bet on the green felt of a gambling table or participated in a game of cards at one of our local casinos. They do this even though each individual knew there was a high probability they would be leaving with less money in their pocket than they had when they walked in the door. So, why do we do it? Because it is human nature to get excited when taking risks, and there is always the possibility we will be lucky today and win. Plus, it is particularly fun when the risks taken have little damaging consequences should the person fail to persevere. Sure, there are those compulsive gamblers who lose everything and destroy their lives, but the vast majority of those inside the casinos know when to stop because losing more than they can afford is no longer fun.
Yet in our real lives, we roll the dice every day. Each night when we lay our head down and go to sleep we fully anticipate we will awaken the next morning having won another day of life. Thankfully, unlike the bet we placed at the casino, we will win this “game of chance” many rolls in a row. But sometimes, an unlikely event occurs which forces us to metaphorically “drop a dime” and place our bet by dialing 911.
For me, this has happened twice, and I feel very lucky to have won the wager, and the game, more than once. The first time was six years ago last September. I was in my home office when my wife, Pam, called out to me for help. Her asthma had worsened during the evening. She was using her nebulizer to give herself a breathing treatment but it was not working. As she was having an increasingly difficult time breathing, she knew something was terribly wrong and told me to call 911. As I sat next to her on our bed, talking to the 911 operator explaining the situation, she informed me help was on the way. Then without warning, Pam collapsed in respiratory arrest and started gasping for air.
I remember being in a panic, trying to turn her on her side, listening to the emergency operator’s suggestions, running through the house to unlock and open the front door, then back to her, then the house alarm went off. Fortunately, because Pam told me to call 911 when she first felt a real problem was occurring, it was only about 20 or 30 seconds before the fire station 107 paramedic team came running into my house. The paramedic took one look at Pam and yelled, “Get the Epi kit!”
First it was a shot of epinephrine and then she was immediately loaded up for transport. Going out the front door I saw two Sheriff cars waiting. I jumped in the front seat of the AMR ambulance and we were off for a wild “red lights and siren” ride to Henry Mayo Hospital, with the Sheriffs blocking traffic at major intersections. Upon our arrival at the emergency entrance, a team was outside waiting for us to arrive. They quickly got her inside and within 15 minutes she was sitting up, talking and wanting to go home. Well, as you might imagine, there was no going home at that time. Kaiser first ambulanced her to Panorama City and then Sunset for a battery of tests. In the end, the doctors decided it may have been caused by a reaction to her medication (which they changed), in addition to providing her with an EpiPen kit.
It is hard to explain, but it felt like we just won the lotto. All the stars were in alignment and if one thing was out of place, she may not have pulled through. Think about it. If not for the early 911 call, the immediate availability of the fire department’s 107 paramedic team, AMR’s quick response and transport, the help of the Sheriff to speed up our trip across town and the staff at Henry Mayo taking swift remedial action, the outcome may have been very different. So how could anyone be even luckier? I can tell you — it is when a similar event happens again.
Pam was recently the recipient of a total knee replacement, and a little over a week ago she was about halfway through the six week recovery period. We were coming home in the evening and I was helping her walk from the driveway to the house. About halfway up our front lawn she told me her legs were tired and she might not be able to make it all the way in the house. She was standing there with her walker and seemed stable. So, I got the idea to have her wait while I opened the atrium gate and move a chair to the entrance. I thought if she could make it to the chair, we could wait until she was ready to go the rest of the way. But when I turned back to her I saw her face go blank, she started to stumble backwards, passed out and down she went. Fortunately, even though her back side landed on the walkway, her head landed on the lawn. Getting to her as fast as I could, I found her unconscious and not breathing. I panicked again not being sure what to do, I yelled her name and shook her face, at which point she gasped twice and started breathing normally. But she was not moving, so I grabbed my cell phone and called 911. AMR was the first to arrive, with the fire department team close behind. They found me on my knees next to Pam, with her still motionless on the ground. By the time she was in the ambulance, Pam was sitting up and talking. It was another lights and siren trip to Henry Mayo, where the emergency room team ordered a CAT scan, a chest X-ray and an ultrasound of her knee to verify blood clots were not a problem. This time she did get to go home, but further testing is being performed by order of her regular physician.
So, for the second time all the stars were in alignment. The fact Pam’s head did not hit the pavement, her fall did not impact her knee recovery, the fire department was available, AMR’s quick response and transport and the staff at Henry Mayo taking the necessary remedial action, and performing testing to verify no obvious underlying problem existed, makes me extremely thankful. Six years ago, I wrote a Letter to the Editor at the Signal thanking all who aided Pamela in her time of need, and today Pam and I want to express our gratitude again.
To the fire fighters and paramedics at Fire Station 107, the AMR ambulance staff, our Sheriff deputies and the doctors, nurses, technicians and supporting staff members of Henry Mayo’s emergency room team, please accept our most heartfelt thank you for a job well done — not just for what you did for us, but for the service you provide to our entire community. God bless all of you.