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Riding the Panic Train, or What Not to Do When Your Husband Might be Dying

Last Tuesday I learned the hard way that when the zombie apocalypse goes down, I am totally screwed because I'm no good in a crisis. In fact, I suck gopher wang. Worse: I suck unwashed gopher wang.

Like this, only with more wang. Unwashed.

My husband came home from work Tuesday afternoon looking like utter crap. More so than usual. I don't say that to be mean, trust me. Darren is a handsome man. He's also a diabetic, not in the best of health, and he's killing himself working two jobs-one of which requires some heavy lifting. He usually leaves for the first job around 7:30 in the morning(sometimes earlier), works until 3:30 or 4:00 PM, leaves for his second job, and comes home around 7:30 or 8:00 PM. That's a long goddamn day, and as you might expect, he's usually exhausted by the end of it. Last Tuesday was his short day, so I expected him to be tired, but not as bad off as he usually is when he's working both jobs. I couldn't have been more wrong. When he walked through the door, he looked like he pulled a double shift for both jobs without so much as a lunch break and picked up a third job slaying dragons in between. Because that's just the kind of guy he is.

Like this, but with more awesomeness.
We had made a plan to go to Lafreniere Park to feed the ducks after he got off of work, but one look at him was enough for me urge him to stay home and get some rest. Not that he listened. Darren could have a spike rammed through his skull and he'd be all, "No, no. We made plans." Usually, I wheedle him into driving since I hate driving almost as much as I hate anything math related, but he looked so bad off, I grabbed the keys before he could ask. Our drive consisted of me peeking over at him every five seconds and resisting the urge to ask if he was okay while trying not to get into an accident. It would have been a pointless question anyway as he was as far from looking okay as a man can get before you call for a medic. I even asked if he wanted me take him to the hospital, but he declined much as he would if the previously mentioned spike were giving him, "A bit of a headache. Really, it's nothing."

So there we are, each of us holding onto a bag of bread. He's looking more and more miserable by the second. I start tossing whole slices at a time, just trying to get this thing over with so I can drag him home and force him into bed. Either he sensed I was in a rush or he couldn't take it anymore. Probably the latter. Either way, he began following my lead, throwing whole slices. Those damn ducks never had it so good. We had to have been there less than ten minutes before we headed back.

I get us home. He steps out of the car, gets down on one knee, and immediately throws up everything he ate that day onto the driveway. And possibly some of what he ate last week. And if digested food can travel through time, it's quite possible that he puked up a few future meals as well.

"Um, are you sure you don't want to go to the hospital?" I say staring at the mess on the concrete and hoping that bit of red I see isn't blood. "Because I really think you need to go to the hospital. I'll drive."

"No, I'm okay," he says after the Ghosts of Meals Past, Present, and Future exit stage right. "I feel better now. I just needed to puke."

I don't say, "No shit." I do try to get him to reconsider.

"I'm not wasting money on a bill I don't need. It was probably just food poisoning. I'll be fine."

Food poisoning sounds like something you should go to the hospital for, I'm thinking, but he knows his body better than I do. I humor him and let him have his way. He's already looking better by the time we get inside, so I'm starting to think he made the right call. He even scoffs at my mention of him calling in sick the next day. Because I'm just his wife who cares about him and stuff. Why listen to me? Even so, I ask him if he wants me to pick him up some chicken soup from Whole Foods.

"Nah, but can you get me a Pina Colada Smoothie?" he says.

"Of course," I say, and make haste to the nearest Smoothie King. Instinct tells me soup would probably be better for him, but it's a liquid, and liquids are good for you when you're sick. Right?

Yeah, see, the thing I didn't realize was that he wasn't just sick with a virus. He was sick with a mother fucking stomach virus. Do you know what happens when you consume dairy products when you have a stomach virus? You blow chunks. Know what's in a Pina Colada Island Smoothie? Milk. Yeah.

Now we're on round two. The Ghosts of Meals Past, Present, and Future finish their smoke break and climb back onto the stage faster than you can say, "Get the bucket!". This time, he's all for going to the hospital. So I take him to East Jefferson, and because he's weaker and sicker than I've ever seen him in my life, I go into panic mode. I miss the first entrance to the hospital and have to take the next. I cram my car into the closest spot to the emergency room, nearly driving over the parking curb. Once we get inside, I have trouble figuring out the two sided elevator. Meanwhile, my poor husband is trying to direct me where to go, where to park, which side of the elevator to get out of, while simultaneously trying to hold onto both his lunch and his patience.

We get him admitted, get him into a hospital smock, and a bed. A doctor pops in to ask a few questions and informs us Darren probably has a stomach virus, but they'll run some tests just to be sure. And because he's low on fluids, they'll hook him up to an IV.

"He should probably stay home from work tomorrow, right?" I ask the doctor, knowing what my Love Bug will say next.

"I can't miss work," Darren immediately pipes in, teeth chattering, clutching onto his stomach for dear life. "We need the money."

I give the doctor a look that would freeze a hell bound demon, shake my head emphatically, and repeat, "He should probably stay home from work tomorrow. Right?"

"Uh, yeah. That would probably be best," he wisely says.

I graciously stop stabbing him with my eyes.

A nurse comes by to put in Darren's IV and to take some blood, something he isn't looking forward to, but he's resigned. She sticks him, and all of a sudden he starts getting lightheaded and even sicker to his stomach than he was before. This never happens when he gives blood. At least, it's never happened before. He asks for a vomit bag. The nurse goes to find one. My husband is grabbing his stomach, groaning, and I know she's going to be too late. I pull back the curtain, run through the hall looking for her and yelling for someone to please get me a goddamn vomit bag. Darren groans louder and I rush to his side to hold his hand. Just as the nurse comes running up with the bag, Darren grabs it, vomits both in it and on me, and promptly blacks out.

By now, I'm riding the panic train full speed ahead. Darren comes to a couple minutes later, and the nurse explains he passed out due to vasoconstriction or low blood pressure or something. I don't remember because all I'm really noticing is my husband groaning, teeth chattering and shaking, and dying on the hospital bed.

The nurse leaves us alone. I start making phone calls letting his work know that he won't be coming in tomorrow, when he tells me he's having trouble moving his arms. My first thought is, he's having a stroke. I check his face to see if one side is drooping, try to decide if his speech is funny, and whatever else that acronym stands for. I'm about to scream for the doctor when he clarifies that he can move his arms, he's just feeling weak. Weaker than he's ever felt in his life. I sit back down, try to calm myself, try to tell myself that this is nothing. He'll get through this. We both will. And then it hits me. Maybe he won't. One day, he won't. And I'll be sitting in a little room with a doctor facing me, shaking his head, telling me he's sorry.

I am no longer riding on the panic train. I'm walking barefoot on the road to hell, and I've never felt more alone in my life.

I text my sister: "Darren's in the hospital. He vomited twice and passed out. If anything happens to him I don't know what I'll do."

The nurse comes in to replace his saline bag. She tells me where the vending machines are in case I want a snack or some coffee. Our friend Mickey, who is also his coworker at his main job, calls to let me know that he'll be off in a few hours in case I need him to watch over my hubby if I need a break or anything. I am grateful for the offer, but by now I'm stuck like glue to the chair next to his bed, and I'm not leaving for anything. Not for coffee, not for food, not to change my vomit stained clothing. Nothing. If the angel of death shows up for my husband, I need to be there to open up a can of wifely whoop ass.

Unless it's the Julian Richings version of Death. If it's the Julian Richings version of Death, everybody's fucked.
My sister gets in touch with me, calms me down, and I suddenly feel a lot better. I'm no longer on the road to hell alone. At the very least, I have a ride back to purgatory should I need one. I call my mom too, tell her I have a new found respect for her. I can not even imagine how she got through my dad's death when I can barely get through my husbands little stomach bug. I finally allow myself to go to the bathroom. My bladder is about to explode, Julian Richings be damned.

When the second bag of saline is almost empty, the doctor pops in once more to let us know that Darren's vitals are looking good and, in spite of the early blackout incident, he's sending him home. He gives me some paperwork, including a list of what he can and cannot eat for the next forty-eight hours, and a prescription for nausea medication. He tells me to keep an eye on him, to call if his condition worsens, and leaves with what I suspect is the bemused look he gives to all the overreacting spouses pacing the halls of the ER. I take Darren home, climb into bed with him, and spend the rest of the night waking up every five minutes to make sure he is still breathing.

The next couple of days, I played nurse. He stayed home from work like a good little boy, and I tried not to jump every time he groaned. He's doing better now, though he says he's still feeling a little weak, but that's to be expected, I'm told. I am trying like hell not to hogtie him while force feeding him a gallon of water and electrolytes.

A lot of you will read this and immediately roll your eyes at my hysterics, and for the most part, I'd be right there with you. What you don't understand is I've been struggling for the past few months with the idea that I could wake up one morning to find myself a widow. Maybe it's hormonal. Maybe it's because I just got married, or the fact that my father died suddenly in his early forties. I don't know, but I've tried to push these fears to the back of my mind. I was even in the middle of writing a short story about a woman dealing with the death of her husband when my husband came home sick as a dog. That shit will mess with your mind, I don't care how level headed you are in a crisis.

So what have I learned from this experience other than the fact you should never buy your spouse a smoothie with milk in it when they're suffering from a stomach bug? Not much. I'll probably lose my shit the next time something like this happens. What can I say? I love the guy. But I'm thinking if the zombie apocalypse does go down, I'll let Darren wear the Sheriff's hat.

He couldn't do any worse than this guy.


  1. I know exactly how you feel. My husband was on dialysis for three years. The first two years, he was in and out of the hospital CONSTANTLY. There is nothing more nerve-wracking. Even now, stepping into a doctor's office gives me a mild panic attack.

    1. I feel your pain and hope your husband is doing better. There's nothing worse in life than watching a loved one suffer.

  2. Yikes! So ya, this is a terrible story but you wrote it in such an entertaining way. I sort of feel like I need to apologize for being entertained by Darren's unfortunate circumstance. Oooops!

    1. He's a trooper. Seriously, he's the guy in the action movies that gets shot multiple times and calmly walks away while cool pyrotechnics are going on in the background. Meanwhile, I stub my toe on the coffee table and want to call a paramedic.


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