Editor’s note: It has been several years since the story you are about to read took place, but my experiences as a hospitalist have given me a new perspective to this bittersweet tale.
My wife and I never contemplated a future without her. She was a part of our new family. Aside from a few rough black spots that needed to be removed, she seemed in perfect shape. She had been at our wedding, and we had spent countless days sunning on the beach and taking long drives with her through the Texas Hill Country spotting wildflowers. The Hill Country is where she got her nickname. Everyone called her Bluebonnet; the name just seemed to fit her. She brought special meaning to the number 69. People who saw her would just stop and wave. We were proud to be seen with her.
I left the house one fateful morning and found her in the street, motionless. I did everything I could to get her to move. I was sure she was dead. I could not get her to turn over. I ran inside and called for help. It seemed like forever until I could get someone on the phone. It was not long until the emergency vehicle arrived. A few quick maneuvers were made to get her going, but the efforts seemed doomed to failure. My wife and I watched sadly as she was carried away. Driving behind those eerie flashing lights, not a word was spoken.
We spent forever in a cheerless waiting room with antiquated magazines and lukewarm bitter coffee. The television mounted high on the wall blared a moronic game show. Imagining the worst-case scenario was far scarier than knowing the truth. Finally, a young man came to talk to us. His uniform was splattered with stains, and he looked like he hadn’t slept in a few days. He bellowed our name across the waiting room. I guessed there would be no privacy here.
He said that Bluebonnet was not going anywhere soon. He mentioned something about giving fluids and checking levels, but we did not understand the terminology. He said a specimen of fluid looked milky and the differential seemed abnormal and a pressure measurement was high. Was this supposed to mean something to us? He talked so fast, and no matter whether you know the lingo or not, when it’s a loved one it’s hard to concentrate.
Another hour went by. I stared at the receptionist, but she would not let me catch her eye. Sometime later, another man came out to meet with us. He wore a clean uniform and looked less harried. He said he was a Specialist in this kind of problem. What kind of problem was unclear to me. He never told us his name.
He started with the good news. He told us that Bluebonnet was responding now, that her balance was good, though her joints were worn out and that she had no gross motor abnormalities. It could be a disk problem, but probably not. This all seemed like good news. But then came the kicker; he had heard something strange during his evaluation. It was an odd rumbling sound and the Specialist wanted another opinion. He wanted the Expert.