By now we had accepted the fact that we were not going anywhere. We had been absorbed into the system, a fixture in the waiting room. Another set of pale faces was now illuminated by the television screen, searching for information, hoping for good news, but not expecting it. The coffee was starting to seem not that bad.
When the Expert came out he was friendly and invited us to watch while he made his comprehensive evaluation. He seemed thorough and competent. He did not ask us any questions; perhaps his colleagues had filled him in. Bluebonnet was not going to be doing any talking, that was obvious. The Expert’s nonchalant demeanor evaporated as he pulled his hand out from beneath her, his finger covered in something black and tarry. He suggested more testing and hooked her up to an erratically beeping monitor. He told us that his evaluation might take a while, and perhaps we should leave. He would call us when he had a better picture of what was going on. We sadly trudged home.
When we returned the next day we met with the Expert again. He said he had found the problem. Bluebonnet needed her valve replaced. As best I could understand it, there were two problems: The valve would not open completely so flow was obstructed, and the valve would not close completely either. I put my head on my wife’s more stoic shoulder and began to cry. We were not ready to make this kind of decision; Bluebonnet seemed too old for a procedure this aggressive.
We reminisced about the good times and the bad. We considered the cost and risks. There was no guarantee that a valve replacement would do the trick. A time comes in existence when the good memories can outweigh common sense. In the end, however, I had them remove her from the monitors. I drove her home, not knowing what to expect.
The next month was fairly quiet. I made sure she was turned over as much as possible. There were no problems, but she barely went out. It seemed like she was missing her usual spark. One warm Sunday, with much trepidation, I took her shopping. Half way to the mall she started to cough, then shook uncontrollably. I looked frantically around; what would I do if she died right in the street? I was in luck however, there was a small facility right on the corner and I nervously pulled into the entrance.
It was a small, private place. A few friends had gone there and were pleased with the results. It was run by an efficient young woman who immediately helped us. She ran the facility on her own—no big corporation telling her what to do and monitoring her bottom line. She listened to the whole story, and checked out Bluebonnet thoroughly. She patted Bluebonnet affectionately; you could tell she cared. She smiled as she told us that the new valve would last for years. It was not the valve at all, only bad gas.
We had several more years with her, and then she was gone. But we never forgot our time with our 1969 Cadillac convertible, Bluebonnet.
Rust in peace. TH
Jamie Newman, MD, FACP, is the physician editor of The Hospitalist, consultant, Hospital Internal Medicine, and assistant professor of internal medicine and medical history, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minn.