Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Heart Attack

One evening when I was home from college for the holidays and talking with my boyfriend on the phone, my mother burst into my room and announced she was "having a heart attack and just thought [I] ought to know."  I told my boyfriend I had to go and hung up the phone.  Being completely honest, I didn't think she was having a heart attack, but I did know that whatever was going on required my attention.  Her tone and choice of words had told me that.

I dug out a little bottle of low-dose aspirin and told her to chew one up.  I had read that chewing aspirin during a heart attack can help.  I figured even she knew she wasn't really having a heart attack when she declined on the grounds that "it'll taste bad."  Then she calmly dialed 911 and informed them that she needed an ambulance (the first of many times she did this over the years), and I watched, feeling helpless and wondering if it was my fault she was doing all this, because I'd been on the phone with my boyfriend instead of talking to her, or if there was another reason I didn't know about.  I was 99% certain she was physically fine -- not even having an anxiety attack, let alone a heart attack -- because the ways she behaved when something was actually wrong and when she just wanted attention were distinctly different.  But I knew even if she was 100% fine and someone convinced her not to call an ambulance, she would talk for months to everyone she met about how she wasn't even allowed to go to the hospital when she was having a heart attack.  Heartless daughter, ice water in her veins, etc. -- the usual spiel.  I feigned being supportive out of lack of better ideas.

I followed the ambulance to the hospital in my car.  My mother had canceled our family's health insurance plan about a decade earlier because "they don't cover anything anyway" and "that money could be going toward something else."  A few hours and over $19,000 in medical bills later, the doctor informed us that my mother had not had a heart attack and was, in fact, healthy as a horse.  He asked what she had eaten recently and diagnosed her with indigestion, a side effect of having eaten Taco Bell after 9pm. 

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