By Phyllis Galowitz

I woke up on a Monday morning, the 4th Monday in January, excited at the thought that the SUNY Delhi Pool might be open for lap swimming after the long winter vacation. I started my morning exercise routine, reaching down to touch my toes, when I felt a sudden, searing pain from my throat, down the center of my chest, my shoulders and down my arms, that seemed to cut off my breath. I sat down, trying to recover.

I consider myself a healthy woman:  I eat right, exercise regularly, keep actively involved in the community — yet these are classic symptoms of something serious — a heart attack? We hear these symptoms mentioned again and again on TV, followed by, “Call your doctor or 911.” Still not believing this to be happening to me, I did call my doctor, telling her answering machine that this might be an emergency. She called me right back and said, “Call 911. Go to the nearest hospital!” That seemed too melodramatic for me but I called my wonderful neighbor, Joe Grieco. We check up on each other. “How are you this morning, Phyllis?” he asked. “Not good, I think, Joe. Could you possibly take me to the emergency room at Margaretville Hospital?” I explained, breathlessly, how I was feeling. “I’ll throw some clothes on and be right there.” “Don’t rush, I have to get dressed as well.” But he was in my driveway in minutes and I was waiting.

Once you arrive in the emergency room, I found out, there’s no escape! You are stripped of your clothes, attired in a hospital gown, open down the back for access to all private parts, attached to monitors and, in my case, oxygen, given tests of every part of your body, and then, unable to move, you wait to hear the results. The results were that I did not have a heart attack, but it was “heart related”, whatever that meant. Dr. Llobet, the very nice doctor at Margaretville Hospital, kept me overnight and then discharged me with the warning, “Call your doctor and cardiologist and make sure they see you right away.” Following his instructions, I got appointments for the next day.

Amy, my daughter who lives the nearest to me, in Jefferson, was at my house by the time Joe drove me home and waited to see that I was OK. The next morning, she drove me to Dr. Collins’ office. She took one look at me and called 911. An ambulance was at her office in five minutes and I was on my way to Kingston Hospital, again attached to all kinds of monitors and oxygen.

At Kingston, attired in the same lovely, open-in-the-back gown, snaps at the shoulder for easy access to the front of me as well as the back, I lay on a not-very-comfortable table, surrounded by railings to prevent my escape, a bright light overhead, beepers beeping, every time I moved my arm, upsetting the monitor and driving me crazy, and four blank walls. There was a door, partially open, the top half of which was glass. I had nothing to divert my attention but a young girl xeroxing some papers in the hallway. “Am I disturbing you? Should I close your door?” she asked. “No,” I said, “watching you is all I have to amuse myself!”

Again more tests; nothing to eat for a day and a half, when finally an attendent wheeled me from the ICU to a regular room with a roommate, a television set and lunch, all at once! I was ecstatic, until I found that my roommate was demented and spent every moment banging on the bed rails and screaming at everyone while cartoons played non-stop on her TV, 3 inches from mine, forcing me to watch the same cartoons.

By now, my family had been told of my predicament and all rushed in alarm to my bedside from hours away. All of Andes and surrounding communities heard of my plight as one group’s list informed another and calls came in from everyone and everywhere. Wishes, hugs and kisses came from everyone and visits from those who could brave the weather.

With all the discomforts of being in the hospital, doctors and therapists of every kind sticking me with needles at 3 am and trying out the latest technological tests, stripping me of every dignity, I felt sincerely loved! My community poured out their feelings and I consumed it all. My family surrounded me and that love entered every pore and fed my heart and lungs. Here I am at home, everyone continuing to nourish me, almost back to myself, being swaddled in the best medicine that human nature provides.  ~

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