I received a call from my grandmother early one morning, my uncle Ted was sick and could I come quickly. He still lived with her. She told me that she’d found laying him on the bathroom floor and there was blood underneath him. Grandma explained that she had called the ambulance company (Before 911) and it was out with the fire department on a motor vehicle accident call.
I lived about five miles away from their house and hurried to see what I could do. When I arrived, he was barely conscious. There was old blood on the front of his shirt and on the floor. It was obvious that he had some type of gastrointestinal bleeding. I threw a towel across my shoulder and then I tossed him across my shoulder to carry him out to the car. I put him in the passenger seat, pulled on my flashers, and made the twenty minute trip in about fifteen.
I stopped under the portcullis, grabbed a wheelchair, and pulled him into it. Because it was the hospital where I worked, I bypassed the triage area and went directly into the emergency department with him. He should have arrived in an ambulance and I was taking the place of the ambulance.
I put him into the first empty bed that I saw. The other nurses in the area saw me and saw him. They swooped down on us, pulling off clothes, starting I.V.s, and getting vitals. The doctor came in and was giving verbal orders. I left to move my car and then to give information for his chart.
I came back in and was giving the emergency room crew the limited information about what had happened. All of this was happening in a hurry and it still feels like a blur to me.
The doctor was still there while Ted’s blood was being drawn, the EKG was being done, and he was getting portable x-rays. Ted looked so critical that the doctor ordered uncrossed O negative blood be brought from the lab and given to him. Because he was so anemic, his heart had little blood to circulate, he had a heart attack. Once his blood work was back, he was packed up and was admitted to the intensive care unit.
Ted developed stroke-like symptoms as well as the heart attack symptoms because he had almost completely bled out. The gastrointestinal doctors and the surgeons were afraid to use any kind of anesthesia to try and repair the bleeding. He was given medications to try to slow the bleeding and unit after unit of blood. His condition was too fragile to do much more.
They were hoping that the medications and the blood would allow his heart to heal enough for them to intervene and do surgery. It never happened and passed away.
It devastated my grandmother, “Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents.”
A lot of things changed for my grandmother after Ted’s death. Ted had lived with her since he was born. He was a normal kid until two adult men assaulted and beat him when he was younger. After he recovered, he only had the mental capacity of a fourth grader. (I never got the whole story of his assault, but I was told the men had tried to get Ted to drink alcohol and he refused.)
He made money by mowing lawns in the summer, gathering “sang” (ginseng), and fixing old tube-type radios. He gathered and cracked nuts for their meat and sold them closer to Christmas. He used a hammer and an anvil in the basement to open the nuts. He would sit and watch T.V. with Grandma and pick out the nuts from the shells.
Every year my Uncle and I would go to a nearby stand of wild growing pines, find the smaller ones at the edges, and cut one down for him and one for me. It was a tradition.
After he died, Grandma didn’t want the “bother” of decorating a tree and I didn’t have the heart to go alone. My wife had wanted an artificial one, so I allowed myself to be persuaded.