The last thing I remember was sorting food from one bag to another.
In the time of COVID, after George Floyd was shot and after the riots, my daughter suggests we go to downtown Minneapolis to help with food handouts, clean up the city streets, and generally help save the world in Jesus’ name. I am all for it, even though I have felt exhausted for several weeks.
We drive by some burned-out buildings, including the post office, broken or boarded-up windows, glass and trash in the streets. Most businesses are closed. We park the car a couple of blocks from the Midtown Global Market, just a few blocks north of the George Floyd memorial at 38th and Chicago.
We grab our brooms and buckets and pull out of the car several heavy bags of food that we will carry three blocks to Lake and Chicago. I barely make it and gladly set the bags down. We see hundreds of people sweeping the streets or just milling around. Dozens of bags full of food sit on long tables. Everybody’s masked up because of the COVID pandemic.
The last thing I remember is stooping over to transfer food items from one bag to another.
About ten minutes later. I wake up lying on my back, looking up at the sky. I see people standing around and see my daughter Kimberly kneeling at my side. “Daddy; how do you feel? Do you hurt anywhere? Do you want some water?” Kimberly, our drama queen, the freaker-outer in any small emergency, has risen to the occasion and taken charge.
The paramedics, in their yellow vests, roll up, each wearing a mask and transparent shield. I try to get up.
The paramedics say, “Please lie back down. You’re going to the hospital.”
“I don’t think I need to go anywhere. I can ride home with my daughter.”
“But Daddy,” Kim says, “You fainted and you need to get checked out.”
“I fainted? I don’t remember anything.”
They check my pulse, take my temperature, then transfer me to a stretcher and push me into the paramedic truck. “Your temperature is normal. Have you had any COVID symptoms, cough, or anything?”
Kim asks me, “Do you want me to go with you?”
The paramedics say to Kimberly, “Maybe it’s better if you follow him in your car.”
They drive me five blocks north to Abbot Northwestern and take me to a staging area. Later, I find out it was a $2400 trip.
Kimberly follows us, but they tell her she can’t go in, so she calls my cell. “You know, there was a guy from the crowd that ran out, jumped on you, and did CPR.”
“What! How long was I out? Who was he? Was he trained? Did he take my pulse first? Where did he go? Was he wearing a mask?”
“I don’t even know who he was; he just disappeared into the crowd.”
I think, Either he was an idiot who didn’t know what he was doing or else he saved my life. I’m grateful for his help.
The masked hospital doctor tells me, “Sometimes when people give CPR it damages your ribs. Do your ribs hurt?”
“CPR? Did I really need it? Did my heart stop?”
“What happened to the guy?”
“My daughter says he just disappeared. Just one spot on my ribs hurts a little bit.”
“Maybe the guy was afraid of the liability. We don’t know how long you were out. Don’t know if he checked your pulse. Don’t know how long he worked on you.”
I think, Who was this guy? Did I really need CPR? At the very least, he was goodhearted; or maybe he saved my life. He seems like an angel to me.
The doctor appears in his scrubs with a short, Asian-looking woman following him, holding a clipboard. “You have atrial fibrillation, don’t you? Maybe that’s why you fainted. We’ll just keep you overnight and monitor your heart.”
When I wake up on Sunday, he says, “Overnight, your heart raced up to 180 and down to 40, so I think we need to keep you here another day to evaluate you, then send you home with a chest heart monitor. Maybe the low heartbeat made you faint.” But the next morning, he says, “We think you need a pacemaker. That won’t help the fast heartbeat, but it will keep the heart from beating too slow. We can install it first thing in the morning.”
So on Tuesday morning I get wheeled into the operating room and the “pit crew” whirls around me. One nurse says, “You’ve stated you don’t want CPR. Do you wish to have it if you need it during this operation?”
“I guess so.” Strange how the operating room focuses your mind.
I notice only the eyes of people blinking above their masks, running around me, checking the monitors, adjusting my sheets, starting the IV, getting ready to slice the skin on my upper chest and insert two probes into my heart. Then they’ll slip a two-inch-diameter pacemaker under the skin. Shrouded in his plastic shield, the anonymous face of the anesthetist hovers over me. Then I know nothing.
I wake up in my room numb but with no pain. The room looks white and antiseptic. The annoying IV tube in my arm will stay there until I leave the hospital. Masked nurses, orderlies, and doctors come and go. They tell me the operation went well. Sometimes it’s hard to understand accents through their masks.
I phone my wife. “Why don’t you come to see me?”
“But they won’t let me in because of COVID.”
“Well, at least you could come to my window and wave or something.”
“Jim, your room’s on the third floor!”
“Why are you always making excuses?”
The humor is lost on her. So kind and faithful, I probably shouldn’t tease her.
Strange, living in a masked world that isolates people. The masks keep telling me you can go home “tomorrow,” but you never know. It makes me much more dependent on the phone. I call lots of people.
On Thursday, they finally wheel me down to the lobby and out to our car. Happy reunion with Barbara and Kimberly. Thrilled to go home.
So, instead of saving the world, the world saved me and gave me more time to live and love and pray and more reason to take joy in each day—even in a time of COVID.