He’s the third person who’s walked in our room in the last half hour, which they don’t do in the better hotels, and this is one expensive place to stay. The first two took his vitals, weighed him, pulling off all the blankets in this too-chilly room, removing the pillows, one of them holding the heavy heart monitor. They call out a number in kilos, which means nothing to us, then replace his pillows and blankets, which I will have to get up to adjust because I’ve learned how he likes them.
And then the blood guy knocks on our closed door—as someone like him does every morning at this time—with his little vials wearing different colored plastic caps and his rubber band tourniquet and, of course, his stabber, and like everyone else who shows up in room 329 at Kaiser Moanalua hospital, he’s curious about our story.
Barely awake, Dick gives him the 30-second version:
At the Honolulu airport, about to board the plane, he feels dizzy and collapses, heart stops, breathing stops, two nurses in line jump out to give him CPR, the defibrillator arrives, one shock, and he’s back. To the hospital, major blockages in three arteries, now waiting here for a CABG.
Blood Guy, focusing on his job, is silent for a few moments, finishes his collection, unsnaps the tourniquet and in one smooth motion puts a new cotton ball already lined with tape on Dick’s arm.
“Sorry your vacation ended this way,” says Blood Guy, then adds, as most people do, “but it’s good, I guess, that you didn’t get on the plane or that you weren’t in flight. I’m sure you want to get home, though.”
“Glad to be here,” Dick says, and he means it.
And even at this early hour, my eyes and brain fuzzy, I detect the sincerity, the layers of meaning in those four words.
I’ve been thinking this for six days now: It could have been different, Dickie. You could’ve not come back. Me standing there at the Gate C1 watching strangers work on you, your two shirts and a photo vest cut off, your pale chest exposed to the world, sticky conduits pasted on in a seemingly random pattern like a deranged stripper. Me calling, “Dickie, no! Come back! Come back.”
And you did, though you’ve returned to all these young people awakening you every few hours (hospitals are the worst places to try to rest) and you’re facing major surgery here. But you, with your usual optimism, say, “Glad to be here.”
And so softly that Blood Guy, as he prepares to turn off the light and let us go back to sleep, can’t hear me, I say, “Me, too. Me, too.”