"Why on earth do we try to do all this each year when we know it's going to be so crazy?"
"Honey, I really didn't think your son's holiday concert followed by a little dinner party would kill you."
"But I have to get there an hour before the concert just to find a seat, for goodness sake."
"Take the Tribune, get comfortable, and reserve me a seat. Now, go!"
So off I went. My sixth year in a row of the high school's annual holiday concert. But this high school has four thousand students, and forty-five thousand parents and grandparents and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles that all have to arrive at least an hour before the concert to clammor for a seat. Holiday cheer goes out the window in such circumstances. Bah humbug.
My wife, bless her soul, having placed the finishing touches on the dinner preparations before attending, arrived five minutes before the concert and experienced the same shock and awe that I had when she saw the crowds.
But all was forgiven when the music started. It was quite a show.
At least until my beeper went off.
"Call the ICU STAT," it read. Two seconds later: "Code Blue, ICU."
I looked at my wife. Her eyes rolled as she whispered, "Go." I grabbed by coat and quietly slipped out of the concert hall and ran to the car, calling as I went.
"That lady's heart stopped again. No clue why. We had to use the external pacer to get her back."
"I'll be there in 10 minutes."
After setting new land speed records through a construction zone on the way to the hospital I arrived to find her attached to a ventillator, hair beautifully maintained, husband and teenage daughter at her side. A daughter not much younger than my son. Standing tall, unwaivering, but clearly concerned for her mother, trying to keep it together.
"It'll take me just a few minutes," I explained after reviewing the details of placing a temporary pacing wire. The nurses, meanwhile, had assembled the necessary instruments and drapes; a well-rehearsed concert they carry out many times each week.
As I worked, it became eerily silent, and I looked up to see her pupils dilate as she stared blankly toward the ceiling, her arm reflexly bending skyward with uncanny strength for the few muscles remaining on her bones. She was unresponsive and the monitor showed delightful P waves dancing across the screen, while the more important R waves were on holiday.
"Uh, mind turning on the temp pacing pads for a bit?" I asked, as calmly as possible. Her chest began to twitch as she slowly regained conciousness and I felt a pulse again, this time bounding vigorously due to the catecholamine surge that accompanies such moments.
The needle entered the vein on the first pass.
"It's okay, Mrs. Smith. We'll have that wire in place in no time." And like our own miniature concerto, with the soloist at the forefront of the stage and the nurses acting like the orchestra behind, the semifloating pacing wire advanced to the heart and started a new cadence that was all our own. R waves danced again on the screen. The audience roared.
Well, not really.
But it was our concert. My patient and me. However brief. Never heard, but appreciated.
Just like my son's concert.