Two years ago I turned 70 and was preparing to celebrate another birthday this past January with a curiosity about how I might be maturing.
I had been keeping fit over the last 10 years with walking almost as much as driving, and in past summers have relished cycling whenever I could fit it into my busy schedule of semi-retirement.
Then along came Jan. 28. Early in the evening, my dear wife and I were enjoying a meal at a favorite local venue, with two very dear married friends, who had invited us to dine with them.
The food had just arrived at the table and everything was good. Our conversation was on familiar events, fine food, and to celebrate the on-going recovery of the lady friend before us, who recently survived a horrendous crosswalk accident where she was hit by a car, not a mile from where we were dining.
I was biting into my second or third portion of the main course before me. I took an unexpected pause. What was my friend saying at my side? I thought I had been facing him a moment ago. Why was he looking at me so seriously? Why was he asking me, to spit out my food into his table napkin, and with such a serious face, adding "Clench both your hands for me?"
I obeyed, meeting his serious concerned eyes, myself being in a kind of fogginess. "Keith you’re OK, you passed out." I was struggling to track back to where I had been moments ago.
Was it really moments? Yes, I was out for dinner, it was slowly returning to me.
"I think we should take a ride to the hospital and find out what happened to you," my friend said. He was being insistent. I was glad this dear friend had some medical knowledge, as a long-term chiropractor and my wife’s employer. The journey time was a bit of a blur, maybe similar to an express train ride, but I was soon introduced to the emergency room at Concordia Hospital and the doctor, nurses and other support staff there. Now it was another rush to me, as my faithful friend shared information of my situation to those ministering to me. I really hadn’t caught up with the evening’s pace yet.
Within minutes I was changed into hospital garments, wheeled to a bed, and began watching all that was happening around me, involving other patients. My wife’s arrival was key to my remaining calm, as she was at my bedside.
I had already been attended upon entering the emergency ward, by several strangers with their various medical gadgets, telling them no doubt, my present condition, even though I still hadn’t sensed that I might be sick in any way and no pain was evident to me. More so was the blessing I still felt I didn’t deserve. Yes! I was silently praying. It has never failed in past emergencies.
Unknown to us at this stage, it was to eventually be a three-day event and mercifully at 1:15 a.m. I was told that I was to be transferred to a third floor ward away from the bustle of emergency and soon faded into an undisturbed and truly peaceful sleep.
Now I am very aware that in this city and across our fair country, there are those who daily suffer horrendous accidents, conditions and sicknesses that would deeply be a challenge to anyone of us, but there is nothing more awakening to me personally, than when my security or health is suddenly at risk.
Our evening was to have been one of sweet enjoyment. Instead, within minutes, I was transported into another world, and was very privileged to watch how a true house of mercy ministers to the needs of others.
Quickly there were several on-going tests on my body, some of them quite challenging to my readiness, but consistently there were those caring uplifting encouragements from the active staff, who worked faithfully to improve my state of health. I was privileged to share a room with a retired railway man, who had his own deep challenges to bear but still graced me with his smile.
To all those who labour daily at the Concordia, I send my deep thanks, regards and admiration. The tasks are great, the results are gold.
Keith Matthews is a North Kildonan-based writer.
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