EPISODE 86 EMBARASSING BEHAVIOUR….ANXIETY ATTACK
If you can stand to read this then do so. If you are queasy at the knees as I can be…then DO NOT READ THIS EPISODE 86
TODAY is Sunday july 26, 2020. I was released from hospital an hour ago…thankfully.
“What the hell are you doing in the hospital, Alan?”
“Give me a few minutes and I will tell you. the
events are not flattering…make me looks deranged.:
Marjorie and I returned to the city after a delightful meal at the farm
practicing social isolation and distancing with masks. All the goddamn
things we had been doing for the past four months.
“Marjorie what do you have for an upset stomach”?
“Something you ate?”
“Don’t know but hurts bad…like a ballon in my gut.”
“Book says ginger is good…I’ll make ginger tea…”
Cut to the qjuick here. After the usual panacea, water…We tried everything including apple vinegar
and honey. Next comes mint leaves, the BRAT DIET (banana, rice, applesauce, toast), then Iturned
to the internet…lime, lemon juice, baking soda ,
even considered Yarrow leaves from the garden.My gut hurt really bad…bloated.
I remembered uncle Norman said the vets used a big knife for bloated cattle because the choicewas a terrible choice. And I remembered him hauling out a dead bloated steer with the help ofthe man from the dead wagon.
“Christ, Marjorie this hurts but the internet says the worst thing
to do is lie down. So you go to bed and I will pace the floor until
this stuff works its way out my ass or my mouth.”
1.00 a.m. “Marjorie, wake up…we have to go the hospital fast. I think
it’s the gallstones again. Pain bad…really bad. Get up. Wake up.:”
We moved with speed of summer lightning…Mississauga Trillium Hospital…guards out front.1.30 a.m. “Just park anywhere …let me out. Ignore the guys in
“Hold on sir.”
“Let him go…he’s having an attack.”
“Then you can go no farther. lady.”
(I slipped by…in my pajamas with a spare shirt and my I phone.
Emergency room was empty…no one there. At other times there were dozens
but no one tonight ( July 25, 1.30 a.m.) Then a nurse appeared…got all the data needed
as I fumbled through my wallet. “I am in pain…bad” “how bad on scale 1 to 10?”
It was10…might be 8 now…”
“Here slip on this wrist band”
“Follow the arrows back there…someone will help ou.”
Alone, I walked, then heard tapping at a window and there
was Marjorie…thumbs up…I returned the gesture even
though my pajama bottoms wanted to fall down. The trail
led me to an assessment centre…
(Why 5…most distant room….hardly a room …tiny but large enough for terror to unfold)
“Let me take some blood, sir”
“What is your first name.”
“Caister” (may have got it wrong)
“There, got the blood, now get ready to give me a sample. I will
be back in a minute.”
(A minute was just to damn long. I snapped. Did not expect
to do so but anxiety attacks are almost spontaneous. They explode.And this is when things turned UGLY. real Ugly for
“ I started to scream…I can’t breathe! I CAN’T BREATHE! help me SOMEONE…FOR
CHRIST’S SAKE, I CAN’T BREATHE! I SCREAMED AND SCREAMED.
People came running. From where I do not know.
“HELP ME…HELP ME…NO BREATHE…GOING TO FAINT.”
They tried. Many people…maybe 6, maybe 10 all crowded into
this overgrown telephone booth. All yelling as well. “Give him air.
Calm down, sir. Sit Down Stand up. Stope yelling. breathe through
you nose not you mouth.”
“CAN NO ONE HELP ME. I CANNOT BREATHE.”
But you are breathing. “NOT ENOUGH AIR. LET ME OUT OF HERE.
SOMEONE HELP ME.:’
“QUICK, RUN AND GET THE ECG…FAST…”
“SIT DOWN, SIR.”
“I CAN’T SIT DOWN…CANNOT BREATHE.”
(I Tore off the hospital gown.)
“GOT TO STAND UP…DYING.”
“SWEATING LIKE A STUCK PIG…WATER POURING OFF.”
(The GUY WITH MY GOWN IS TRYING TO WAVE IT TO CalM ME DOWN.
BIG GUY, . HE CLEARS A TINY SPACE
FOR ME TO STAND UP…FANNING ME…I AM NEAR NUDE …SCREAMING LIKE
A MAD MAN.
(…6 to 10 of us…then the
ECG arrive on a trolley…wedged into the room…tottering.)
“I CAN’T BREATHE…HELP ME…SOMEONE HELP ME.”
“Here slap these patches on his body…anywhere…then we’ll
hook him to the ECG. Patches and then a forest of wires attached
while I am jumping around screaming…”I CAN’T BREATHE. I NEED
AIR..OXYGEN. AN AIR TANK FOR GOD’S SAKE”
Then the ECG starts to chatter while showing zig zags of my heart on a screen. Danger?
zigs and zags all looks the same. Cards piling up like an accordion. No strait line thankfully.
I glanced and remembered hospital shows on TV. Straight line on an ECG spells death.
“I CAN’T BREATHE. NEED AIR.”
“SIT DOWN SIR,”
“CAN’T SIT DOWN”
Some hands pushing me down, others helping me up. Too many hands.
Everybody yelling and the ECG chattering. Spewing out the last few moments
of my life.
“I CAN’T BREATHE FOR CHRIST’S SAKE…HELP ME…I NEED AIR..NEED AIR.”
Then someone wraps a plastic air pipe around my neck and is fumbling with
the pipe…air tank now in room as well.
Trying to reach my nose…jumping around“CAN’T BREATHE. DRY MOUTH…DRY MOUTH…DRY MOUTH”
A hand jams a capsule in my mouth and something sticks to the inside front
tooth. “DRY MOUTH…HELP ME…SOMEONE…CAN’T BREATHE.
“BUT YOU ARE BREATHING, SIR.”
“NOT ENOUGH. ONLY HALF BREATHES…NEED AIR…NEED AIR.”
(ECG machine has paper as long as the room by now. Someone takes
a look. I must be dying…but machine keeps chattering…no deadline…I am
alive but ‘I CAN’T BREATHE”
“CALM DOWN, SIR…TRY YOUR NOSE NOT YOUR MOUTH…YOU WILL
GET OVER IT…CLASSIC ANXIETY ATTACK…HE WILL GET OVER IT.”
THE guy with my gown now has a little more room. He starts to wipe me
down with the gown…meanwhile I am still yelling “I CAN’T BREATHE…DRY MOUTH…
WILL SOMEONE HELP ME.”
Little sticky patches allover my body…multi coloured wires.. “SIR , TRY TO RELAX.”
Eventually Iwound down … slowly …still yelling but without the short staccato yells …I am getting
more oxygen…someone holding the tank behind me…I am breathing…not well…not even
but I am breathing.
It was pandemonium. And I was the in the centre. But I really could not
breathe. Even though I was gulping air like a goldfish in a tank. Someone switched
off the ECG. I sat down. Then Caistor helped me onto a gurney. Wrapped me
in a new gown…must have been a new gown…my original was soaked.
INTERJECTION: TODAY I WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE SIX TO TEN PEOPLETHAT CROWDED IN THE ROOM TRYING TO HELP. GOOD PEOPLE. PART OFTHE HERO FORCE WE MAY NEED AGAIN. I WONDER HOW THEY WILL REMEMBERME? UNSTABLE? MAYBE ANXIETY ATTACKS ARE COMMON. PLEASE TAKE NOTE THAT ALL
THESE PEOPLE WERE TAKING RISKS TRYING TO HELP ME. I AM PARTICULARLY
“Taking you down for a CatScan, sir.”
“Drink these two tumblers…no rush but drink it all.”
The technicians fiddled around with my hands for a while and
once I was calm enough they fed me into the big donut like you
feed a frozen makerel to a whale.
“Try not of move sir…absolutely still”
I was worn out anyway. And I was breathing. The person who got
the air tank handed to the CatScan technician and disappeared.
What I am trying to describe to you is a classic example of aN Anxiety Attack.
It happened suddenly without warning. The source was stress and fear. I am81 years old. My 50 year old daughter in law died last week. Tragic. Everyone in turmoil.My memory kept drawingup a memory from the even deeper past. A moment of sheer terror in France.
The reason for my Panic Attack was clear to me as I tried to
explain to others. Several years ago I had trouble coming
out of an anesthetic at a nice hospital in the south of France.
I had fallen off a cliff while trying to get a better angle picture
of a beautiful lavender field. Bashed myself up badly and broke
my wrist. The operation was a success. Unfortunately I had trouble
coming out of the anesthetic. I opened my eyes, saw Marjorie
across the room…but I could not breathe. My lungs would not work
correctly as they must have been tuned to some kind of lung
machine. It took a couple of minutes for me to adjust. Terrifying
minutes that made me fear anisthesia.
So this anxiety attack was not funny.
It was not funny at the time. Sounds funny now. But I know it was
not funny. I really thought I was going to die…to smother to death
right there and then. with 6 to 10 people watching and an ECG machine
chattering and Caistor with my gown fanning me.
A few weeks earlier I had arrived here in emergency witha gall stone lodged in the neck of my gall bladder. Pain thatI had no wish to ever meet again. pain that lasted 5 days…no sleep…three of those days in a hospital bed. Then the moment the surgeonwas about to cut, the pain ended. The stone slipped off. No pain.I told the surgeon in plain terms “If it ain;t busted, don’tfix it.”Get me out of here. I was released. What a relief. a bunchof men were out in the lot building an emergency hospital forthe expected rush of Covid 19 patients. I did not want to be around for that.The surgeon knew an operation was the best choice but he also knewwhat was coming with the Pandemic. “I will get it removed in a coupleof weeks when the pandemic dies down. That idea was wrong. We arenow nearly at the end of July. The Pandemic is still hereNo delay…no smart ass comment like “If it ain;t busted, don’t fix it.”
So I kept my mouth shut while Dr. Zilbert pushed on my stomach.“Where does it hurt?”“Right there, Dr.”He seemed to already know about my case. Maybe the fuss down in theEmergency room had reached his ears. Maybe the CatSkan was clear.Bottom line I was admitted and wheeled into a ward passing throughlong empty hallways with no one visible. The Mississauga Trillim hospital
like hospitals across Canada was half empty as the nation waited
to see what Covid19 was going to do..I was in the middle of noman’s, nowoman’s lamd.
I was in the midst of the care workers I had been reading aboutjust a day earlier…nurses, doctors, orderlies, sweepers, cooks,…many people.
And I was afraid.
Fear. Pure and simple. Fear. That is one reason for panic attacks
like mine. There can be other reasons but for me it was the fear
I would wake up and not be able to breathe.
An orderly took over the gurney from the CatsSkan operator
and landed me in Room 213 at the Mississauga Trillium Hospital.’
“Would you like the window, sir?”
“Sure would. Last time I was here Got a window.”
“When was that ?”
“First week of March…same time you were emptying the hospital expectng
Covid19 infested patients by the hundreds.:
“Why were you admitted?”
“Terrible pain….Gall stone lodged in my Gall Bladder….stomach
blown up like a dead pig in a farm field. Scale of 10 over 10
for pain. Did not sleep for 5 days…three of those days here
“How did we reduce the pain?”
“Morphine and lots of it. Have you ever had a morphine trip?
“I had three days and nights on Morphine…right outside my window
I had morphine trips that were great. One night a circus arrived
with a big brown bear up a telephone tree that slowly turned into
an oak or maple tree as the bear looked at me in friendly way. Not
a hungry bear There was a little white Jack Russel dog that tipped
me off that a trip was about to happen. Cute little dog. Then some
big sailing ships flooded by with people aboard…silent people.And on the shore a bunch of men were trying to pull downa big tree by hand. My room moved closer….a young womansitting cross legged idly plucking rose petals from a huge silverbowl. Others standing on high poles as a building waslowered from the sky for the men and women to bolt in place..”“No morphine on the orders today.”
“No, the pain has eased…down to a 5…tolerable…If it skyrocketed
you will turn to morphine.”
“Let’s hope that does not happen.”
Dr.Zilbert and others arrived at my bedside and did a little probing
and said the magic word…”Surgery soon” And away they went.
A bubbly Filipino nurse arrived with a tub of soapy water. Big smile.“Would you like a bath, sir?”
“Here you wash your face, I will do the rest of you.”And she did…swiftly…even the underparts. She was fast andcheerflull but no debate invited. She had two little toddlers of her own…so
risky situation for her.
I had two nurses…my day nurse was Agnes, my nightnurse was Maria. Two people who took charge of peoplelike me every two or three days. They just took chargeof my every movement. They checked my heart and temperatureevery two hours. Agnes jabbed me with needles that suckedmy blood and another needle to prevent blood clotting.They put meto bed and got me up. They were always just a buzzer away.“Agnes, can you get a message to Dr. Zilbert?”“I can try…he is a busy man.”AGNES…MY DAY SHIFT NURSEAgnes and Maria and others seemed to like collecting my blood. I was beyond caring by then.
“I am terrified of the anisthetic. I fear arepeat of an experience in France wheremy breathing was compromised. Tell himI am scared.
“When is the operation planned.?”“We never know. First we must get you ready.No food today. just cups of tiny ice cubes thatyou can eat one at time.”MY WASHER, BATHER, BED MAKER….DRESSER (NEW GOWNS) BENEATH THAT MASK IS A BIG SMILE. AS YOU CAN SEE.MARIA….MY NIGHT SHIFT NURSEAnd Maria, my night nurse followed the same routines.
MARIA would like everyone to appreciate FRONT LINERS like her and so many others. That is one reason I am writing this story
“When will they operate, MARIA?”“We never know…operations go on here night and day.”“Today?”“Best you just suck on ice cubes and sleep.”On that I fell asleep… only to be gently awakenedat 1 a.m. IN the morning. The night was dark and hot..
THE SURGERY“Wake up, Alam/““Not more blood…have I any remaining””“Getting you ready for surgery.”“At 1 a.m….middle of the night?”“Surgery goes 24/7.”
So I rolled myself onto another gurney and was wheeled through the dark and
“There you are, sir.”
The orderly slid my gurney into a dark corner where I could see no one at first and then
Some time later Agnes awoke me…around 6.30 a.m.
And a whole bunch of people began to assess me. Heart. Temperature. Blood, of course.
P.S. Why do I want this rather sorry behaviour put in print? Simple answer. I am very