Remember when I said there was nothing quite so scary as waking up to an email with the subject line "MUM IN HOSPITAL"? Well, it turns out there is. Here is the thing that is scarier than waking up to an email with the subject line "MUM IN HOSPITAL": it's getting an IM from your sister in the middle of a meeting that says "Can you call dad? Mum has collapsed and been taken to hospital in an ambulance."
Seriously, my mother. She goes to England for two months and ends up in the hospital twice. I mean, I know it's free over there and she likes a bargain, but come on. Can't she just buy a lot of 3-for-1 Cadburys like the rest of us?
I don't quite remember the blur of the next few seconds, just that I pushed my chair back and interrupted whatever whiteboarding was going on at the front of the conference room as I backed clumsily out of it, and then I found an empty space in a part of the office that was full of abandoned desks and tried to get my brain to triage my next steps. IM Susie back to get more information. Call dad. Dad isn't answering. IM Susie again. Get Auntie Frances' number in England. Call Auntie Frances. Call Susie. Try dad again. Dad still not answering. Look up the number for the hospital. IM Susie back. Try dad again. Should I call Luke? Tom? No, don't worry them yet. IM Susie. Call hospital. Explain. I think you just admitted my mother? Hold, please. Please hold.
I always thought that I'd be good in a crisis, that I'd have some sort of cool, single-minded sense of control, but it turns out that I wasn't very good at all. My hands shook and I forgot simple things, like how to open my Skype app or dial an international number. All the time, the refrain of the panicked looped around in my head like a drumbeat. Please god please god please god please let it be okay.
Twenty terrifying minutes where no-one knew exactly what was going on, and then I got through to the hospital. The guy at the front desk transferred me around a bunch of times and then he carried the cordless phone over to my mother so I could talk to her, which was such a kind thing to do that I hope he wins the lottery one day, or at least that he came home that evening and his wife had made his favorite dinner and recorded two back-to-back episodes of Downton Abbey. My mother sounded like she was having about as much fun as a person in an ER can have, but she did at least sound alive, which was kind of the only standard I was holding her to at that point. I went back to my desk and googled all her symptoms. Dizzines. Fainting. More fainting.The inability to get up and crawl to the front door to let the paramedics in.
A few hours and a whole bunch of tests later, the doctor on duty diagnosed her with severe vertigo stemming from the misalignment of some tiny crystals in her inner ear. This is a surprisingly California-like thing to come from the mouth of an NHS doctor, and yet is apparently a totally true thing. My sister explained it all to me, then decided to coin it something a whole lot better.
Which, as you can imagine, made it a lot more fun to talk about.
All going well, she'll fly back to the US on Wednesday, and I can't wait to see her and wrap my arms around her. Also to tell her that she is never allowed to scare me like that again. She got me back for the time I ran off at the park in 1984, the time I stayed out way past my curfew in 1996, and the time I crashed my car in 2005. Let's call it even.