The best part of my heart scare on Tuesday morning was our children, or more specifically, the way we managed them during this potential crisis.
When we decided to call for an ambulance, a number of decisions were made:
1. When Elysha made the call, she requested that the ambulance refrain from using a siren so the kids wouldn't be frightened. The dispatcher said this wasn't possible, but when an EMT called back to check on my condition and request that I take aspirin immediately, Elysha again requested no siren. He agreed, so the ambulance pulled up in front of the house quietly.
The kids were awake and aware that I was waiting for the ambulance, but it wasn't the loud, frightening version of an emergency response vehicle, but more akin to a medically-equipped Uber.
Just a ride to the doctor for Daddy.
In fact, the kids never even saw the ambulance. Neither wanted to see it, knowing it would make them nervous, so instead they sat together in the kitchen, watching a TV show on the iPad as it pulled up in front of our home.
2. Elysha told the kids that I would be going to the hospital via ambulance because "I wasn't feeling well" and "the doctors wanted to see me soon." I stood beside her as she explained, my chest in incredible pain and unable to catch my breath, nodding in agreement.
In response to this news, the kids immediately hugged Elysha, leaving their Daddy to stand alone, wondering why they were hugging the person who was breathing just fine and not the guy who was afraid he might die at any moment.
Sometimes being a father is hard.
3. Elysha called our friend, Kathy, immediately after calling the ambulance. She leapt out of bed and came to our house to get the kids to school so Elysha could join me at the hospital.
My mom passed away 11 years ago, and I don't really know my father, and Elysha's parents live more than two hours away, so having someone like Kathy (or the many others who we could've called had Kathy been away) is such a blessing. Elysha and I are fortunate to have an enormous group of friends who our children love dearly and who would drop everything for us, and knowing that means the world to us.
4. The one mistake made that morning was made by me. I found myself strapped to a gurney in the back of the ambulance in front of our home, preparing to leave, when I realized that I hadn't said goodbye to our kids. No kisses. No hugs. Nothing. In an effort to keep them calm, I just walked out the door when I saw the ambulance pull up.
This might have been better for them, but for a father thinking he might be having a heart attack and wondering if he would see tomorrow, the idea that I was leaving my kids behind without a simple goodbye was crushing. I couldn't stop thinking about this until I finally saw them again later that day.
5. When I returned home that afternoon, Kathy and the kids were returning from some after school ice cream. When I asked them how their day was, both said it was great. They were smiling and happy.
Charlie's teacher (who had been alerted to my emergency) had made him "Star Student" of the day, which was a beautiful and I'm sure calculated decision that was also so appreciated.
Charlie said that one of the best parts of the day was when Kathy showed up for breakfast.
"That was a great surprise," he said.
"She should come for breakfast more," Clara said.
In my children's minds, Tuesday was the day when their friend, Kathy, came over for a surprise breakfast and ice cream after school and their father went to an unexpected doctor's appointment. That was what they will remember most, and I'm so glad. While Elysha and I were under incredible pressure and feeling more frightened than ever before, they were happily enjoying breakfast with their friend.
Later, Charlie asked me what it was like to ride in an ambulance for the first time. Clara took a ride in an ambulance years ago after a peanut allergy scare, and although Charlie was riding alongside his sister that day, he was still an infant and has no recollection of the incident.
I laughed at his question. "It wasn't my first time in an ambulance, buddy," I said. "That was at least my ninth ride in the back of an ambulance."
Charlie shook his head in disgust. "You should really be more careful, Dad. Also, did you take pictures of the machines for me?"
I had not, of course. "I was a little busy," I told Charlie, but he was disappointed. A little annoyed, even. But if that was the thing that upset him the most on our frightening, painful, stress-filled day, I'll take it.