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An Eventful Day
By: Doug Bittinger - December 21, 2009

This day started off with a bang – or maybe more like a crash – although we didn't hear it or even know about it for a while.  The first sound I actually heard was the telephone.  It was about 6:30.  It was Mom – near hysterical.  Pat is in trouble, she has called an ambulance, she needs my help.

So I get dressed – sort of; I pull jeans and a sweatshirt over my pajamas and slip into some shoes – and trot through the snow to Mom’s house.  Pat is half-off their bed just wearing pajama pants and babbling incoherently.  Mom tells me he was foaming at the mouth and saying “Just shoot me, just shoot me, I want to die.”

The babbling and foaming at the mouth remind me of past times when his blood sugar dropped into the 20’s so I ask her if she has checked his blood sugar.  She says “No, he’s not sweating, if his blood sugar goes down he sweats like a horse.”

I’m thinking, “OK, that’s true, but…” However, she’s more familiar with his multiplicity of medical maladies, so I defer to her judgment and don't press the issue.

Mom continues, “I’m sure it’s his red blood cell count.  He’s had two transfusions this week and probably needs another.”

So I help her get Pat dressed.  As we’re finishing up I hear a truck out in the road and run out to see if it's the ambulance, flag them down and direct them up into the long, snow covered driveway.  As they maneuver in, I'm scooping the snow off the porch and steps.

They come inside and the first thing they ask is, “Have you checked his blood sugar.” She gives them the same response.  So they sort of shrug and pick him up like a big bag of potatoes and carry him out and down to the ambulance.  We are not impressed by this.  I give them Mom’s phone number and ask that Admitting call her to get the information they will need.  Mom and Pat both use walkers to get around and she has no business – or desire – being out in this snow.

I stay with her until the hospital calls and she has everything set up.  She’s still very upset so I decide to stay a while longer and try to distract her somehow.  She talks about the weather forecast thingie she has on her Google home page.  I too have found the default weather gadget to be disparagingly inaccurate and have found better versions to install, so I talk her through locating and installing gadgets from The Weather Channel, National Oceanic Association and local Doplar Radar.  This was a challenge because she wasn’t listening well and was just click-click-clicking on things without reading them first.  She was upset, so I was patient.  At least it was distracting her some.  About the time we got that all straightened out her phone rang, she answered, it was the hospital.  His blood sugar was 21, (very, very low) he’s stable now and can be picked up soon.


So I gather up Pat’s shoes, jacket, hat, gloves and such and go up to scrape off our four-wheel-drive truck so it would be ready when the hospital waves the green flag.

Mom calls a few minutes after I’m done with that and says, “They want to keep him for some tests, they’ll call again when they get the results.”

OOoooh-kayyyy… *that* means I probably won't be going after him today.  So we prepare to proceed with the plans we had made for our day.  This was to be a special day.  This is the Saturday before Christmas, and Marie and I always go to Smoky's restaurant in Dandridge for brunch on this day.  It's one of our holiday traditions and one of the very few occasions when we eat out.  I also need to drive to Russelville, where the nearest UPS shipping center lives, to hand off a couple of orders that need to go out A.S.A.P.  Normally I'd just hand these off to our local UPS driver, but… well… that's another story for another time.

Just as we were ready to leave, the phone rings again.  It’s Mom, “He’s ready, they want him picked up soon.”

I just chuckle, knowing how cantankerous Patrick can be when he wants to be, and how little he likes being in a hospital.  So the plans change again.  I hop in the truck with the bag of Pat's clothes and head out.

Normally I make a right-hand turn at the bottom of our driveway to get to Newport, where the hospital is, and I start to do so, but I notice a huge pine tree laying all the way across the road just down from our driveway.  I back up into the drive, swing left and take the long way around to town.

It takes me several tries to find the right door at the hospital.  I'm not sure if I'm just stupid or if their signage is weird.  Either way I finally find it.  It's locked.  I find an intercom box and press the button, tell them I'm there to pick up Patrick and they buzz me in.  Inside they explain that it is the ambulance entrance and they don't want folks walking in off the street.

They direct me to Pat's cubicle and he is his usual talkative self again.  I get him into his shoes, coat, and such, post haste.  A nurse wheels him out to my truck and he is free once again!  I get him home and back into their house where Mom takes over, then drive on up to the workshop for my chain saw, gas can and jug of bar oil, then back down to the fallen tree where Marie and I begin cutting it up and dragging it off the road.  Did I mention that it was a BIG tree?  Marie tries her best but just isn't up to this and has to go back to the house for a bit.  Our friend David drives up the drive and soon walks back down to help.  We manage to get one lane of the road cleared before the chain saw konks out on me.  It's not a big chain saw and wasn't made for lumberjack work.  So we decide to go on with the rest of our planned activities and come back to this later on – if I can fix the chain saw; it is possible I burned out the clutch or fused the chain to the bar or… well, who knows until I get it torn down and inspected.

So I change into some dry clothes and we all pile into David’s Forerunner with our UPS packages and we head off to Dandridge.

We enjoyed a lovely drive through the snow covered landscape.  The paved roads were wet, but clear, and there was little traffic to deal with.  We all enjoyed a delicious lunch in our favorite restaurant.  The service was excellent, as usual, and we managed to squeak out before the Christmas parade shut the town down.  That’s part of the excitement of this annual adventure – NOT getting pinned down by the parade.

So we drive on through the winter wonderland through Morristown and out through Russelville, out to “the sticks” and the UPS docks.  The packages are pre-labeled and pre-paid by billing to our UPS account so this is to be a simple drop & run caper.  We pull into the parking lot and spot a sign on the door, “CLOSED SATURDAY & SUNDAY”.

ARGH!!  The UPS web site said very clearly that they are open 9:00 to 3:00 on Saturday.

So we go try the door – it is unlocked.  I figure even if the counter is closed, they’re pre-paid; I’ll leave them sitting on the floor behind the counter if I have to, someone will find them.  But, there is indeed a gal behind the counter.  The sign lies.  All is well, the packages are handed off to UPS.  I’ve done my part.

Marie suggests that as long as we are in the area we should head into Morristown to show David, who is from out of state, some of the local historic sites.  Off we go.

When we get home I hop over into our truck and drive back to the workshop where I tear down the chainsaw, find that the chain brake had clogged with soggy pine and seized up.  So I clean it out, put it back together, and it works fine.

I get Marie on the intercom, tell her that I’ve fixed the saw and am heading back down to the tree.  David is still at the house, so he meets me there and between us we make quick work of clearing the rest of the pavement.  We just tossed the tree chunks off to the sides of the road and did not get excited about clearing the ditch lines, just the pavement.  People can get through again, so we have done our duty as property owners.  I'll go back out and clear the ditches when the weather is better and the ground not to soggy.  I can probably talk Tim into helping with that; he has a bigger chain saw that is better suited to chunking up the larger diameter trunk section.

Near the end of this a white pick-up truck comes up over the hill and stops behind my pick-up.  The fellow in the truck sits and watches for a while.  The road is mostly clear now but he just sits.  After a bit – just as we were finishing – he gets out, walks up and asks if we need any help.  I reply, “No, sir, were about done now.” He chuckles, gets back in his truck and goes back the other way.  Never did figure out who he was, maybe part of the road department.

It did occur to me that when the ambulance came for Pat this morning, they came from the Newport end of Piney Mountain road and left the same way.  So the tree had not come down by then.  It *was* down a couple of hours later when I went to pick him up.  I’m thinking that it was a blessing for all concerned that the ambulance got through before the tree fell.

Now everyone is where they belong, the road is clear, all the tools are put away, the fireplace is blazing, and dinner is being prepared.  All in all it was a good day!  Our plans changed over and over again, but everything worked out well.  May all of our days go as well!

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