You Can Have Our Flowers When We're Done


A little old lady is brought to the emergency department by ambulance after she called 911 because she was having chest pains.

She woke up that morning and felt fine, but after eating breakfast, she began having more difficulty breathing than usual, and had substernal chest pressure which radiated to her left arm. The pain lasted for about an hour before she called 911 and then got better after the paramedics gave her nitroglycerin in the ambulance. She tried increasing the flow of her home oxygen without any improvement in her symptoms.

Her history pretty much assured that she would be admitted to the hospital overnight. We ordered the standard cardiac workup.

She seemed ticked because she kept checking her watch.

Most of the labs that had been returned were normal. Her EKG was normal. Her chest x-ray showed that she had COPD – which we already knew from her home oxygen use.

As she talked to the nurse, she mentioned that she wished she could be at her grandson’s wedding that day in Martha’s Vineyard. The bride’s father was apparently quite wealthy and paid for everyone’s plane trips to the wedding. However, the patient wasn’t able to go because there was some issue with the hotel not being able to provide necessary equipment for her oxygen cannister. I don’t know all the issues and didn’t care that much. The bottom line was that everyone else was at the wedding and the patient had to sit at home in the heat.

We hadn’t gotten back all of the labs when she asked the nurse to have me come back in the room.

“I’m going to be staying in the hospital, right doctor?”
“I think so. That would probably be a good bet.”
“OK. I just need to know so that I can have my neighbor turn off the air conditioning in my apartment.”
“Good idea.”

I left the room, but the nurse relayed the rest of the phone conversation to me.
[Dials phone]
“Hi, Sally? Oh this isn’t Sally. Who is this? Harry!?! Oh my goodness! Harry, I’m so sorry. I dialed the wrong number. I was just calling Sally to have her turn off the air conditioning in my apartment since I’m in the emergency room and I’m being admitted to the hospital right now. No, I am having some chest pains. I hope it isn’t my heart. No. Don’t worry about me, I’m sure I’ll be fine. When does the ceremony start? What? You’re in the back of the church right now? Oh, I’m sorry to bother you, dear. I hope you have a wonderful time at your wedding. I love you, dear. Send everyone my wishes. Goodbye.”

It was 12:30 PM which made it 1:30 PM at Martha’s Vineyard. The wedding ceremony started at 2PM.

Nice touch, ma’am.

A half hour later and Sally probably wouldn’t have been around the apartment to turn off the air.


This and all posts about patients may be fictional, may be my experiences, may be submitted by readers for publication here, or may be any combination of the above. Factual statements may or may not be accurate. If you would like to have a patient story published on WhiteCoat’s Call Room, please e-mail me.


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