Going, going, gone
Now I dialed 9-1-1 a long time ago
Don't you see how late they're reactin'?
They only come and they come when they wanna
So get out the morgue truck n' embalm the goner
6:37 PM - "My husband's having an asthma attack and he can't breathe." Mrs. Bootleg, who once mistakenly called 4-1-1 to report a fire, couldn't have been calmer. She knew the meds I was taking; she knew my social security number and she knew how serious this was about 20 minutes before I did. On the other hand, I only know that Mrs. Bootleg loves barbecued ribs, crème brulee and Grey's Anatomy. I…gotta work on that.
6:40 PM - We're less than a half-mile from a fire station and I can hear the sirens off in the distance. I'm pissed at my body for its sudden betrayal ("What did I do to EVER abuse you?"). I'm embarrassed for the neighborhood spectacle I'm about to become ("Hey, this Black guy down the street from me overdosed or something!"). And, yes, I'm hoping I don't f*****g die.
6:43 PM - Four guys – roughly the size of an NFL defensive line – come rumbling up our walkway. All eight of their arms are covered with colorful tattoos and for some reason, this…does not soothe me. There's about 1,200 pounds orbiting my breathless carcass, asking me questions I can't answer and speaking – simultaneously – to each other in their own medical code. I feel my fate is pretty much sealed when one of 'em turns to Mrs. Bootleg and says, "OK, we're gonna need your help." Joke's on them, though, as there isn't even a plug to pull yet.
6:45 PM - It takes two minutes for Mrs. Bootleg to find a chair from our dining room, which sits about two feet from our front door. God forbid one of the anonymous EMTs see our old beat-up, baby-food stained chairs. Take your time, honey.
6:46 PM - I'm still on the ground, by the way. The EMTs assure me that I won't have to do anything and prepare to lift me up onto the chair. Three seconds later, they've collectively changed their minds and ask if I can get up on my own. I've only been sprawled out on my front porch for 10 minutes, so I can see how they'd think I'd found my second wind.
6:48 PM - Over the past two minutes, I've been reassured 200 times by Team EMT that they're going to make me feel better. They're talking to me in the same condescending way I would talk to my five-year-old son if he were in the same situation. "Guess what, J? You're going to ride in an ambulance! How cool is that? You won't have to stop for red lights or anything!"
6:50 PM - One of the EMTs calls it in. Another one asks if I've ever had a tube down my throat before. I still can't speak, so I can only assume that the whip-quick shaking of my head suggested the EMTs come up with a "plan B". In an instant, I'm on a gurney with an oxygen mask around my mouth. Let's roll!
6:52 PM - "We're going to give you an IV. You'll feel a little pinch in your arm." I've never had an IV before, but I'm familiar with the "feel a little pinch" preface before any needle-related medical activity. For those of you who've yet to enjoy the IV experience, let me assure you that what I felt was pretty f*cking far from "a little pinch".
6:53 PM - They fire up the sirens, just in case any late-arriving rubberneckers on our cul-de-sac were wondering when to come to their windows and watch. Somehow, Mrs. Bootleg (4'8") has dead-lifted our sleeping 46-pound son (just 12 inches shorter than his mom) from the couch, through the dining room, the kitchen and the laundry room to the garage and into his car seat. For those of you without kids, this is a positively She-Hulkian task for anyone. That's nearly 50 pounds without any "help" from the child, such as wrapping his arms around the mother's neck. The best part: Mrs. Bootleg's already in her car, sitting in the driveway and waiting on the ambulance. If I could speak, I'd have suggested they let her drive.
6:55 PM - We're on the road and all I can think about is how no one in Southern California ever yields for an ambulance. Seriously, readers, if the local news is any indication, we must lead the free world in ambulance-related collisions. And, with the likelihood that my wife is following about a foot behind the ambulance's bumper…
7:00 PM - I'm wheeled into the emergency room and "soothing bedside manner" ain't on the menu today. Doctors and nurses are flying everywhere around me. In a matter of moments, I've been hooked up to what seems like a dozen different machines. I swear I hear a voice in the room say something like "…4% lung capacity…", which I know can't be right. Right?
Next: The official diagnosis!