I called the unit in the morning, during the drive to our camping site. "He went down to the OR at 0800," said the charge nurse. "Victor* is his nurse today. Want me to have him call you when Tiberius gets back?"
"Yeah," I said. My phone had two bars of service, and I knew by the time
we reached our campsite, my phone would be an expensive paperweight.
I called again two hours later, as we reached the area of no service. I
could barely understand Victor. "He's still in surgery," he said. "They
got the full open-heart scrub team. They expect it to run four to six
It was, by the way, totally illegal for him to tell me even this much
over the phone. I am grateful that Victor is a bit of a cowboy, because I
was so stressed out over Tiberius I was having heartburn.
The lake, when we reached it, was beautiful. It's a deep glacier gouge
between old mountains, blue and green with dissolved calcium, clear down
to the bottom, with milky mists rolling over it in the morning and
evening. Ducklings paddled at our shoreline campsite. Smoke from the
campfire drifted through the old-growth trees; I sat in a hammock,
holding a book, breathing the scents of peaty moss in the sun and
mineral water lapping against the trees, listening to a two-year-old
chatter about rocks over the soft unlikely moan of wind in the highest
branches of the forest.
"I'm going to drive back to Port Angeles," I said suddenly. "I'm gonna
get more firewood, and some ice, and a salmon to roast over the fire."
"I thought we were having chopped vegetables and sausage," said my
husband, who was burning his fifth marshmallow already, because he likes
his smores carcinogenic and only camps so he can stick food in a fire
without getting weird loos.
"I changed my mind," I said, and put on my shoes and hiked back to the car.
In Port Angeles I picked up the aforementioned goods (and a bottle of
wine and some extra baby wipes and a bag of chips), but before I even
reached the town I was checking my phone every five minutes to see if
service had returned. At last I got my two bars back, and called the
"He's still in OR," said Victor. It had been seven hours. "I'll text you when I get elevator call, okay?"
I ate the chips in the car, parked outside the grocery store, waiting.
Thirty-five minutes later I jerked awake to the buzz of my phone.
Four texts in quick succession, apparently sent at different times, just now squeezing through the terrible cell coverage:
Landed- BP good + sats 95
Looks like shit but stable + bronch fixed + thorx closed
I responded: Thanks man, keep em alive. Then I drove back to the
campsite through the growing dusk and crawled back into my hammock,
where I lay ignoring my book and staring at the lake until my brain
finally remembered to be somewhere else than work.
It was a good camping trip. I forgot to worry for a while.
On the way home, passing through Port Angeles, I called the unit again.
It was Monday morning, eightish, and I was ashamed of myself for not
remembering until after I'd had breakfast. "Can I talk to Tiberius's
nurse," I asked the secretary, and she made a sound of regret.
"I'm sorry," she replied. "He had another STEMI last night. They withdrew this morning. He died about an hour ago."
"Oh," I said. "Okay. Thank you."
It was a long drive home.