Tuesday, April 19, 2011


"And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
. . ."

~ The Fray "How to Save a Life"

I was really tired when I woke up yesterday morning. Atlanta has one of the highest pollen counts in the U.S. and it's been a rough spring for me. I've been spraying my nose with steroid spray like a good patient and taking my antihistamine, too. The itchy nose and eyes are somewhat better, but like clock work, that post nasal drip always gets me in the middle of the night. From about three that morning until the alarm went off, I hacked and hacked. This dry-ish, annoying hack. My only solace was sitting almost fully erect to keep the phlegm from rolling down my throat and triggering my cough reflex.

Gross, I know.

Anyways. Isaiah made it out to the bus in good time. He was in high spirits and he shook my hand hard telling me that "it was going to be a great day and you can bet on it!" right before he stepping onto the big yellow kid-mobile. He gave the busdriver an effusive "Good morning!" without me even having to tell him to do so through a clenched smile. Maybe it was going to be a good day.

I came inside and made some coffee. Daydreamed for a few minutes. Wrote a three line blog post, the kind that makes my dad say, "Hey, did I miss something?" To which I say, "It's haiku, Dad!" To which he retorts, "Hai-what?"  "Haiku!" I say. "Uh. . .okay," he says. And then we both just laugh.

I got a bit behind the eight ball once I came back inside. I'm not sure what I did to waste so much time (I mean that blog post was only seventeen syllables!) but next thing I knew I had ten minutes to get myself dressed for clinic and make certain Zachary was ready to leave with Harry. Zachy was standing by the door and "ready to rock and roll" as he puts it, and I had three minutes to spare.

Not too bad.

"My backpack is not heavy today, Mommy!" Zachary proclaimed, which reminded me that, "Damn!" I had forgotten to pack him a lunch. Into the kitchen I scurry; quickly putting something together that would not lead to a text message from his teacher. (Have I mentioned that Zachary's pre-school mandates that the lunch is healthy? Send a bag of Doritos, and you can count on getting them right back.) Anyways. Get the dude's lunch packed and run to my room to finish getting myself together.

At this point, officially will be late. But not late-late so I put as much pep in my step as I can. Try to put my contacts in three times, and they feel itchy. Very annoying considering I am convinced that my vision is better in my contacts than my glasses. I refuse to admit it is because my left eye is so bad that my left lens for my frames is super thick and that this is really just vanity.


A few moments later, I'm arming the house and preparing to leave. . .  and what do I see on my bed? Aww, hell no!  Zachary's LUNCHBOX.  Ugghhh!

Harry and Zachary were long gone, which meant one thing and one thing only. I would have to take the lunch to Zachary's school. Which is technically very, very close to Grady Hospital, but considering the fact that I was already late, stopping anywhere would be sure to cross me from late into late-late.


For no purpose whatsoever, I call Harry to alert him of how inconvenienced I was about to be to which  he calmly replied, "You want me to just order him a pizza?"  Which made me say, "A pizza isn't healthy!"  I decide then that I am annoyed by this "healthy lunch" clause that seemed so rad when I was enrolling him there, and, again, for no purpose whatsoever, tell Harry that this is what I am feeling about this stipulation. He just kind of holds the phone and says, "Tell you what? How 'bout I meet you on Dekalb Avenue and Boulevard to grab it, okay?"  I smile and tell him that he is the B.H.E. which is my text message speak for "best husband ever" but I say the three letters any way, kind of like people say "LOL" or "OMG."

Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. On my way to work.

I was now teetering on late-late. The lights were in my favor and after our quick hand-off, in a snap I was pulling into the Grady parking garage.  I had fairly decent parking lot karma this day, and the minute I parked (4th level!) I sent a quick text to my colleague in the clinic to let her know that I was minutes away.  Like in the parking lot even. Fortunately, she was cool about it which this particular colleague generally is.

I power walk across the street and finally into the hospital. Arms pumping, bag on my shoulder, super hurried head nods and "hey theres" to people along the way, but giving off body language that clearly, clearly lets them know: "No time for small talk."  Even my friend from the gift shop, Ms. Renee, who I always stop and talk to didn't act annoyed when I waved at her and then said, "You doin' alright?" while walking backwards.

I needed to hurry up. No time for my normal chit-chat and blogworthy moments.  Down the hall, through the atrium and into the clinic corridor.  8:43 a.m. Late, yes. Two minutes shy of late-late.

I start jogging toward the stairwell in the clinic hall. Finally I reach for the handle, panting from all of the rushing.  As I pull back on the heavy door, I hear:

"Ex-ex-excuse me! Excuse me, do-doctor!"

A heavy set woman wearing a bright orange shirt with a matching necklace is scuffling toward me. She seems out of breath, her buxom chest moving up and down as she caught her breath. "I-I-I knnn-ow you are in a," she paused to find her words carefully, "hur-hur-hurry."

She was right. I was in a hurry. Like a big hurry.

"Yes, ma'am, I am in a huge, huge hurry. . . are you looking for something in the hospital?" I offered. Her language was that slow and careful speech often seen in people who have suffered strokes. I needed to give her a yes/no option since I had less than 90 seconds before the late-late bell tolled.

"N-n-n-no. I-I-I am n-n-not lost."

Ugghh.  So much for that. I parted my lips to tell her that unfortunately, I had to go. But. Something told me to just stop and listen. This woman was walking with a slight limp, and despite not appearing that old, had obviously suffered some kind of a neurological event. I had no idea what could be of such urgency that she would need to chase me down, even with her residual weakness and obvious expressive aphasia.

Something told me. To stop.

I remembered the last time I'd received such a nudge and didn't listen. It felt like that. I looked at my cell phone--8:45.  Then I looked at her, eyes glistening, face genuine. I let go of the door. And of my chance of making it into the Green Clinic before being deemed late-late. This time, I would listen.

"Yes, ma'am?"

"Y-y-y-you saved. . .my-my. . .l-l-life," she spoke.

Wait, huh?

I remember people. In fact, one thing that Isaiah inherited from his mother is an excellent memory. He always says, "We have good brains for remembering things, right Mom?" And I always say, "We sure do, me and you." I do have a good brain for remembering. I remember names. Details. Places. Numbers. But especially, I remember people. I had never seen this woman in my entire life. I had no idea what she was talking about.

Even if it sounded good.

"Have we met?" I asked her. "That's such a kind thing to say, but I am wondering are you thinking of another doctor maybe?"

I combed my mind for another physician in our hospital that she could have mistaken for me. I could think of many with my complexion, but not a single person with such short hair or oddball personality.  And seeing as I and most of my friends of all races don't believe in that old saying of "all black folks looking alike"--this is just that much more odd.

"N-n-no. I. . . .s-s-saw you .  . . . on Fox 5. . a-a-and," she exhaled at the exhaustion of having to work hard to find her words,"y-y-you said. . . to. . t-t-take care of YOU first. . . b-b-because if . . you. . .p-put . . .YOU last a-and lose Y-YOUR health. . . you. . . you. . .are no g-good to a-nyone. Y-YOU first is l-like putting th-them first."

Was she for real?

I cocked my head sideways at her incredulously. Wait, did I even say that? Okay, here's the thing. Once per week, I scoot over to this local TV station to do a two to three minute health segment live on the air with an anchor. I've been coming over there for a few years now, and admittedly get pretty relaxed during the segments. I couldn't then and still can't remember saying those exact words, but it definitely sounds like the kind of thing I would say.  Hell, I say all kinds of things.

I reached out and grabbed her hand and squeezed it, feeling slightly ashamed for trying to ditch her.

"I'm sorry that I was rushing away from you. I really appreciate you stopping me to say that. . .really."

She went on with her testimony. "I-I am a s-s-single mo-ther of three k-k-kids. A-a-and I was n-n-not tak-ing care of m-m-me only th-them. Then I h-had a str-stroke. My blood p-pressure was s-s-so high and I even h-h-had dia-betes and d-d-didn't know."

I kept gripping her hand, hanging on her every word. The moment felt divine. I was so glad I stayed to listen.

"Th-th-this s-side of my b-b-body was not e-even work-ing," she went on as she gestured to her right side, "I w-was feeling s-so sorry for m-m-my-self. That's when I sss-saw you on the t-t v that day. I knew I h-had to d-d-do something."

"Wow," I replied.

She refused to let the speech impediment stop her from finishing. "And at-at first I couldn't e-e-even talk, either. But I fought. F-for ME. I h-have lost almost forty p-pounds, doctor. Fff-forty pounds! And I keep a-a-all my doctor's appointments. I am t-taking care of M-ME so I can t-take care of them." She patted her chest emphatically. "Ff-for ME."


I wanted to cry so bad.  I know. I'm always wanting to cry so bad at Grady. But the thing is. . . I had started that day off feeling sleep deprived and then by blogging these words at 7:07 a.m. :

"Another Monday
Another chance to become
the me I strive for."

See? All morning, I had been asking myself who that was.  Like who is the me I strive for, even? Like what did that mean even?  I'm still not sure. But I am thinking the me I strive for would be one who stops and listens to someone. And this moment is making me think that just maybe the me I strive for is doing something really close to what she is supposed to be doing in this life. . including encouraging someone along the way, even when she doesn't know it. That plus this woman standing in front of me telling me her story is why I wanted to cry so bad.

Man, oh man.

"Thank you. Thank you so much for telling me this. You have no idea what it means to me," I told her. "No idea."

"Th-thank you for saving m-my life," she responded, her eyes now fresh with lacrimation.

I shook my head. "No. You saved your own life."

She smiled at me wide and kind and like she meant it.  And I did the same back.

We hugged tight, almost like we knew each other. I asked her permission to tell this story and take her picture. She obliged. I told her that maybe her story might save someone else's life.  Or one day, even mine.

Thank you for sharing.

Isaiah was right. This was going to be a great day. You could bet on it.


Happy Tuesday.


My take on medical media. . . .guess you never know who's really listening. . . .


  1. I adore your blog and greatly admire whom you are as a physician, a mother,...a person. I too am a graduate of Meharry, and to be honest, reading your accounts of daily events inspires me to be better: especially now as soon graduating resident who sometimes wants to take the easy road. Thank you so much for reminding me that it's about so much more than ME.


  2. I have just officially fallen in love with you now that I've seen your face, heard your voice.
    What a beautiful, beautiful post. What a beautiful woman's life you saved. Or inspired her to save. Whatever. Same-same.
    When I used to work for Weight Watchers, I would tell my members the same thing- they had to take care of themselves first in order to take care of the others in their lives. I would tell them that when the heart pumps blood to the lungs and it becomes oxygenated, that the oxygen-full blood goes straight back to the heart because if it doesn't have that oxygen, it can't get it to the rest of the body.
    "You," I would say to those (mostly) women, are the heart."
    You are the heart. Remember that. And you have reminded me. Thank-you.

  3. Your stories are the best. What a wonderful reason to be late-late. My excuses for being late-late are never for a good reason! ;)

    And you know I love me some Kim and Harry stories!

  4. Maria--thanks for those kind words from a fellow Meharrian!

    Aww, Ms. Moon--you already know that I'm a fan of yours.

    Cali-- the Kim and Harry stories are always in the making!

  5. No words can fully describe what an inspiring person you are. You are simply lovely in every imaginable way. What makes you stunning are not just good bone structure and a shapely figure, but the enchanting, beautiful, gracious spirit within.

    *walking away before being called a groupie*

  6. Anush, I will be sure to read your comments the next time I feel "blecccchh." You are beyond kind, and any person who refers to me in a sentence with the words "stunning", "shapely", and "enchanting" is a friend of mine!

    Seriously, though, I am betting that anyone who is so liberal with words of affirmation has an equally "gracious spirit within." Thanks.

  7. Thanks for posting the vid, blog GF. You were right on the edge of saying "have regular sexual activity" "Not episodic" being the key message. haha. Well done!

  8. My dad has had trouble commenting and asked me to post this comment for him:

    My comments from a great piece I hate not being able to post!!!!

    I got misty when she said "you save my life".. I started to sniffle when you reached out, grabbed and squeezed her hand, I began to technically cry, tears and all, when she said "I couldn't even talk but I fought for ME... I scuffled on to the end and blew my nose and wiped my eyes.. Then I read the comments and went into a full blown snotty, ugly cry. WOW!!
    You continue to amaze me with your way with words and your ability to put the reader there with you. I was in the hallway with you and I saw the lady even before I saw the photo of her.

    You are the best.. from your number one Fan

    Poopdeck. For those that don't know who poopdeck is... I am her dad.

  9. Thank you from the bottom of my big brown heart for arranging for your followers to view one of our commercials. But now I have that song stuck in my head again. I did so enjoy the interview that you gave that it is worth it.

  10. After reading this post, I have made my doctors appointment. I go next Tuesday.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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