Sometimes it Takes a Funeral to Make Us Feel Alive

Trip Start Jun 20, 2010
Trip End Jul 18, 2010

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Flag of Costa Rica  , San José,
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else" Emily Dickinson

    Sirens scream and lights flash.  A  thirty-six year old businessman sinks into a chair at a ritzy San Jose hotel.  "I feel very cold", he tells a hotel worker.  His skin is pale and he is unable to keep his hands from trembling.  "The ambulance is on it's way", the employee reassures. It is my first day as a volunteer with Trasmedic, a private ambulance in San Jose, and we are on our way to a man having a mild heart attack.  I grip the roof handles tightly as we hug the bends.  Out the ambulance window, I see the streets of the city blur past.  The city is soggy from yesterday's rain and grey clouds loom ominously in the distance. 
    We come to a halt.  Traffic lines the street, black fumes pouring from their exhausts.  The cars ignore the sirens and we're stuck in the rows of cars as if we're another red taxi... Locals saunter across the street in front of us, unphased by the emergency vehicle.  Alex, the paramedic driving, honks the horn.  Beep, beeep.  A wilted-looking man on the sidewalk responds with an offensive hand gesture.  Painfully slow, we weave through traffic and pull up in front of a hotel with large pillars.  Men in black suits greet us and guide us to the patient. 
    The Tico man is sitting at a table with his head in his hands.  "Ahh", he groans softly, "my stomache...  my arm... my chest". His trembling hands gesture to his pain.  
     The blood pressure cuff squeezes his arm and pulse oximetry clamps his finger.  As we obtain his health history and take vitals, I find myself imagining what it would be in this man's shoes, having a heart attack at the young age of thirty-six.   To the man, his life is not his own.   Life is like a light bulb over which he's lost control of the switch.  His life is flickering on and off.  He sees his hands fluttering in front of him and feels his forehead becoming wet with perspiration.  His heart beats double-time.  He has lost control. 
    We assist the man onto the ambulance and into a stretcher.  The ECG says his heart rate is 135 bpm, tachycardia.  We transport him to San Juan de Dios, one of the largest Class A hospitals in Costa Rica and the health professionals there take over.  The man will be okay.  As we climb back in the ambulance, my fellow volunteer smirks. "Good first day, huh?", he questions, eyebrows raised.  I nod.  
    The band Sixx:A.M. suggests in the song 'Life is Beautiful', "Sometimes it takes a funeral to make us feel alive".   I think that sometimes it's necessary to witness an event like a heart attack to shock us back to life.  It's as if the world is reminding us we are mortal and life is precious. 
    Riding in the back of the ambulance, I hum the rest ofthe song to myself,  "Just open your eyes and see that life is beautiful..."  We turn a bend and the Costa Rican sun peaks through the clouds. 

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Leona Edinger on

Love to read your blog and as I said before"You should be a writer-all the detail-love it.

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