This past Wednesday I was on my back in the Berkeley Medical Center Cath Lab, plugged in for the shock of my life.
A blood pressure cuff wrapped around my right arm. An IV portal protruded from the back of my left hand, awaiting the drip of a sedative. A clip on the tip of my right index finger glowed red. (ET phone home.)
Patches with long wires adhered to my ankles, chest, and back. A machine atop an “Isolation Crash Cart” chirped. Beep. Beep. Beep. A monitor displayed numbers and a wavy line, the kind of line that goes flat when things go south, as in: YOU DIE.
I asked the sedation nurse if she knew who held the record for being dead the longest before resuscitation? She didn’t.
Would you like to know?
Velma Thomas of Nitro, West Virginia. She was dead for 17 hours.
Is that a joke?
No, I said. But would you like to hear a joke?
Sure. Why not?
A woman took her pet duck to the vet. Something’s wrong with my duck, she exclaimed.
The vet took one look and said: It’s dead.
Can’t be! Are you sure?
The vet pressed his stethoscope to the duck, shook his head and said: It’s definitely dead.
I can’t believe it. I’d like a second opinion.
The vet left the examining room and returned with a black lab. The dog sniffed the duck from head to tail, looked up at the vet and shook its head ruefully. It’s definitely dead, said the vet.
I don’t trust that dog’s opinion. Get another.
The vet left the room and returned with a cat. The cat sniffed the duck head to tail and then shook its head ruefully. Well, said the vet, that settles it. Your duck is absolutely, positively dead. I’m sorry.
The woman wept. The vet left her alone to grieve. After a spell he returned—with the bill.
What?! Two thousand and twenty dollars just to tell me my duck is dead?
Well, ma’am, my fee is only $20, but I had to charge for the lab test and cat scan as well.
The nurse groaned.
I got one more.
She hastily opened the valve.
The wavy line spiked in rhythm. My atrial fibrillation had been corrected with a 100-joule jolt.
I went home.
Heaven can wait.