You're the Top...
New Year's Day is usually rough, but 2004 really did a number on me. The night before, 200 of my closest friends and I gathered at the HiTone for what had become a New Year's Eve tradition: Rocking in the new year with the Reigning Sound. A lot of my out-of-town friends were here for the show and a huge after-party with far too much champagne that lasted far too long. It was perfect.
I carefully made my way to the bathroom the next morning to get a visual on the damage. Smeared mascara and two angry-looking cherries where my eyes used to live blinked back at me. I grabbed some aspirin and curled into the fetal position on the couch, napping on and off for most of the afternoon, enjoying the quiet.
I realized that it had been entirely too quiet around 4 pm. Not one single call on my cell phone. I stumbled around the house for a bit, finally finding it in the closet (no idea), turned off. When it powered up, the message light was blinking.
You have seven new messages.
6 a.m. — Mary Helen, I'm calling from Baptist East Hospital. Your father was brought in this morning. He's had a heart attack. You'll want to get here as soon as you can.
7a.m. — Hi Mary Helen, this is Baptist again. You need to call us immediately.
7:30 a.m. — Mary Helen, it's Wayne. Dad's not doing good. You need to get up here. Where the hell are you?
My hands shook so violently I dropped the phone. I had four more messages to go, and I couldn't bring myself to listen. If my father had died I wasn't going to hear it in a voicemail. I raced to my car and was at the hospital in minutes.
He was in bad shape. Had been for hours, and he'd remain on shaky ground for a few more days. There was a blood shortage, and the last of his type had been used in an emergency surgery earlier that day. There wasn't a drop left. Two local TV stations were kind enough to let me go on air and plead for donors, and thankfully, people showed up at the Bloodmobile in droves.
For days, he'd waited for heart surgery, and for days after, he slowly, painfully recovered. It was one of the most frightening things I've ever been through. Though I was 30 years old at the time, the minute I stepped into the Intensive Care Unit and saw my football-coach father lying still and pale and thin, wires and IVs covering almost every part of him, I was a little girl again. And I was petrified.
My family spent a lot of time at that hospital, and I will never, ever forget any of the kindnesses we received from members of the staff. The nurses who looked the other way when we snuck in treats and covered us with blankets as we slept in turns in the chilly ICU family area. The doctor who found me crying at the end of a long hallway and walked down and put his arm around me, assuring me everything would be just fine. I'm sure he didn't have time for that, but he did it, and it comforted me immensely. And he was right, things would be fine. My dad is on a football field as I type this, barking instructions to his players with the same ferocity and vigor as always. We now laugh about which of us can party harder on New Year's Eve. Obviously, he trumps me with the heart-attack card every time. It's a contest I'm happy to lose.
I don't remember all their names, so I can't know if any of the doctors who went above-and-beyond during those terrifying days are included in this year's Top Doc's list. But I don't need anyone to tell me that they are top-notch doctors, or more importantly, people. For that, I am eternally grateful.