We went to Pearl’s Crabtown to get dinner before going to Video Games Lives (review to come). There was a large family near by having a good time. At some point, I heard a loud sound and for a split moment, I was very annoyed. I glanced over at the big family and people were on their feet moving. For a split second, I considered that they were dancing, but it was only a fraction of a second as my brain moved on to other possibilities. They are having a good time, but so similar to that is the sound of panic. The lady yelled out and I thought to myself “how rude”.
I looked closer. There was a woman who’s face was in distress and two other women with tight fists around her, struggling. My first instinct was, are they fighting? “IS THERE A DOCTOR? PLEASE HELP!” In those seconds that followed I realized she was having a heart attack and those were her family holding her close. In a matter of less than a minute, I processed different scenarios as the events unfolded. I was hyper aware and yet trapped in my rapidly assessing mind.
I pulled out my phone and dialed 911. Surprisingly, I was put on hold. It wasn’t that long, much less than a minute, but it felt too long. What really bothered me was when I got someone and explained that we needed an ambulance, she said she needed to transfer my call. WHY?! Just dispatch an ambulance!! I don’t even know what to say. On top of that, I had to spend time finding the address that I didn’t know. I guess “Pearl’s Crabtown in Bricktown, downtown Oklahoma City” wasn’t enough for the operator to find the address. I snatched a waiter and got the address fairly quickly. However the whole process wasn’t very efficient. I felt like we wasted valuable time while this woman was having a heart attack in front of us.
After the call, the EMT’s showed up almost instantly. I didn’t know her, but I teared up. I felt myself worrying about her. I thought about her all through out dinner. It was hard not to stare and watch her family, because I felt so much compassion and wanted to know they were okay. I wanted to tell them that I was wishing her well, but I didn’t want to bother them. I saw one of the girls crying and I so badly wanted to give her a hug. My husband tried to refocus my attention on dinner conversation, but I felt so strange about it. Someone is dying, or almost died, and we just go back to talking like nothing happened? It didn’t feel right. Our conversation was a mix and match of mundane conversation laced with thoughts of death, sadness, and well wishing for someone we didn’t know. Now that I think about it, my husband never commented on it. It was like I’d say something about what happened, and he’d reply with food topics. It was odd, but we rolled with it. We both dealt with the emotion in our own way.
In times of extreme stress, my anxiety manifests in a very specific way. After several minutes, I’m not sure how long, they finally moved the woman out of the restaurant. I thought it was odd that the family continued to have dinner. Personally, I’d have gone to the hospital. Around this time, the effects kicked in. I felt cold and my teeth chattered lightly. I was shivering a little and twitching… but it was relatively mild in comparison to other high stress anxiety episodes. The uneven and messy cement work on the walls began to irritate me… because my obsessive compulsiveness gets stronger when I’m stressed enough.
Fortunately, it didn’t last long. I was exited to go to the concert. It was hard to get past the awkwardness of not being able to really do anything about this woman having a heart attack. Sure, I called 911, but the sense of helplessness gnawed at me. The thoughts of “what if” crossed my mind. 911 plays out differently in real life than it does in my mind. I didn’t know her, but I cried, I worried, and I hope for her recovery. Facing mortality is not an easy thing, especially when you are empathetic.
This is the heart of mortal anxiety.