Friends new and old

I spent a few primetime hours in the emergency room last night.

There has been a nefarious flipflopping in the vicinity of my ticker over the past few days, and when the frequency of the internal acrobatics reached sub-minute intervals—recorded much like timing contractions, only without the pain, and adding the joy of a stethoscope—I decided it was best to take a little trip with my lovely husband. A date, so to speak, down the halls of Menomonie’s finest (and only) emergency services department. What better way to spend the eve of the living room Christmas tree elevation? I grabbed a hunk of turkey and a slice of cheesecake and we were off.

Thankfully, there weren’t many people suffering from food comas on the Saturday following Thanksgiving to clog up the ER. We enjoyed the fluorescent interrogation lights of the hospital for less than three hours.

And in those three hours, the world got a little smaller.

I admit to certain preferences in my life, and living that life beyond city walls, out in the natural spaces of the country is certainly one of them. But I am not ignorant of the blessings of community.

We are perched on a wooded hill just three miles from the nearest metropolis, a term which here means a town of 1163 souls. This is not where the emergency services department was to be found.

Twenty miles further down the road is a notably bigger dot on the map, boasting closer to 17,000, during that blink-or-you’ll-miss-it sweet spot of months where school is in at the local university and the snowbirds are back in town basking up the spring sun in winter parkas. This is a town that can support, through the college population alone, a hospital and ER.

To Menomonie we went last eve, my heart all aflutter.

Once triaged into the inner sanctum, we were greeted in record time by two EMTs and an EKG.

The first face through the door was Nick, an EMT from our neck of the woods in Colfax. Nick was on scene the day our youngest collapsed in the kitchen years ago. He was at the helm of the gurney that wheeled Grandma out to the hospital one scary Thanksgiving past. And he was on the bench beside me two winters back as we watched our kiddos lap the pool for two hours each and every evening at swim team practice. It was good to see his black goatee striding in to measure my heartbeats.

Hot on Nick’s heels was Katy, working through her practicals and reaching for her advanced EMT status with each beat of my kerflopping heart. Katy has been a regular face in our lives for years, showing up at theatrical performances and musical events aplenty, sharing close space with many of our close friends. It was going to be a party, for sure.

Nick and Katy jawed sweetly while they hooked me up, taking a few notches off the stress-o-meter. Their EKG caught an act or two of my cardio show on paper, and Nick shortly wheeled their circus back out the door with a wave. Katy stuck around to regale me with a barrage of questions to further her studies. In the interest of science. What a nice little reunion.

Then Nurse Tom came in. Finally an unfamiliar face. But not for long. Tom attended to the business of my heart, but quickly spied my cross and asked if I was Orthodox. Why, yes, yes I am.

“Well. Small world. I drive by an Orthodox Church every day on my way to and from work.”


It should be noted that there aren’t many Orthodox churches around here outside of the Twin Cities. But despite my church being nearly an hour from my home, and from Menomonie, Nurse Tom indeed drives by our little onion dome in the sticks on every day’s commute. He grew up with the folks I worship with, cavorted with my choir director, has partaken of the renowned cabbage rolls. What are the chances?

But wait. There’s more…

Until 4 years ago, Nurse Tom worked in Barron, closer to his own home and my own church. With whom, you ask? With none other than my decade-long buddy Dr. Rick, pyrotechnics expert of our homeschooling group. Can you feel the planet shrinking?

Looking to wow me, Tom intoned, “Ah, but did you know that Dr. Rick was once a dancer?”


Yes, yes I did. I’ll see you your ‘once a dancer’ and raise you an “Ah, but did you know he’s still a Morris dancer?”


And, hey Katy, don’t you…

“Yeah, I play music for his Morris dance group all the time.” And the circle is complete. Tom is in awe (probably mostly that any man over twenty, much less fifty, can manage the workout that is Morris), and Rick is confirmed as the world’s humblest man.

And while I was being wheeled off to get my chest x-rayed (and watching my inter-rib gymnastics play out in bright green waves on the portable monitor in my lap), Scott further learned that Nurse Tom is a fellow Volunteer Firefighter. They share an affinity for barn fires. Who knew?

Dr. Whatsisname (Dommer? Demmler? Diamler?), unfortunately, couldn’t be drawn into our little round of Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon, but still managed to connect and top off the evening with his uncanny ability to read me and speak my language. I can’t say as I’ve ever had so much fun in the ER.

In the midst of our bedside conversations about mindfulness and keeping an eye on my heart, I looked past my new friend Dr. Whatsit, and saw that I’ve truly found my place in the world. This community is something special. And I am grateful to be here, where that world is still small. A Thanksgiving miracle, leftovers and all.

As for the thumper in my chest, it seems it’ll keep on tickin.’ All signs lead to me having a long, happy life, though questionably pocked with internal Morris dances of my very own, for my private entertainment. I’ll strap on a fancy monitor for a few days this week, and lay all fears of a cardiac explosion to rest. I can’t wait.

If you need me, I’ll be the one with the wires dragging through the cranberry sauce,

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