We found her lying on the floor, almost under her bed in her second floor apartment. Her niece, who lived on the third heard some rumbling downstairs at around seven, then silence, but that isn't out of the ordinary on a Sunday morning, up at seven, coffee and the paper till ten, then off to mass.
The hour of mass came and went, with no stirring downstairs. knocks on the door went unanswered, and she didn't answer her phone. Privacy was important to her, so they waited. Around noon, they couldn't wait any longer. Downstairs, a close friend had the key, so they climbed the stairs and opened the door, looked around and found her, unable to speak clearly or stand.
"Rescue 5 and Engine 9, respond to Trenton Street for a woman down."
Providence is a historic place with a lot of historic homes, this particular one built in the early 1800's. There are plaques on most of the homes that line the narrow streets, telling anybody who is interested who built it, who owned it, and when it was built. I always take note when passing through the threshold, and think about how much living took place behind the facade.
Southern yellow fir flooring, probably original met newer knotty pine, all polished and gleaming, giving the place a rustic, homey vibe. Her place was immaculate, but showed her personality as well, books here and there, pictures of family everywhere, tickets to a Broadway show under a magnet on the refrigerator, a colander in the kitchen with lots of dates penciled in.
The lady under the bed groaned when I touched her, and some drool dripped from the side of her mouth when she tried to speak. I dragged her to an open space, checked for signs of trauma, found none, asked her to squeeze my fingers when I put them in both of her hands and waited. First nothing, then a good grip from her right side. That, coupled with her drooping left side of her face confirmed things, and I started to put the times together in my head, hoping she was a candidate for TPA, which just might restore function enough to enjoy the life she had made for herself after her husbands passing a few years ago.
I wonder sometimes what will happen to those I leave behind should my stay here be cut short. Life insurance covers the financial part, but what of the rest? This woman, whose chance for a good, normal life dwindled every minute had established herself, and was doing what every husband hopes his surviving wife will do. She had a beautiful second floor apartment with family above and friends below, an active social life, and people who cared about her. Her condition rapidly deteriorated while enroute to the ER, slipping into unconsciousness just before she arrived. They decided that she wasn't a candidate for the clot breaking therapy that could have helped so much had she gotten in a little earlier.
She was sixty-eight.
Life just isn't fair.