03 Jul 2022

Getting to the heart of the matter

This Life

This Life by Gerry Moran

It’s that time of year again – Valentine time when hearts are bursting out all over: big hearts, small hearts, pink hearts, red hearts, frilly hearts, silly hearts – hearts, hearts, everywhere.

February is definitely the month of the heart. Which brings me to the heart of the matter – MY heart and my first ambulance ride!

I awoke a few days ago with a tightness in my chest. A tightness in the chest (at my age) is a red flag, a flag redder than any heart emblazoned across Valentine cards across the country and across the globe.

Indigestion I thought at first but when the tightness didn’t depart – I departed tout de suite for my GP and before you could say Cardiovascular Unit I was out in St Luke’s doing time, ie waiting.

Waiting, waiting, waiting (what did I expect, says you?) Godot, I thought, would turn up sooner than a doctor! Between hopping and trotting and waiting and after several consultations with the friendliest, most accommodating, and most professional nurse, and a charming doctor (all the way from Columbia) I was ‘consigned’, so to speak, to bed. A ward bed.

But not ‘just like that’ to quote the late, great Tommy Cooper. It took a while, a long while. A long HSE while. Eventually a bed was found and I guess I was grateful not to be lying prostrate on a trolley!

Lying in bed I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself, not just because of the waiting, but because I may have had a heart attack and was off to Dublin in the morning for an angiogram (a sort of heart scan) in an ambulance!

An ambulance to Dublin! That wasn’t on my bucket list. After some scrambled eggs, tea and toast, from a lovely and friendly lady, I resigned myself to my fate.

Indeed each and every one of the staff, nurses, doctors and tea-ladies, who visited me could not have been more attentive, not least Hilary who, on studying the name, Gerard Moran, over my bed, wondered if by any chance I was Gerry Moran from the Kilkenny People?

I could not tell a lie and I won’t tell you what Hilary said next because I’m too modest! However, should we ever cross paths in a public house, as opposed to a public hospital Hilary, it’s not tea I’ll be reciprocating with but a large G&T.

The ambulance arrived at noon. I had no idea what to expect. Now I have travelled to Dublin by bus, by train, by automobile and, in my UCD student days, by thumb.

But I’m telling you here and now, and this is the God’s honest truth, this was the best journey ever to the capital. I swear.

First off Brenagh and Robbie, the ambulance staff, could not have been friendlier and more professional.

From the moment they strapped - that’s right, strapped - me (necessary procedure even though I could have walked, run even to the ambulance – really, Gerry?) to the stretcher (a gurney?) I felt in very safe hands.

A bit embarrassing, however, being wheeled through the corridors of the hospital in public view hoping to Christ you don’t see anyone you know. ‘Jesus, is that Gerry Moran on that stretcher? Is he dead or alive?’

The journey kicked off with Brenagh’s name – which I’d never heard of before. Brenagh from County Mayo, Coillte Mach to be precise, so called because her dad wanted an Irish version of the English Brenna. Was dad English? No. A Mayo man? No. Dad was German! As was her mother! Conundrum or what? And how did they end up in Mayo, in Coillte Mach of all places? A long, well a longish, story. And what was Brenagh’s surname? Wait for it. Schrickleman!

That initiated one engaging conversation about family, Hitler, religion, cooking (her dad was a chef) meditation and more, punctuated by regular pulse checking and blood pressure monitoring, all the way to Dublin. A bag of bulls eyes and it would have been the perfect day out!

Time, quite simply, flew by.

As Brenagh and Robbie, a Dub, and a first class driver who knew all the shortcuts in, and out, of Dublin, returned me to Luke’s – I told them that I wouldn’t mind travelling with them again.

“We’d love to have you, Gerry,” they said, “but we don’t want to see you again and you don’t want to see us.”

And on that note we hugged, shook hands and said our goodbyes. Oh, and the best part of all – the angiogram proved positive, my heart is okay (for now) and ready to celebrate another Valentine’s Day!

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