My advice? Take an ambulance.

No sooner had my vertigo abated than my mother called to say that Dad’s doctor wanted him admitted to St. Elizabeth’s, a hospital in Brighton that is home to a doctor who is an expert in the illness the original doctor suspected. Dad didn’t want to go by ambulance, and Mom wanted help navigating, so she said she would swing by to pick me up. While I waited, I typed the address for the hospital into my GPS and asked it to simulate the route so that I would have an idea of where we were going. In a strange, prescient move, I was starting to copy the directions onto a piece of paper when my parents arrived. I jumped into the backseat and we headed for the highway.

“Here,” I said, leaning over the front seat, “plug my GPS into your cigarette lighter.”

“It doesn’t work,” Mom replied.

Doesn’t work? Then how the hell were we going to find the hospital?

“The doctor said there were signs for the hospital all over the place,” she assured me.  “And my tablet is in the back.” I unbuckled my seat belt, turned around, and got onto my knees to scavenge in the way back. Facing backwards in a moving vehicle is a no-no when you get carsick. I grabbed the tablet and sat back down as quickly as I could.

I’ve mentioned before that my mom is a consumer watchdog. She rarely buckles to marketing pressure; instead she researches her purchases carefully before committing. Consequently, her tablet is not an iPad. I had no idea how to turn it on, much less find the mapping application. Staring at screens on your lap is another bad idea if you tend to get carsick, but I stuck with it even as my stomach churned. I don’t know if it was me or the non-iPad, but I couldn’t get it to work. Mom and I both knew the general direction of Brighton, but we were going to need more than that very soon. We were running out of runway.

“Mom, I can’t get the map on this to work. If you pull over, we can trade. I’ll drive, you navigate.” My mother, the best map reader this side of anywhere, didn’t seem to hear me.

I grabbed my scrap of paper and read, “Right Greenough Boulevard, right Birmingham Parkway.”  Phew. We were saved. Or not. At the end of Greenough Boulevard it became clear that some critical direction was missing.  Mom tossed a couple of paper maps over her shoulder at me. I unfolded the first one and stared down, willing the contents of my stomach to stay where they were. I saw Boston, Cambridge and Brookline, but no Brighton.

“Mom? Do you want to switch?” I heard muttering and assumed she was ruing her decision to sign me on as co-pilot. Suddenly, a sign for North Beacon Street appeared.

“Take it! Take it!” I shouted. I knew it went somewhere I would recognize eventually. Besides, there would be signs for the hospital, right? Wrong on both counts.  I considered panicking, but Dad never betrayed the slightest bit of unease. I figured if he wasn’t upset, I could remain calm. Then I panicked.

“Pull over!” I jumped out of the car and yelled to a young guy on the street, “Where’s St. Elizabeth’s?”

“Sorry,” he shrugged. “I’m not from here.”

Back in the car, drive another block. Where are all the signs? Then, “Pull over!” I leap out and charge into a convenience store. “Quick! Where’s the emergency room for St. E’s?”

“Take a left and drive! You’ll see it.”

Less than a mile down the street we saw it alright, sitting in the middle of an intersection where we had to take a left or a right. We went to the left. We should have gone to the right. We tried to drive around the block. How hard could that be you ask? Without signs? Pretty freakin’ hard! One more panicked plea for help to a double-parked UPS truck got us to the entrance of the emergency room. We surrendered the car to valet parking, grabbed a guy with a wheelchair, and rolled Dad in.

Dad’s fine now, although we did spend almost a week driving back and forth to Brighton. It turns out that when you know where you’re going, St. Elizabeth’s isn’t all that hard to find. But don’t ask me for directions.


8 responses to “My advice? Take an ambulance.

  1. What a nightmare. I’ll remember this the next time my gps fails when I have to get somewhere not as critical. My cousin from Germany just navigated for 5 weeks in the Western U.S. without a GPS. Have no idea how he did it. Okay, he had a big book map guide. And when he got to Berkeley, which was too small for his map he…asked directions. When I expressed my amazement he said, “Wir sind Deutsch, nicht dumm.” (We’re German, not dumb.)

  2. OMG! I feel for you on this ride from hell for help!
    I had to take my mom to the ER in Needham but luckily she lived across the street. I wheeled her across the street in her own wheelchair. 5 hours later we were in an ambulance to get her to the BI in Boston. I asked if I could follow the ambulance, but they said no, because they would be traveling with their lights on and crossing through intersections that I couldn’t follow! I headed down Route 9 from Rt 128 onto Brookline Avenue. The old BI was what I was looking for, but they’d merged with the Deaconess. So the emergency room was way off Brookline Avenue. Then I had to suffer the parking fees in their parking garage! Yikes….feel your pain! Hope your dad is better! XO

  3. This is an example of why we have ambulances. I am glad your father is okay.

  4. And this is why I love smartphones. I only have to say, “Take me to . . . ” and I get step by step directions to wherever. I use it all the time. Do you know how much it costs to take an ambulance? I think your father knew he wasn’t in eminent danger. So glad things worked out.

  5. Pingback: The family needs Critical Care, too | Everywhere I Go

  6. Quite an adventure. One additional piece of info. If it is an emergency, the ambulance probably won’t take you to the hospital of your choice. My experience is that they are required to take you to the closest hospital. The solution? Avoid emergencies!

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