85-year-old drives his Plymouth to the diner out by the highway every night at seven where he eats his dinner, then walks back out the door and gets in his car to head home.
I stand by the open driver’s door and look at the man, who stares at me vacantly. His skin is cool and diaphoretic. “We may have a diabetic,” I say to my partner.
“He’s not a diabetic,” the waitress says. She stands by the front bumper smoking a cigarette. “Jolene, you ever hear him talk about being a diabetic?”
“No,” the other waitress says. “I’m a diabetic and he never said a thing to me about it. Besides, he just ate.”
“Good point,” I say, “Thanks.” To my partner, I say, “Let’s get him on the stretcher.”
We lift him out and set him down. While we strap him in, I ask the waitress if she noticed anything unusual about him tonight.
“He ate diner here like he does every night, steak, eggs and toast. He was his normal self, polite, small talk. He walked out to the car, and then we noticed he was still out here, so we come out to see if he was okay. He was just sitting there not responding to us so we called you.”
“So 15 minutes ago he was last seen at his norm?”
On the way to the hospital, I check his sugar (it’s part of our protocol) and of course it is fine. His right side is now flaccid. I call in a stroke alert and do my best to manage his airway when he throws up his dinner.
Later the doctor shows me the Cat Scan. It is not subtle. You can see the huge white lake on one side of the brain. The ED has a hard time finding out if the man has any family. They do reach his personal physician who relates the man has been estranged from his children for many years. Finally a message is left with a son in California.
After work, I think about heading out to the diner to let the waitresses there know how he is doing. I go home instead and sit down in the living room with a beer and close my eyes and let my head fill with the sounds of my family about me.