I clasped my hands tighter and tried to keep myself from trembling as I sat between the two paramedics.
“Do you want to go really fast?” asked the driver. I nodded, not sure why he was asking me. “How about the sirens? Should we make them loud?” I nodded again. Why was he asking me that? He was the driver, those were his decisions to make, not mine.
The other paramedic asked me how old I was. “Twelve,” I answered.
“And you speak Russian?” I nodded.
“Your English is great! How long have you lived in America?” I shrugged. Why do they keep talking to me?
“That’s really neat! I wish I knew two languages! You know that you can be a professional interpreter? They make really good money! You’re the youngest interpreter I’ve ever met!” He sounded impressed, but I couldn’t tell for sure.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see cars flashing by as the ambulance raced to the hospital.
“Is…is my dad gonna be OK?” I asked quietly. My knuckles clenched harder than I thought possible.
“That’s why we’re taking him to the hospital. There are some very good doctors who will take a few tests to find out what’s going on.”
The emergency room was ready for my dad. A nurse was talking through each step that she took. I wasn’t paying too much attention because my dad had regained his consciousness and there was no need to interpret anything. He looked helpless and kept offering me a weak smile each time I looked at his face. I jerked with a start when the nurse mentioned drawing blood. That I could not handle, even if someone else was getting the procedure done. The ominous-looking needle, the outstretched arm, and the strong sanitized smell of the hospital was almost too much. Shifting my seat loudly, I turned my head and closed my eyes.
Earlier that evening, the whole family had been gathered in the living room for the daily devotional time. We usually sang a song or two and prayed. My favorite part was when each person got to choose a random number and my dad would read that verse if that number was available from the page of the Bible that he’d selected. The goal among the siblings was to choose a verse that wasn’t on the page so that another choice could be made. Most choices = winner. It didn’t take much to entertain us. All of a sudden my dad yelped and grabbed his leg. “Help! My leg! Something’s happening!” and he fell with his back to the floor and stopped moving.
My mom lifted her third-trimester belly and shuffled over, calling his name, shaking him, trying to get him to wake up. All the kids froze, just momentarily, then chaos took over. Some began to wildly jump around, others cry, and since we were in prayer position, still others began praying really loudly. In absolute panic I sprinted to my parents’ room and grabbed the phone. It took several attempts before my fingers landed on the 3 digits correctly and the line began to ring.
“9-1-1, what is your emergency?”
One of the most dreadful feelings is when you need help, but you can’t request it. The words weren’t coming out of my mouth. It was like a bad dream.
“Hello? Hello? Is anybody there?”
“Ah! Ah! Help!” I croaked. It wasn’t easy trying to force words out and breath at the same time. “My dad. Help! Ah…Dying? Please help!”
God bless her heart; the operator told me to take a few deep breaths and began asking questions that I could answer with one or two words and the next thing I knew, she told me to go unlock the door because an ambulance had arrived and they needed to come inside. It wasn’t just an ambulance, there were police cars and fire trucks too. The commotion brought out all the curious neighbors. The medics tried to figure out what happened. I heard the word “seizure” a few times.
Since my mom’s English speaking skills were limited, I was the person to accompany my dad to the hospital.
I heard my dad call my name. I turned my head. His smile wasn’t fooling me for one second. “They’re done with the blood draw. Everything will be fine, you’ll see,” he said.