When I was 23 I was a manager at a tanning salon.
A lot of mornings I had to open the joint because well, it was hard to get anyone to show up at 6am to work. So. As manager I had to do it.
One morning shortly after arriving I wasn’t feeling well. In fact I felt the strangest I’d ever felt in my life. I got lightheaded and kinda dizzy…and the next thing I remember was opening my eyes and finding three people standing over me, one of them being an off duty fireman.
He asked, “Are you OK?”
“Yeah, I think so.” I said.
He told me he’d come out of the tanning room to find me lying on the floor, unconscious.
Someone else was on the phone with a 911 operator.
Minutes later an ambulance pulled up and paramedics thought it was a good idea that I go to the emergency room. So I did.
There, the ER doctor ran some tests. I peed in a cup. They took blood. Then they put wires all over my body and ran an EKG.
The ER doctor came back with some startling news. It appeared my EKG was abnormal. His diagnosis? Sudden Adult Death Syndrome.
What the what?
Two words caught my attention. Sudden. And death.
Plus, I’d never heard of such a thing. Was there such a thing? Was this guy really a doctor?
He gave me the print out of the EKG and told me I should probably see my regular doctor. Really. So let me get this straight. You’re telling me I’ve got a condition where I could stop living due to SUDDEN DEATH and you think I should see my regular doctor?
It was so weird. And unsettling.
I left the hospital and went home. I paced the floor for twenty minutes, trying to process the information I’d just been given.
I waited until after lunch to call my regular doctor. Dr. McDougall.
And I waited for this reason. Dr. McDougall was a lunatic. He was a grumpy old man who scared me a little. He yelled obscenities at his nurses, regularly cussed out patients, and was really, really tan. Like he had always just gotten back from the Bahamas, kind of tan.
But he was the family doctor. He saw my grandparents, my parents, and now me.
I made an appointment for early the next morning.
When I arrived at his office (with the EKG stuffed in my handbag), he saw me come in the door and motioned for me to come on back. The nurse stopped him and said, “She hasn’t signed in yet, Doctor. And there are several patients ahead of her.”
“I don’t give a good goddamn about any of that. I told her to come on back. You just mind your own business, you got it?”
She rolled her eyes at him and walked away. She was used to this behavior. They all were. And at that moment I was so terrified I nearly peed my pants. But I didn’t. I’m not stupid. You think I want him yelling at me?
I followed Dr. McDougall back to a room and he shut the door behind him. He motioned for me to get on the exam table, so I obeyed. Naturally.
His tanned face went from stern to grandfatherly. “What’s going on with you today, Dolly?”
I cleared my throat in hopes my voice wouldn’t fail me. “Well, I fainted at work yesterday and when I went to the emergency room the doctor told me that my EKG was abnormal and that I have something called Sudden Adult Death Syndrome.”
He said nothing. He just sat there staring at me. It was like an eternity. It was also the first time I believed my diagnosis. I thought I was going to die. Right there on the examination table.
“Do you have this EKG with you?”
“Yes sir.” I pulled it out of my bag and handed it to him.
“You say you went to the hospital?”
“And some motherfuckin crackpot told you you had some cockamamey made up disease?”
“Take off your shirt.”
“Your shirt. Take it off. And your bra too.”
I don’t know why but I did what I was told. I didn’t dilly dally either. I had my clothes off in less than ten seconds.
“There! Right there!” (He was pointing directly at my chest)
I looked down to see his index finger about four inches from my right nipple.
“You’re not going to die. You’re pregnant.”
“Pregnant? What are you talking about? How do you know?”
“Look at the size of those nipples. Those are the nipples of a pregnant woman. You fainted because you’re pregnant. Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, my ass. I ought to go over to the hospital and punch that so-called doctor square in the mouth. Idiot.”
“Did I stutter? Pregnant. Now put your clothes on and find you a good obstetrician. And make sure he or she is qualified to boil water. Not like that asshole who told you your EKG was abnormal. If your EKG was any more normal you’d be Jesus Christ. Have a nice day.”
He opened the door then and yelled down the hall, “This little girl in here is pregnant and needs the name of a good obstetrician. Can one of you chatterboxes take care of that or do I have to do everything around here?”
And that’s how I found out I was pregnant.