But men and women are the same …

I’m gonna keep this short.

One of my neighbors is an older guy, a widower. He’s been in and out of the hospital for the better part of a decade. A couple of years ago, his wife died of lung cancer. He’s a good guy, keeps to himself, happy to chat in the driveway if both parties have the time; his son lives in a trailer across the park, divorced with shared custody.

Being an older guy, with aches and pains, it was only a matter of time, and I’ve been steeling myself for the news since he told me his wife had passed. Men typically don’t live much more than a few years after the death of their spouse, and his body was already giving up the ghost. Well, I don’t think the time has come just yet, but we’ve certainly just had a scare.

The wife woke me up this morning (she opens the daycare early), said an ambulance was in the way, and asked if I could sneak the van past it. My brain typically doesn’t wake up until about ten, so I hadn’t registered what she had said; but driving the van through delicate maneuvers I can do. Well, I get outside, and it’s obvious that no, I can fit big things through tight spaces and do it in a mirror, but this wasn’t gonna happen. And there was an ambulance in the neighbor’s drive.

Maybe I can get them to back up a couple of feet. There’s an ambulance. It’ll just take a moment. There’s a fucking ambulance … ah fuck …

So I get to his door, and he’s on the floor, the paramedics have him wrapped in a blanket and buckled up. Another neighbor, a young man, was on his way to work (walks) when he heard a crash and came to inspect (bless his heart; I talked the wife into giving him a lift after). They try asking my neighbor questions, he’s mumbling and incoherent from where I’m standing, at the door, at his feet. Stroke?

I’m now thinking fast, like molasses, answering what questions—asked of me—I can.

Stuff like, “Do you know anything about him?”

“Uhhh, not really.” Then, “I suppose I should go tell so-n-so.” And I walk away.

“Would he know anything?”

“Well, he’s the son.”

“Oh perfect.”

While I’m thinking about definitions of perfect, I see a fire truck pull up and four guys clamor out. That’s when it dawns on me: the two ambulance attendants were women. I bang on the son’s door, wide open due to hot summer days, I holler, “HOY, YOUR DAD’S GOING TO THE HOSPITAL ON A STRETCHER.” There’s not much else to say. Bangin’ and crashin’, he bursts from the trailer in shorts, trailing a shirt as he hops while securing his sandals.

We get back to the old guy’s place and the emergency services folk have him NOW strapped to a backboard and on a stretcher; I know the backboard was new because there were more buckles, of a different color, so the women of my rough build couldn’t even get him on the backboard. Okay, so I don’t know much about ambulance services and it’s been over two decades since I took emergency first aid, so I may be a little biased.

Thankfully we live in a sleepy city where I make jokes about juvenile candy bar theft when I see three cop cars at a store. But the old guy was about 250 pounds, and the paramedics required a fire truck (men) to come down and carry him a total of 50 feet; hell, he crashed in the kitchen, virtually at his front door. Whatever, he’s at the hospital by now; according to sound bites from the son, he’s been complaining of pain in his left arm for a couple of days now, so I guess that’s a heart attack?

It grinds my goat. Last year I did work for a former nurse, and she mentioned that nurses aren’t allowed to lift more than 50 pounds. I had asked her—because of the nature of our town—”What patient have you seen that’s under 50 pounds?” She shook her head. “What patient have you seen that’s under 100 pounds?” She snorted, so I asked, “What patient have you seen under 150 pounds?” The numbers just don’t make sense, until you hear the stories from male nurses, who wind up doing the “heavy lifting.”

But equal pay for equal work, right … RIGHT???

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