|A Miami Beach landmark.|
|Michael, June and Waiter Doug at Joe's Crabs.|
I immediately disentangled myself from his warm arms and sat erect in the bed.
“It’s YOU?” I asked.
“It’s my defibrillator,” he said. “It does that every day at 9 a.m. It means it’s time to get a new battery.”
Seven years ago Michael suffered a heart attack. Because he is thin, a nonsmoker and nondrinker, at the time he thought he was getting the flu. The last thing either of us suspected was a heart attack. On that day he looked pretty awful and was uncharacteristically grouchy. I figured it was the flu. He was turning greener by the moment. A sheen of sweat covered his forehead. He felt cool and clammy to the touch. I noticed that when he tried to relax with a magazine, he held it upside down, and turned the pages as if it were a common thing to do. That’s when I insisted on a visit to the emergency room. It was a heart attack. We were helicoptered to Miami. Michael survived. He was installed with a defibrillator, which is kind of like having an emergency room in your chest. Should his heart skip a beat or two, that defibrillator delivers a shock that feels akin to being kicked in the chest by a mule. It’s quite an amazing setup. Its only flaw is that after five years or so, its battery needs to be changed out. That means a brief surgical procedure. And that’s why we were in Miami Beach last week — to have his battery changed out and silence that weird warning beep in his chest.
Apparently implanted defibrillators and pacemakers are not rare. Not long after Michael received his we were at a dinner party where two other guests confessed that they, too, sported defibrillators.
|They really look like this, too.|
By 11 a.m. the procedure was done and Michael was being discharged from the hospital. While we waited for paperwork, I thankfully entertained visions of heading away from the hospital, driving back to the hotel, and enjoying an afternoon nap before evening. But no. Michael was hungry. And because he was emerging from anesthesia, and his thinking was a bit askew, he was particularly suggestible.
“Is it OK for me to eat now?” he asked his cardiologist.
“Sure!,” his happy doctor said. “You should go to Joe’s Crabs on the beach and have the fried chicken. It’s only $5 and it’s delicious.”
I’m not even going to go into how I feel about a cardiologist telling a man with a heart condition to have himself a plate of fried chicken for lunch. Fried chicken is my Southern-bred husband’s favorite dish. Further, he’d missed breakfast. Finally, we were bone tired, having risen by 4:30 a.m. to be at the hospital by 6 that morning.
|Eating Key Lime Pie at Joe's three hours post-op.|
Joe’s really is a cool spot. You are greeted by men in white shirts and black bow ties, with impeccable service skills. We were seated on the patio. It was a glorious day, silky and breezy as only a March day in Florida can be. By that time of the day, there were no lines. Michael ordered fried chicken, which is $5.95 at lunchtime. He insisted that I have stone crab claws, as a reward for being such a good driver.
|The Cheesecake Factory.|
Driving out of Miami Beach was a whole lot easier than driving in. We stopped to pick up Michael’s pain meds. We were in a hotel by dark. Michael took a Tylenol with codeine and settled in front of the television for the news shows. I headed out to meet my friend Patty for a leisurely dinner. Yes, that’s right. Dinner! At the Cheesecake Factory we dined on the best macaroni and cheese imaginable.
To sum up our visit to Miami . . . Lunch at Joe's: $65. Dinner at the Cheesecake Factory: $40. An emergency room implanted in your heart: priceless.