Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Heart Stopping

A few days ago, Amanda looked up from her latest copy of Vogue and announced it was very probable she was having a heart attack.
            As provocative statements go, saying you are having a heart attack ranks way up there with “I’m divorcing your father!” It also stops conversation faster than you can say, “My mother’s buah keluak is better than your third grand aunt’s”.
            Saffy immediately ended her phone call to Sharyn, dropped her phone, and gasped dramatically, her hands flying to her formidable chest. “What? Why? How?” she cried.
            Amanda paused. You could tell she was a little pleased that, for once, she was the centre of everyone’s attention.
            “Well, my chest hurts every time I take a breath. Like, it really hurts!”
            Saffy sucked in her breath and looked sideways at me. “How long has this been going on?”
            “Since yesterday afternoon. It’s just been getting worse. I couldn’t sleep on my side last night as it really hurt to breathe! My God, I might be dying!” Amanda’s eyes immediately moistened.
            Within a few minutes, Saffy had piled us all into a cab and we were zooming towards Mount Elizabeth’s A+E.
            “Why didn’t you tell us sooner about your heart attack!” Saffy shouted at Amanda.
            “Well,” Amanda began, “I’m not exactly sure…”
            The taxi driver’s eyes bulged in the rear view mirror. “Hah? Young lady, you have heart attack, issit?”
            “Well…” Amanda began again.
            “She’s dying!” Saffy yelled. “Step on it!”
            “You don’t worry!” said Hassan grimly. I know it was Hassan because I noticed his taxi driver badge on the dashboard. It’s strange the details one picks up in moments of heightened stress. “I get you there. You just make sure you wear your seat belt!”
            Even now, looking back on that taxi ride, it feels as if the whole thing took about five minutes. It was like a spy movie scene where the computer nerd takes control and keeps all the traffic lights green as the heroes race across town with a ticking time bomb that must be thrown into the Hudson River so that it can explode harmlessly.
            I remember we came to a screeching halt at the hospital, though, on reflection, the screeching might have been Saffy hollering for someone to help her friend who was having a heart attack.
            Amanda was whisked away leaving Saffy and me to fill in the paperwork for her.
            When she handed over the forms to the reception, Saffy reached across the desk and grabbed the nurse’s hands. “You must help her. You cannot let her die!” she said, every pore in her body radiating the kind of desperation one normally associates with an African orphan child encountering Angelina Jolie or Madonna for the first time.
            We sat in the waiting room, wedged between a teenager who kept scratching his arms and an elderly auntie who sneezed nonstop into an increasingly soggy handkerchief.
            “It’s very likely we’re going to die from a superbug,” Saffy whispered to me. I sat there wishing I’d brought along my facemask.
            “Don’t touch anything,” I told her.
            “I already touched the pen when I was filling in the forms,” Saffy said. “Oh God, we’ll need to burn all our clothes when we get home.”
            By the time Amanda emerged, we had both ratcheted up our hypochondriac tendencies to such a degree we were convinced we were patients zero for a virus that would wipe out all life on earth.
            “Why are you walking around?” Saffy demanded. “Shouldn’t you be hooked up to an EKG or be having a chest X-ray at the very least?”
            Amanda looked embarrassed and hustled us out of A+E towards the taxi stand.
            “No really, what did the doctor say?” Saffy insisted.
            Amanda avoided eye contact and fidgeted with her handbag. She mumbled something.
            Saffy glanced at me and then looked back. “What?”
            “The doctor said…” Amanda began in a louder voice. She paused. “The doctor said…OK, don’t get mad, but he said…he said I’d pulled a chest muscle during Pilates.”
            Silence descended like a collapsing soufflé. You could tell Saffy was struggling between relief and outrage.
            “He said this sort of thing happens all the time when you do a reverse fly,” Amanda went on desperately.
            Saffy breathed deeply. “Pilates?” she said finally. “I thought you were dying!”
            Leave it to Sharyn to put things into perspective the next day when Saffy rang her to complain.
            “You see, lah, dis is why I don’t exercise!” she said. “Do Pilates, sah-dun-ly, can get heart attack! So suay!”
            “Well, technically, she pulled a chest muscle,” Saffy pointed out.
            “Still must go to hospital, right? So same same, lah!”

            Saffy says it’s a miracle of genetics that Sharyn ever had children.

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