During the eighteen months my mother was dying of cancer, the time from her diagnosis of lung cancer to the time she died, I was her principal caregiver. It was a time of hardship for both of us, but not without an occasional diversion.

My mother was an intelligent and determined, I might even say stubborn woman--and completely unwilling to give in. One day, past halfway through this period, she fell. We had been prepared for what would happen, the details of the pathology are not necessary here, except to say a fall was not a good sign. All the worse, she would walk around the apartment, and wouldn't accept my assistance. So, she fell.

I called her oncologist, who told me to get her to the hospital quickly. Now, this was a problem, because I don't drive, have never had a car--and even if I did, and had one, there was no way I could carry her, because that is what it required to get her there.

So I called the emergency services to get an ambulance. I told them who her doctor was, and that she told me to bring her in. They went through their protocol: They asked if my mother were breathing. Yes. They asked if she had lost consciousness. No. They asked if she were bleeding. No.

So they decided she was in no imminent danger, and could wait until they weren't busy. I felt like jumping out of my skin--I did a lot then--but there wasn't anything I could do.

Several hours later, the ambulance came; it came quietly, and surprised me with its arrival. The technicians--a younger woman, and an older man--came in to take my mother out. It was hard seeing her like that, and they had an unsympathetic manner that upset me more. They wouldn't let me ride with her in the back.

They said there was no room, and I would have to ride up front with the man. They were very brusque, the woman in particular, and it soon became clear why. The questions the driver asked, it became obvious they thought I was abusing her, and that was why she "fell".

I told him in great detail of her medical history, and prognosis, who her doctor was, and all the minute aspects of her life that had become so familiar to me. Eventually, I convinced him it was as I said. He told me, however, that they had a certain protocol they must follow in the circumstances we presented. It even seemed to me it was his age--a lucky happenstance for me--that allowed him to relent from his harsh attitude, no doubt formed from much unpleasant experience; in the state I was in, I was grateful.

Nevertheless, I was still not permitted to see my mother when we arrived. More protocol. Her oncologist was called. And I waited.

Eventually, I was permitted to see her. And we spent more time waiting for a bed to be prepared; she was admitted and spent time in hospital after that. She didn't die this time, and came home after her stay. . .that time.

Waiting together, we compared notes on our ride. I told her of my experience, and she told me of hers: the woman treated her as if she had been abusing her medication; old people, my mother sardonically observed, must always seem to the young to be addled.

What a pair we were, exceptions to protocol.

It was so funny; we could only laugh.

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