Tuesday, December 12, 2006

If it isn't one thing it's another

Never, ever ask "What else can happen??" unless you really want to know.

So, last night on my way home from my food pantry shift, I swerved to make room for emergency equipment and hit a curb and wrecked a tire on my van. Limped home. This morning the city came and inspected and found that, yes, my sewer tap is broken. And no, I do not qualify for DURA money to help with the repair. Too many assets. OK. Fair enough, because that money really *should* be for people who are hurting badly, and God only knows there are plenty of them.

AAA came and swapped the busted tire for the donut, and I dropped the busted tire at the tire place, and I took the bus to the shop to get the other car out. Here's a lovely tale: the reason the "Check Engine" light was on was because the battery was failing. (The "battery" light never came on, of course.) And there really is nothing they can do to check the electrics because there was no problem when they tested things out. So they replaced the battery under warranty. OK, now, this is the car with the power doorlocks that, on the passenger side, are possessed. And this is also the car that had the *last* battery replaced last March AFTER IT WENT TOTALLY FLAT AND COULD NOT BE RECHARGED. A pattern. Which do *you* think is more likely?? Two bad batteries in a row or an electrical problem? Also, I asked them to check the right rear tire which was low. And call me if action was needed. No call. When I picked it up, I paid and walked out front where the car was supposed to be. And looked into the shop, where I saw two guys putting air into the right rear tire. When questioned, the man who brought the car round told me that, yes, they'd checked it earlier and there wasn't a nail in it or anything so it has a slow leak so all that can be done (!!!) is replace the tire. And it's a *slow* leak so it probably won't be flat for two or three days (!!!!!!) They didn't think this warranted a call before I came to pick up the car. Soooooo, when I got the new tire put on the van this evening, I made an appointment at the tire place for the car on Thursday morning (unless either the tire has flattened or the intermittent electrical problem has caused the battery to fail again, oh joy). Then, once each vehicle has four functioning wheels, I will make an appointment to take the van in for its Check Engine light diagnostic. And I am praying that they will not find anything ghastly expensive wrong. I am also praying that the eedjits who had the van for three full weeks over the summer for repairs that should have taken less than one week did not mess anything up. I would put nothing past them. (It was a dealership, which *closed* abruptly shortly after I finally got the van back.)

I am really tired and my sense of humor about all this is getting a little loopy. When I was talking to the sewer contractor to whom I have been recommended, I scheduled an appointment for an estimate for tomorrow. The contractor had some folks who could have done it today, but I explained about the two broke cars and told him I expected the telephone to explode momentarily. It hasn't yet, but I am wary.

Food pantry ministry is wonderful fun and I am in awe of how this group of volunteers, so many of whom are themselves facing tremendous obstacles in life, have got a system going and have built familial relationships while working very hard to serve their clients. Actually, all the volunteers I've worked with so far are themselves clients, and they have been most gracious to me. They've been good teachers partly because they're so proud of their work (and with good reason). And, truly, there is something elementally satisfying about filling an order and handing someone a sack with the groceries they've chosen from the list, and thanking the person for coming, and wishing them a good week. I think I am definitely more cut out for the "trenches" of direct service than for the equally demanding but different "trenches" of management.

We did have a truly terrifying moment when one client collapsed with an acute asthma attack. The client had been having breathing problems triggered by weather change and I think coming in from the dry cold to the dry heat just tipped things from "problem" to "crisis;" the client fell down hard, and everyone started running to assist. Client didn't have an inhaler, hadn't been able to find it, but luckily I had mine, so I ran to the car and got it. Someone called 911. I swear, I thought we were going to lose this person on the spot--deeply flushed face and almost agonal respirations--but after about 15 hits of albuterol in about 10 minutes, by the time the paramedics arrived the client was sitting up with support and was able to speak a few words at a time. The client wanted to just walk home but the treating paramedic warned that the risk of death (yes, that's what he said) was still substantial without further treatment, and after a few minutes to think it over and some encouragement from friends who were there, the client agreed to transport to the nearest hospital. Paramedics would not allow the client to walk to the ambulance, even with assistance, for fear the airway would start to close again. So the poor client got rolled out on a stretcher, receiving oxygen, and never did get groceries (though the volunteers will help with that during the week if need be). Not the way anyone wants an evening to go. Client had not wanted an ambulance and one very zealous volunteer was shouting "Don't call 911" on the basis of supporting the client's wishes. I said, forcefully, that calling wasn't a choice. It's one thing if someone gets clear information from a medical professional who is capable of assessing the risk, and then chooses to decline treatment. That's awful enough to cope with, but declining even to be examined, while under care of our church in some way, is not something we can let happen. Especially not when a person can't think clearly because NO OXYGEN IS GETTING TO THE BRAIN. I hope the poor client had a short stay in the ER with some good breathing treatments and is resting safe at home now with medication.


No, I don't want to know what else can happen.


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