I wrote this mini memoir for submission to a magazine that specified very few words!
I was a young, divorced mother of two small children when a life-threatening seizure landed me in Pittsburgh's Montefiore Hospital, fifty miles from my home. I had always been healthy; now suddenly I was praying I would live to raise my kids. My mother was tied up at home, caring for them and for my father, who was recovering from a heart attack. The rest of my small family lived in other states. I was all alone in a strange city.
The initial diagnosis was frightening: a complete heart block. It was 1973, and I was confined to bed, observed, and tested. A specialist flew in from Chicago. No one seemed to know what to do with me. My heart rate was very slow at times, so I was prescribed several medications. After a week passed with no further problems, I was moved from CCU to a regular room.
Several hours later I was visited by another patient--a tiny, distraught girl who cried in Greek-accented English about missing her babies, who were at home with her husband. We sat together in companionable misery, until she was released later that afternoon.
The following day at lunchtime three beautiful, raven-haired young women breezed into my room like a flock of exotic birds. I had noticed them before, visiting my released friend. Now, chattering in Greek and English, they hugged and kissed me. A shopping bag of magazines, candy, and new nightgowns was pressed into my arms. They ignored my protests and stood by my bed laughing and chatting in their native language. After lunch, I was again enveloped in perfumed arms, pressed against silky blouses, as they bid me goodbye.
I never knew whether they were friends of the former patient or perhaps her sisters or cousins. It mattered not. The unspoken explanation was obvious. Anyone alone and in need became part of their family. They visited daily, smothering me with affection and gifts, as if I were one of their own.