Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
To get into shape for my upcoming wedding in May, I joined the YMCA. On one of my first visits, I stepped off the treadmill, stumbled over my brand new gym shoes and fell with a loud thwack! against a nearby piece of equipment. I assured the gathering crowd that I was okay. My sister, a longtime member of the Y, drove me home, I collapsed onto the couch and figured I had simply bruised something. Four hours later, I realized I was in trouble. I couldn’t get up from the couch to get to the phone. Fortunately, I had with me the iPad Howie, my fiancé, had given me and was able to e-mail a member of my writers’ group who I knew, checked her e-mail regularly. She arrived 15 minutes later with her big guy, and when they saw me they called 911.
Within two minutes, maybe less, two magnificent West Tisbury police officers arrived, made sure I wasn’t in immediate peril and comforted me until the Tri-Town Ambulance arrived in less than five minutes with three equally magnificent EMTs. They were so kind, so gentle, so professional, so concerned, so neighborly. They checked me over, strapped me onto a board to keep me immobilized in case I had damaged my back, apologized about every bump they had to negotiate in wheeling me out of my house and into the ambulance, made sure I was warm and as comfortable as could be expected under the circumstances, and talked to me.
I had never ridden in an ambulance before, a miniature emergency room with every possible piece of equipment to protect and preserve life. The EMTs were in constant communication with our hospital giving them all the information needed for the emergency room doctors to get to work immediately. On the way to the hospital, the EMTs told me every process they were going through and why, treating me like a cherished neighbor rather than an inanimate object. When we arrived the hospital had all the information that would have taken them valuable minutes to collect.
The EMTs were at the hospital only long enough to respond to a call from Aquinnah. A suspected heart attack, and they were off again to fetch another neighbor.
I can’t say enough good things about hospital personnel. Knowing I couldn’t move, they brought in a portable X-ray machine and when that didn’t show what they needed, wheeled me to a CAT-Scan machine and ever so gently shifted me into position.
When the doctor informed me, with great solemnity, that he had seen at least four fractured ribs, my first reaction was, “Thank goodness it’s serious enough to warrant all the fuss that’s been made over me.” My second reaction was, “Thank goodness it isn’t worse than cracked ribs.”
Every bed in our hospital was taken. A combination of flu season and who knows what. I spent the night on a gurney in an ER examining room.
Again, I can’t say enough good things about our Island support system, our medical facilities, our well-trained EMTs, our well-equipped ambulance, and most of all, what mattered most, the warmth of my neighbors’ concern — our police, our EMTs, our hospital’s doctors and nurses.
Thank you. I’m voting for whatever equipment you need to continue to take care of our town’s and our Island’s people.
And all our Island neighbors are invited to Howie’s and my potluck wedding reception on Saturday, July 13, from 5 to 7 p.m. outdoors around the fish pond on the east side of the Cleaveland House. The Vineyard Classic Brass will play loud and joyful music.
Cynthia Riggs, West Tisbury