We spend many a weekend in Golden Gate Park. We almost always end up in the concourse a few blocks away. That’s where the bandshell , the DeYoung Museam, the Academy of Sciences and the Japanese Tea Garden are located. If we have the dog with us, we hang out by the fountains and keep walking around. If we don’t, we generally head into either the museum or the Academy of Sciences, which houses the Aquarium.
This statue of a man working a grape press is perched along the concourse and we walk by it every time. I remember seeing this statue when I was a little girl going to the park with my grandmother. It is just part of the backdrop of many of the days of my life. One day it took center stage. Steve didn’t know that or the feeling I get every time I pass that statue, until I told him on Sunday.
It goes back to 2007. That was a terrible year for us. My dad died in January and Maggie got very very sick in March. We did not know if she was going to make it and they ultimately had to put the trach in. For the first several months following the trach placement, things were very very rocky for Maggie health wise. We have only had to contact paramedics twice in Maggie life and both times were in the months after she received the trach.
One of those 911 calls was when Maggie stopped breathing. It was the middle of the night and the nurse was yelling. We came running to find Maggie struggling. The trach was clogged. She stopped breathing. I changed the trach as fast as my fingers would allow and she still wasn’t breathing. Steve was on the phone to 911 and I was doing everything I knew how to bring her back. I quickly considered mouth to mouth, but I though no – that won’t work because of the trach. I just blew into the trach and after what seemed like a terrible delay, Maggie’s body responded like an engine sputtering to life.
The paramedics arrived. In my state of confusion and eerie calm I told them it was ok now, she was breathing. I apologized for making them come. They were so young and so professional. The paramedic asked how long she was "down" and I said about 2 minutes. He knelt next to me (I was sitting in the chair holding Maggie and holding her trach in place) looked me in the eye, and said, “you can’t just stop breathing and not check it out, we should take her to the hospital.” I was like a child being led through the darkness. I just looked at him and nodded. I said we have to tie the trach on first and tried to do it but my hands were shaking so badly I couldn’t make it work. I remember being surprised at my shaking hands because I felt so completely calm. It was as though I was watching myself in a nightmare.
We got in the ambulance and the paramedic driving (who didn’t look old enough to have a drivers’ license) said. “We are going in Code 1 but don’t let that worry you”. I told him I didn’t know what that meant and he said, “it means we are going lights and sirens.” I nodded again. They were taking care of me and Maggie at the same time.
It was a beautiful night with a full moon. The hospital is just across Golden Gate Park. I sat in the front of that ambulance. We went through the concourse and that statue was glimmering in the light of the moon, and then it turned red when the ambulance light fell on it. I remember looking at the statue and feeling grounded. He was still working that press, turning that wheel as hard as ever. If that statue was there this was real. But it felt surreal. Everything was exactly where it’s supposed to be, everything looked amazingly beautiful and I was sitting in the front of an ambulance not knowing if Maggie is going to be ok. I was completely in the moment and it was a terrible moment.
Maggie was ok, eventually. She had to stay in the hospital about two weeks after that. It was part of that terrible year and terrible time in her health history. I think, though it was also the turning point for her. She started getting stronger after that. There are still setbacks, and there always will be, but I think the nightmare started wrapping up after that episode.
Even though I relive that terrible memory when I see that statue, it is ok. I like that statue. I feel like it brought me back to earth in a moment that could have gone either way.
The irony that the man in the statue is making wine is not lost on me either. I raise a glass to him regularly.