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My iceberg started with breathing problems, continued in ER

By Shirley Prihoda

The Bulletin

The past two weeks have been an adventure, not the “Indiana Jones” type of adventure, when the good guy triumphs over evil without breaking a sweat while unearthing buried treasure.

No, my adventure has been more along the lines of the Titanic - like that fateful ship leaving Ireland without enough lifeboats. I felt woefully unprepared as I hit my iceberg.

Suffice it to say, it was epic that morning when I awoke to having difficulty breathing. Since I have become attached to this function, my husband called 911. He paced, and I waited.

We live in the back-40 stretch of Columbia Lakes, and Central EMS is a stone’s throw across the pasture, next to Varner-Hogg State Historical Site. However, like any noir storyline, there isn’t a road across the pasture.

In between pacing, my husband kept me abreast of the status with the efficiency of a television reporter standing on the shores of Galveston during a hurricane. Excitedly, he told me, “They’re on their way.” I asked how he knew that, and he said he heard their sirens start at the EMS station.

When you’re having trouble breathing, time does not stand still, unless you’re waiting for an ambulance.

Before long, I heard the ambulance pull into the driveway and saw the faces of my two favorite people at the moment as they appeared at my bedroom door.

I felt safe and protected the moment the EMTs walked in. Cathy and J.C. worked together as if they were one mind and body. Getting me out of my bedroom was a different thing altogether. A big note to myself: On our next home, make sure the hallways and sharp turns can accommodate a stretcher.

Not to be impeded, they confiscated a rolling stool and proceeded to roll me out to the foyer and stretcher. To add a touch more of melodrama to this Alfred Hitchcock event, it was raining. I was too occupied trying to breathe to look for a flock of angry black birds. And frankly, if they could have helped me breathe, I would have welcomed them.

Once inside the ambulance, and blotting the rain off my face, Cathy moved with the precision that can only come from too many icebergs in people’s lives. She started oxygen, got an IV line going and ran an EKG before J.C. had time to fire up the engine. We jostled and shook all the way to the hospital. Evidently, this was going to be the best part of my iceberg experience.

My two competent EMTs transferred care to the ER staff and returned to their station to await the next iceberg in someone else’s life. All seemed well at first as I was placed into an exam room to await what came next. It was about then that I realized I had walked - well, been rolled - into a totally different movie script.

Apparently, the patient in the next room had been at the wrong place at the wrong time and had used his chest to stop a bullet or large knife.

Being a former paramedic, I understood and recognized the procedures being used to stabilize the patient’s chest. Sometimes, knowledge is not a good thing.

A friend or relative of the victim marched up and down the hallway, shouting into his cell phone at a decibel that would shatter glass. I questioned my need for care at this point.

The hours passed, with the ongoing melodrama in the other room, the town crier with the cell phone in the hall. They drew enough blood from me for testing to fulfill the dreams of Brazoria County mosquitoes.

In-between tests, I wondered if I would get anything to eat since I hadn’t eaten in over 18 hours. This didn’t seem high on anyone’s to-do list. Then it occurred to me that considering what was going on around me, it could be my last meal. I decided hunger was preferable.

The drama continued to unfold in the next room, and the town crier was still ranting up and down the hall. The tension was thick enough that you could cut it with a knife. Wait, I think that may have already happened. It was at this point that I longed to be jostling again in the back of the Central EMS ambulance with Cathy and J.C. and start this scene all over.

Like the 706 passengers who survived the Titanic, I lived to tell the story. And like me, I am sure most of them had food on their minds after floating for hours in the Atlantic. Maybe not, but it’s a good transition to a recipe.

Spaghetti Salad


1 pound spaghetti broken in half or bowtie pasta

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

2 regular cucumbers, diced

½ small onion, diced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup kalamata olives, pitted

1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, diced

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 16 oz. bottle of Italian dressing

2 tablespoons basil pesto

salt and pepper to taste

fresh parsley to garnish


Break the spaghetti in half and cook per package directions to al dente. Rinse in cold water, drain, and place in a large bowl.

Cut tomatoes in half. Dice cucumbers, onion and cheddar cheese into small pieces. Add veggies to spaghetti in the bowl and stir. Add garlic, olives and parmesan cheese. Mix with tongs.

In a separate bowl, mix mayonnaise, Italian dressing and pesto together. Pour over spaghetti mixture and toss with tongs. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Will last up to three days in the refrigerator.

(To contact Shirley, please send emails to or write to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, Tx. 77516)


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