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So the secret is out - I have been in Phoenix for a couple of days. Surprise! Well, it was to me.

By Andrew Pollack on 07/08/2006 at 02:16 AM EDT

A family member in Phoenix was admitted to the hospital early Wednesday morning. I didn't hear about it until that afternoon, but decided to try to get out here if I could. There were some complications to this however.

First, I can't travel without being ready to do some work if a client has an emergency. If you've been following this blog, you know that Wednesday morning my new Dell Laptop was delivered (which rocks, by the way). That means I was about a quarter of the way through loading software on it when I got this call. It takes me 8-12 hours to get all the software and configuration loaded on a new machine sufficiently. Yes, I actually do start with a list of what tools are installed on the old machine so I don't forget any. Second, the next evening I was scheduled to be in charge of the fire department monthly supper meeting meal. This was to have been my first -- each officer takes one, and of course this is the first year I've been an officer. Now this is not something to be taken lightly. Ordering pizza isn't going to fly. I had planned to make Fajitas, and it would have meant pretty much all day preparing them for fifty people. I'm sure some of you could do better, but I don't cook. Third, it's now 7pm and I have no tickets, hotel, or car. Admittedly, this last issue is an easy fix. I was able to get a Jet Blue flight for 7am the next morning with a change at JFK for a reasonable price, and because it is summertime, a rental car and hotel room were easily taken care of in Phoenix. So while never stopping the process of loading software, I called Chili's in Portland and spoke to the manager, who put together the equivalent of 6 party platters of Fajitas and rice into containers that could be reheated -- the chicken in two big aluminium trays, the peppers and onions in their own similar trays, the rice in microwavable bowls, and individual tubs of sour cream, guacamole, salsa, lettuce, and cheese. I picked those up at 10pm, stopped at the grocery store for Italian Ices, corn chips, and salsa. All this was unloaded and packed into the fridge at Central Station at midnight along with a note on reheating and apologies.

I finished loading software by about 1am, packed a suitcase and was asleep by 2. At 5:30 I was up, and had showered and left by 5:45. By 6:10 I was at the airport in Portland, cleared security by 6:45 and on the plane by 7am. We landed at JFK with 20 minutes to the next flight and a change of terminals, so at a dead run I made the flight and still had time to grab a sandwich and drink for breakfast/lunch. By 11:30am local time I was in Phoenix, and by 12:30 had rented a car and driven to the hospital.

I did not tell my family I was flying out. When I got to the hospital, my Grandmother was awake and I went in. The other people in my family weren't there at that moment, so only my grandmother was shocked. That may not have been the best move, because when a cardiac patient gasps suddenly it tends to make the care providers jumpy. After a bit, I stepped out so she could get some sleep and went downstairs to the Cafeteria.

A few minutes after I left the room, my Aunt went in, and was told by my Grandmother "Andrew is here." My Aunt replied, "No mom, Andrew lives in Maine. he's not here." to which my grandmother insisted "yes, he's here. I just saw him." At that very moment -- again, sheer coincidence, the medical person is in the room to evaluate my grandmother's mental state and is becoming increasingly concerned that things aren't looking well. I understood this went on for about 15 minutes, until I walked back in and was nearly decked by my aunt who can't be much more than 5' 2" tall.

The coincidences don't stop there. While I was flying to Phoenix, my sister-in-law was admitted to the hospital in Mesa (about 30 miles from the one in Scottsdale where my grandmother is) and gave birth to my niece Alexa -- 4 weeks early. Mother and daughter are doing fairly well, though the first 24 hours were a bit rough for Alexa. She's nearly 7 pounds and is improving quickly after a bit of help from the incredible people at the NICU.

Its been a long couple of days, but things are calming down now. My grandmother is 81 years old, and not in good shape. She's not in good physical shape, having been a diabetic since childhood and having a history of both heart disease and stroke. She's not a candidate for radical surgery and at this point is being made comfortable. She is not in immediate danger, but isn't going to get better either. She is at peace with this I think, and its been good to talk with her. As I've explained to my own children -- who are not with me, as they don't really even know their Great Grandmother well and I saw no reason to drag them around hospital waiting rooms -- this is not unexpected and is a sad but normal part of life.

I should be home Sunday night.

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