My grandmother, with whom I am very close, had a heart attack on Christmas Day. She lives with a caretaker, but I stayed with her on Saturday so the caretaker could take the day off and visit Bethlehem for Christmas. Grandma is 90, but totally together, mentally. She has been like a mother to me. She never had daughters, and I was born when she was still in her mid-40s. She has even referred to me as her daughter, something that fills me with pride.

This brave woman was born on a train, to refugees from the Bolsheviks. She made aliya to Israel in 1937 and married her sweetheart from home, but returned to Poland in 1939, pregnant with my father. She was afraid, and wanted to be with her mother when she gave birth. WWII began, and her family found itself on the Russian side, temporarily. After many exciting adventures, she eventually made it back to Israel and went on to support my grandfather, a construction engineer, in building the city of Tel Aviv. Along the way, she also completed an MA in ME & African history.

After my parents divorced when I was 3, my grandmother took on the role of surrogate mother whenever my father had custody. My grandparents took me on many trips in Israel, Africa and Europe. To this day, my grandmother and I enjoy many of the same topics, and regularly trade books. Now that she has become housebound, I try to bring her a new book several times a month since reading is one of the only things she still enjoys.

It all started on Saturday, just as we were finishing lunch. Grandma began getting heartburn and asked for Maalox, but began coughing and spitting up after taking it. I put in an emergency call to a doctor to make a house call. After waiting 2 hours for the doctor, I again called it in as urgent, and her insurance sent an ambulance with doctor and medic. They did an EKG on the spot, and decided to take her to the ER. At no point did anyone in ER mention it was a heart attack, just that the EKG showed abnormalities. Around midnight, she was taken for an emergency angioplasty. Still, no mention of heart attack. It was only 2 days later that I discovered that she had suffered a heart attack. I completely broke down when I realized that we waited 4 hours, total, from the time she first began coughing and spitting up until the ambulance arrived. I wish I had called for the ambulance immediately, but in the past, we’ve called them for her and she has either refused to go, or once hospitalized, regretted going. To the best of my knowledge, she has not had a heart attack before, but did have multiple angioplasties many years ago. I’m trying to let go of my guilt for not calling earlier. It won’t help any of us now.

Grandma is actually doing pretty well. She’s still in cardiac ICU, but will probably be released after the weekend. We need to arrange a recuperation clinic for her to stay in after her release so that she can be closely monitored. She would benefit from another angioplasty, but the doctors aren’t sure she can tolerate it at her age. Either way, they won’t be doing it any time soon as they’ve said she needs 1-3 months to recuperate from this event. Knowing her, she’ll want to go back to her own home as soon as possible, but I’m afraid she’ll need to call for an emergency EKG almost daily.