Long before we ever left the house on Saturday morning, I could see it happen. My wife and I would meet my parents in Atlantic City, N.J. and I'd somehow walk away from the east-coast gambling mecca with a jackpot. Monday morning would come, and I'd call into work, asking for a few weeks - maybe even an eternity - off.
I knew my chances were slim. Who comes back from A.C. or Vegas with anything more than chump change?
Turns out my chances were non-existent.
We stopped by my wife's office so she could gather a few things for the weekend. While I was getting my first glimpse of her new office, my phone rang. It was my mom and dad; I figured that they were calling to say they were in A.C. already, as they typically arrive far earlier than we do.
I said hi to my mom as I picked up the phone. A simple hi was her response, but her voice told us the rest.
She then went on to explain that they had been in a pretty bad car accident in Philadelphia. Their car was messed up, though they appeared fine, though shaken up.
Suddenly, a diversion was in order. Instead of heading north on I-295 in Delaware, we'd stay on I-95 and head into Philly.
We hurried to gather up everything and got out of the office. Sometime later, I can't remember when now, she called back. My dad, she said, was having chest pains, and they were taking him to a nearby hospital in Wynnewood.
Now, the trip became more urgent.
I think we were driving by that point, and our thoughts suddenly turned to how to find this hospital. Who did we know that was available that had a computer? We thought of a few friends and dialed up the first one that came to mind: Valerie Largent, one of Lindsay's best friends on earth.
Big, big kudos to Valerie. Linds dialed her up and when Val's husband picked up the phone, the screaming of an infant was immediately audible. Their young'n was having a bout with the flu and wouldn't stop crying, such that she and mom and dad were headed off to the doctor within the hour.
We didn't give her much to go on. Just that we needed to find how to get to a hospital in Wynnewood, Pa., in suburban Philly. But in all my years of watching Philly news, I couldn't recall Wynnewood. We assumed it was spelled like Steve Winwood. But, knowing what I know of Philly, I recalled its fondness for using a "y" when an "i" would suffice (like here, here and here). So I cautioned her it could be spelled with a "y."
Within a few minutes, Val called back. The only thing she could find, she said, was a place called Lincolner. Val is soft spoken and Lindsay's phone doesn't have a loud volume, so that's what it sounded like. Val gave us directions from this place's website, and off we were.
Big, big kudos to Linds. She got us from Capitol Hill to Philly in two hours flat. We were also lucky in that we encountered only one area of slow traffic (just south of Aberdeen, Md.) and the three toll booths we paid were relatively uncongested.
We followed the directions off of I-95 onto the Blue Route, I-476, a connector freeway in the western Philly suburbs. We took the exit for US 1 and headed north towards the city, just as the directions told us.
Except we passed a blue "H" sign. After going past it, I thought we had missed a turn, so Linds spun us around to check it out. Once we got back to the turn, we saw it was for Springfield Hospital. So we continued north. We passed another sign a few miles later for Delco Memorial Hospital.
Big, big kudos to Del, who answered the phone when I called the hospital we were supposed to be going to. He confirmed that my dad had indeed been checked in and, in a subsequent phone call, assured us that we were heading the right way.
We finally made it to the hospital - actually called Lankenau - and it was a bit unnerving to see my dad laid up. He was having trouble breathing, and that was apparent. Though, he said, that was mostly due to the fact that his chest hurt.
It was then that my mom explained how the accident happened. While on the Schuylkill Expressway, some cars in front of them had come to a stop. They jumped on the brakes in time to tap the bumper of the car in front of them. A split second later, another car had rammed into their back end with such force that, when the dust settled, their car sat on top of the one that had run into them. In all, nine cars were involved in the wreck and, as we found out later, shut down the freeway for a time.
Big, big kudos to the doctors and staff at Lankenau. We had an ER nurse named Ruth who could not do enough for us. Same thing with Kate and Tara when my dad was moved upstairs to the Cardiothoracic ICU. Everyone seemed satisfied that my dad hadn't suffered any trauma from the accident, but were concerned with some pre-existing stuff. Since he was already in the hospital, the doctor we dealt with decided it would be best if he get a tune-up.
"Change the oil," my dad remarked, feeling and looking better. "Change the spark plugs."
Tara was especially helpful in finding a place for us. A little further up Rt. 1 was a Holiday Inn that their staff would stay at when they needed extra help. (As it turned out, the hotel was literally two doors down from venerable Philly TV station WPVI, also known as 6ABC. Perhaps you're familiar with the Action News Theme; if not, you should be. It's classic, even if my wife howls with laughter every time she hears it. Here's an opening from 1993, and a close from 10 years later. Same music. In fact, they tried to change it once not long ago, and were besieged by irate callers. They changed back five days later.)
After it was apparent that my dad was ready for some rest - and we were satisfied that he looked much better than earlier in the day - my mom, Linds and I headed to the hotel. We made a stopoff for some food at a most unusual KFC, which appeared to be housed in what was once a, well, house. Maybe it was a doctor's office or something, but a very non-traditional fast-food building. Big, big kudos to the woman who took my order, because I was rather disorganized.
We hung out in our room, enjoying some food and relishing the chance to laugh while watching Anchorman. I forgot how great the cast was in that movie, and some of Will Ferrell's best work. That was on ABC, of course, so my wife - already giddy from a funny movie and being tired - was in hysterics when the Action News Theme cranked up after the movie.
Mom turned in not long after the movie ended, and we did likewise. It had been a damn long day. We expected to be home in bed, hopefully a lot richer, but instead were in a non-descript hotel room in Philadelphia.
We woke up Sunday morning, showered and put on the same thing we were on Saturday. We hadn't planned on staying over, after all. And we put to good use the travel-size toiletries we had purchased at a nearby Rite Aid the night before.
Soon, we were out the door and headed downstairs for a breakfast buffet. We partook, and left to check in with dad. He was looking better still, and his night in the CTICU for observation had gone well.
We had left on Saturday night thinking he could be released on Sunday. But when we arrived on Sunday, they had decided to hold him for a few days just to be safe and get him fully tuned up. Surgery seemed like an unlikely option, though it was a possibility; if they went that route, it would be minor surgery and no more.
Linds and I milled around for much of the day, popping in and out of the room while my mom tended to my dad. One of the times I was out, kicking back and watching a little Super Bowl pre-game, my phone rang, and I talked with the guy whose shop had my mom and dad's car.
Big, big kudos to Buddy, the body shop manager. What a great, great guy. Said he would do whatever my mom wanted and had the capability to deliver the car later if she wanted and could even provide a rental if she needed it. He was one of the most outgoing guys I've ever talked to. He just had one request: could we come see him by 2 p.m. to clean out the car?
"I'm gonna be honest with ya," he said, "I got a Super Bowl party to go to."
Hey, I understood. He had come into the office to take care of us, so I had no problem taking care of him. (Unfortunately for him, he was pulling for the Bears. He went with them since the Eagles have been golfing for a good three weeks now.)
We went and checked out the car, which wasn't as bad as I thought. Though a lot of internal stuff had been wrecked - the suspension, mainly - the rear end looked like it had been bumped, and not much more. The front was a mess, with the hood scrunched and the grille busted along its entire length. The sight of two deployed airbags was a bit disconcerting as well. Buddy took a stab at a fix-it price of $10,000.
By the time we got back to the hotel, we found out my aunt and uncle were coming for a visit. Big, big kudos to them: they took my mom home, and kept us from having a 5.5-hour drive on our hands.
Linds and I drove home, and caught the first half of the game on radio, passing from the Philly station to the Baltimore station and finally to the Washington station. Fortunately, we hit almost no traffic once we were out of Pennsylvania.
So that's where we are. Over the weekend, we fielded various calls from family and friends, all wishing us and dad well. And we certainly appreciate it.
This was my chance to give you guys the whole story of the weekend. Amid the phone calls, we could only give updates and such, so here's my chance to give you the rest of the story.
All weekend, we've had the utmost confidence in the doctors and nurses. While lunching in the cafeteria, we saw a sign that touted Lankenau as one of the country's top 100 cardiovascular hospitals. So if my dad needed a tune-up, that's the place to be.
And if he needed a tune-up, I'm happy to sacrifice a few hours in Atlantic City for that.