A Reprieve

It had been a reasonably normal day, perhaps even a little more pleasant than most. However, toward the middle of the afternoon, a minor cough seemed get suddenly worse and I found myself coughing up some vicious looking phlegm…something between the Exorcist’s slime and Elmer’s glue. Within an hour I was gasping for breath, and I found myself in an ambulance with four paramedics trying to help me breathe again. They were in my driveway almost before my son hung up the phone. They have an awesome responsibility heading into danger when the rest of us flee. My highest respect goes out to them.

I remember thinking I needed to inhale deeply just once, but the breath wouldn’t come…only an angry, boiling growl emanating from deep in my chest. When two of them introduced themselves as my former students, I went into further panic trying to remember if they passed or failed. (I write this, not quite joking.)

Hot Jazz Jubile

I was beginning to get some relief by the time my ambulance arrived at the hospital and the Emergency Room staff swarmed over me at once: pulmonary people with their vaporizers and oxygen, lab people drawing blood (I gave enough in four days to have counted as two pint donations), and several others busy at their poking and prodding tasks. I’ve had four previous ER visits in my life and this one seemed to be eliciting more activity than all the others combined. Therefore, I wasn’t totally surprised when the ER doctor arrived to tell me, “Mr. Melton you have the Covid virus.” His kind and competent care gave me great encouragement after that news.

He articulately informed me that they were seeing good results from the new early-onset drug to be administered with a needle borrowed from the local veterinary clinic. However, because my medical chart indicated I had twelve of the eight high risk factors for a serious case, they would be admitting me to the hospital for a few days. And so, two lovely aides proceeded to hustle me off to a 6th floor private room where I was treated like royalty for the duration of my stay.

My admission was in the middle of the night and the third shift was efficiently prepared for my arrival. A recently released room was ready and I slept a bit, aided by oxygen and medications.


My four-day stay was actually quite enjoyable considering the circumstances. I was able to get acquainted with very friendly, caring people and as I live alone, socializing was a treat.

Mercy Hospital, Washington, MO (courtesy www.washmo.org

I quickly realized that these remarkable care givers, sealed in their plastic gowns, slippers, and caps behind their full-face masks, have been at this dangerous practice throughout the pandemic. For three years they have risked their own exposure to this awful virus to care for us. In addition, they have been working under cumbersome conditions and with new equipment and medicines.

Hospitals can be scary places but the truth is, by my third day I was feeling great. The medications and the care helped me feel so good that I began thoroughly enjoying having three delicious meals a day served to me in bed and my bed fluffed and straightened several times a day at that. Never mind the poking and prodding, the nurses were so skilled that what could have been torture was nothing to mention.

I am now recovering nicely, feeling better than ever. I do tire quickly though as I get back to my routine without the capable retinue of attendants to whom I was becoming accustomed. As I’m waiting for the after effects like plumber waits to see if his pipe seals will hold water.

So, I give enormous thanks to first responders and health care workers everywhere who tend to us in emergencies and extend both the quality and length of our lives. They are the genuine heroes among us. I am humbled when I realize how many of our friends we have read about on the “Final Chorus” pages who have died in this pandemic, and I realize how blessed I am to be writing this.


Larry Melton was a founder of the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in 1974 and the Sedalia Ragtime Archive in 1976. He was a Sedalia Chamber of Commerce manager before moving on to Union, Missouri where he is currently helping to conserve the Ragtime collection of the Sedalia Heritage Foundation. Write him at [email protected].

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