It’s a beautiful warm Saturday night and the Bistro’s packed. The balmy temps must’ve have thawed the Yuppies out of hibernation. We’ve got an impatient line stretching out the door. I’m making money hand over fist.
Of course, something has to go wrong.
I’m placing an order into the POS computer when I hear a voice cry out, “Help! Somebody help!”
I look up from the screen. Saroya, one of our waitresses, is struggling to keep a man from falling out of his chair. I run over to help her.
But before I reach them the man bolts upright, makes a strangling sound, stiffens, and crashes to the floor like a felled tree.
Years ago I worked with people suffering from head injuries. I know what’s happening before the guy hits the ground. He’s having a seizure.
I kneel next to the guy. His breathing’s labored, his head’s twitching, and his body’s stiff as a board.
Fluvio comes over sporting an “Oh shit” look on his face.
“This man’s having a seizure,” I say. “Call 911 now.”
Fluvio goes to call an ambulance. A busgirl passes by with an armful of tablecloths. I grab a few out of her hand, fold them, and slide them under the man’s head, telling the bystanders clustered around us to back away.
My old training kicks in. Maintain airway. Prevent aspiration. Roll victim onto side.
I’m just about to roll the guy sideways when I hear a loud voice say, “I’m a doctor.” Not having a license to practice medicine I step out of the way.
The doctor checks the guy out. “This man’s having a seizure,” he cries. “Call 911.”
“Already done doc,” I say.
“Did you call 911?” he repeats.
Suddenly the victim wakes up. He’s wearing a goofy grin on his face.
“What…….?” he mumbles, looking bewildered. He has no idea why he’s on the floor.
Funny thing about seizures – it can wipe your short term memory clean. The doc asks the man the last thing he remembers. The man says he remembers eating dinner. I look at his table. They’ve already polished off dessert. This guy lost about half an hour.
“Do you have narcolepsy?” the doc asks.
“No,” the man replies in a weak voice.
“You do now.”
I feel like saying something. This isn’t narcolepsy. It’s probably epilepsy. Then I remember that small detail about not being an MD so I bite my tongue.
The man says he doesn’t want to go to the hospital. He’s embarrassed.
“It’s your life,” the doc says, “But I strongly urge you to go to the emergency room.”
By this time police and paramedics arrive. The restaurant looks like a triage station. There’s nothing more I can do so I go back to work. Of course, all the tables want to know what happened.
“The man had a seizure,” I tell an inquisitive female customer.
“Was it the food?” she asks, carefully regarding her Swordfish Livornese.
“Yes madam,” I reply, keeping my expression neutral.
A small smile appears on my face.
“He’s joking Marjorie,” her husband chuckles.
“Well, just out of curiosity,” the woman asks, “What was he eating?”
“The swordfish,” I say dryly.
The woman’s eyes bug out of her head. Her husband laughs some more.
“Just kidding Madam.”
The ambulance crew convinces Seizure Guy to go to the hospital. Radio’s crackling, the posse of cops and paramedics wheel the man out on a stretcher. I join Fluvio outside.
“Why does this always happen in my place?” Fluvio groans.
“Statistics,” I reply.
“Fluvio, how many people have we served over the years?”
Fluvio does a rapid calculation in his head. “About three hundred thousand.”
“You have that many people come through the door – something’s bound to happen.”
“Eh, we have someone with a stroke last month.”
“My point exactly.”
In my six years at the Bistro I’ve personally witnessed four fainting spells, a heart attack, three choking incidents, one drug overdose, suicidal ideation, and a stroke. Seizure? We were overdue.
“Someone’s gonna die here one day,” Fluvio grouses.
“Face facedown in their tiramisu,” I reply.
“That’s terrible!” Fluvio exclaims.
I give Fluvio a baleful look.
“I just hope it happens on my day off.”