"She's in the kitchen, please hurry!"
Two paramedics enter the house swiftly and calmly. They cross the entrance and living room, between them carrying a stretcher with wheels. They kneel beside an elderly women crumpled on the floor.
One of the paramedics turns to the young woman. "What's her name?"
The other one is applying a cervical collar around the woman's neck.
"Margaret, can you hear me?"
Margaret's eyes fall on the paramedics, but she does not open her mouth.
A medic takes her hand. "Can you squeeze my hand?"
The other paramedic asks the younger woman - Margaret's daughter - what has happened.
"She said she had a headache and felt dizzy. I left for a second to get her some Tylenol and when I came back she was on the floor. Why is her eye drooping like that? And her mouth?"
Nobody answers her. At least not directly.
"Weakness in left side. BP one-fourty over eighty-eight. Pulse eighty-five. Respirations twelve. Should I start an IV?"
"Largest gauge you think you can get. Her veins might be fragile, so it's best to do it before we get her in the truck." The paramedic turns to the daughter. "Would you prefer to ride with us or follow behind?"
The daughter takes a moment to think as her mom is lifted onto the stretcher, covered with a blanket and secured with what looks like seat belts. She does not want to miss her mother's last moments, but it would be practical to have her own vehicle. "I'll follow. Which hospital?"
The daughter takes Margaret's hand one last time and squeezes it. "Goodbye, Mom. I love you. See you soon."
With that, Margaret is wheeled out the door and into the back of an ambulance. One paramedic climbs in behind her, the other slams the back doors behind him and climbs into the driver's seat.
Margaret's daughter checks that the stove is off, then grabs her keys and rushes for her car, still sitting in the driveway where she parked it only an hour ago, though it feels like a lifetime. The neighbourhood is familiar, the lawns neatly kept, houses quiet and pedestrians jogging. To them this is a normal day. But for Margaret's daughter, everything has changed. The nightmare has come true. Things will not be normal again for a long time.
"This can't be happening," she mutters over and over again as she follows the sound of the sirens. She tries to remember the last thing her mother told her. They had been talking about mundane things - weather, health, jobs, family. Then she remembers her mother's last comprehensible words. She had been searching in the bathroom for a headache remedy, and from downstairs, her mother had called out, "Don't get the red pills, they're for my constipation."
She laughs a bit, and tears begin to fall. "Mom, don't go. Not yet. I still need you. There's so many stories I haven't heard. God, please, not yet..."