It was midnight. Voices echoed in the corridor. The overhead light flipped on. A stretcher squeaked into the room, then braked. “Finally, a bed,” said a woman, wide-eyed, and clasping the side rails with knobby fingers. “Seven hours waitin’ downstairs almost did me in. Not like the other times.”

And there were many times – fourteen heart attacks and sixteen stints since 2010 because of a failed CABG.

“That’s my baby sister, Viranda,” she pointed as the nurse took her blood pressure. “She’s a art teacher on the North side. I told her when she got home that I got pneumonia. Never had that before! Diagnosed myself!” she exclaimed swinging her legs off the side of the stretcher, the hospital non-slip socks on her feet. Hilarity infused her banter, enlarged by her sister who was also helping her settle in.

“I’s hungry! Nothing since my little oatmeal this morning,” she continued in a singsong tone. Her nappy hair was smoothed to a ponytail, her round face furrowed with wrinkles of hardship, her squat body gowned in blue.

Even more details of her story emerged that night: the oldest of five spaced five years apart; their forty-three-year-old mother’s passing from congestive heart failure; the caretaking of her siblings; hysterectomy when eighteen years old; careers in nursing, in respiratory therapy, and later in social work relocating the homeless off the streets of Los Angeles. And so much more–

A spirited seventy-nine year old woman vibrant with life, she awaited her doctors’ next care plan. I know because I was in the other bed.