Breathing Lessons

This is my response to the Friday Fictioneers prompt for April 17. The challenge is to write a 100-word story inspired by the photo prompt. Play along by writing your own, reading others and/or commenting on the flashes we fictioneers create. The photo prompt this week comes from Roger Bulltot.

Copyright Roger Bulltot

Copyright Roger Bulltot

Breathing Lessons

“So, who tried to kill whom?” The young ER doctor grinned at Gail. Even though she knew he was joking, she couldn’t swallow the sobs that rose in her throat.

“Hey, it’s going to be okay.” The doctor took a step toward the hospital bed. “Greg’s your husband, right? He’s in the next room, told us you aren’t a fan of hospitals.”

Gail inhaled through the oxygen mask. “I suppose no one really loves an ER visit.”

“It’s a good thing your chimney caught fire and the neighbors noticed. Otherwise, carbon monoxide poisoning would have made this a morgue visit.”

45 thoughts on “Breathing Lessons

  1. Dear Marie Gail,

    There’s something familiar about this story. 😉 I’m glad that Gail and Greg came out of it okay. It could’ve been a grave tragedy. Perfect title.



    • storydivamg says:

      I thought you would recognize this one, Rochelle. Of course, I had to play a little fast and loose with reality, but the miracle of survival is one I am not likely to forget soon. Glad the title works for you. It took me some time to sort it out.

      Marie Gail

  2. micklively says:

    I think this doctor’s bedside manner is seriously awry.
    Good piece.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thank you, Mick! In reality, there was a phlebotomist who said this to me during an ER visit for carbon monoxide poisoning, and she was a sweet thing who really was just trying to help me feel better. Most of the reality in this one ends there–no chimney fire alerted my neighbors.


      • micklively says:

        Weird! Did it make you feel better?

        • storydivamg says:

          Better . . . not exactly. The attempt at humor accompanied by a lot of other things done by that particular ER staff did help me not go into sheer panic over being in the hospital though. I have suffered pretty severe PTSD from medical malpractice. Some healthcare workers handle it well. Others just make it worse. The staff on that fateful evening handled it superbly.

  3. A phlebotomist!! Wow. I thought there were the creation of SF writers.
    It’s amazing how the treatment by hospital staff can affect a patient’s response. I had to attend an A&E in Italy a week or so ago where nobody could speak English and I have no Italian. But we all worked together and it was fine – four stitches in the top lip and off I went. Still beautiful.

    • storydivamg says:

      I’ve known too many phlebotomists. 🙂

      You are so right concerning attentive medical care. True compassion can overcome a great deal–even a language barrier. Incidentally, in real life the phlebotomist was a gorgeous red-headed Ukranian woman with a thick accent–which made her attempt at humor even more precious to me.

  4. elmowrites says:

    Like others, I’m not sure about the bedside manner here, but I love the dose of reality and the outcome. Anything is better than a morgue visit, at least.
    And I’e definitely met a few medical workers for whom ham-fisted attempts at humour would have considerably improved their bedside manner, so that’s not intended to be a criticism of your excellent writing.

    • storydivamg says:

      I imagine that a spirit of caring could conquer even ham-fisted attempts at humor. No matter what, a visit to the ER because of CO poisoning isn’t any fun. Thanks for reading and weighing in, Jen.

  5. Oh .. a crack at being witty at such an occasion.. and that this really happened make it even more weird… glad it went well though

  6. The ER doctor has a fun sense of humor… (not)

  7. I’m glad I read the comments, Marie Gail, to learn a little more about the back story. Good story but scary it’s based on real events. I usually like doctor with a sense of humor, although some go too far.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks, David. Yeah, I imagine that it could seem like “too far” with comments like this coming from a healthcare professional. Not as bad as the doctor who joked with my mom about breaking my leg so he wouldn’t have to do surgery to reset the bone though. (I’ve been to some absolutely fabulous doctors in my lifetime.)

      All my best,

  8. Some medical professionals have bedside manner and some don’t. I remember the orthopedic specialist who upon checking out my scoliosis practically shouted out the word “EXTREME!!!” Great, Doc, so I’m to be the new Quasimodo in a few years? Good story, poor Gail.

    • storydivamg says:

      Oh my, Perry! Did he just up and down and laugh while rubbing his palms together too? We should compare notes about doctors sometime! I once had one with a thick Romanian accent who didn’t move his arms AT ALL when he walked. Needless to say, when he informed me that he was concerned about my “velfare,” I was too–on account of him being my doctor.

  9. Dave says:

    I once listened to a cop express admiration of a successful suicide’s avoidance of alimony…no lack of compassion or empathy surprises me any more,

    • storydivamg says:

      Oh geez! There’s another winner. I suppose first responders get rather accustomed to emergency situations, but that doesn’t make the situations “normal” for the rest of us. Not the kind of immunity I want to have.

      All my best,


  10. Sandra says:

    I always appreciate a bit of humour, ham-fisted or otherwise, when I’m in a medical environment. I hope writing this was therapeutic for you. Great take on the prompt.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks, Sandra. Yes, it was therapeutic. In real life, however, the most therapeutic part was the insurance settlement–we were actually able to use it to get back on our feet financially after a long difficult spell. The fact that no one actually died in the event was truly a blessing, and we are much more cautious these days about CO detection.


  11. draliman says:

    Way to freak her out even more, doc!
    I’m so paranoid about CO poisoning my house is filled with little flashing detectors.
    Nice story.

  12. gahlearner says:

    I didn’t even know there was a special term for people who draw blood. I thought it was just nurses or doctors. But anyway, good story.

    • storydivamg says:

      I’ve always thought it rather odd that phlebotomists are a thing, but I guess doctors and nurses are too busy with other stuff to mess with bloodwork these days.

      Thanks for reading.


  13. milliethom says:

    The threat of carbon monoxide poisoning freaks many people out. We have detectors in our house, and hope they’ll do their job, if necessary! I loved your story and the way you showed Gail’s hatred/fear of hospitals.The jovial doctor was a nice touch, too.

  14. Oh, this really happened! That must have been one scary experience. The story is entertaining, until you remember it is a true story. Great stuff!

    • storydivamg says:

      Well–mostly true. We were lucky that there wasn’t a house fire on top of the CO poisoning. I’m glad you found it entertaining though. What good are all these experiences I’ve had if I can’t use them for entertainment purposes?

      Thanks for reading!

      All my best,

  15. Mike says:

    “ER” vs. “Morgue” ?? I’ll take the ER with the rude doctor.

  16. I suppose even being burnt out of house and home can have an up side. 🙂

  17. Whoa! Glad to hear your near disaster ended so well, on several levels. Such a scary thing, and written so well, MG. Well done!

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks, Dawn. Rochelle happened to be with me when I got the two calls about the insurance settlement following the actual event. She almost had to resuscitate me. There are some happy reasons for bursting into tears in a public place.

      All my best,

  18. rgayer55 says:

    Some people should just leave being funny to professionals like Perry and Randy (and this week, Doug). It’s a dangerous job and you can easily cause more harm than good if not handled properly.

    • storydivamg says:

      Complete Picture Content, my web content writing company, has an entire set of writers devoted to humor (and I am not numbered among them). I fully agree. It takes a professional to handle the jokes. But in a pinch, even the ham-handed ER doctor may as well give it a shot. How else will we be able to recognize the professionals?

      All my best,

  19. Margaret says:

    That sounds like a close call. Great story, but not so good that it’s based on fact.

    • storydivamg says:

      “All’s well that end’s well,” or at least so “they” say. Besides, I lived to tell the tale, and that’s worth something.

      Thanks for dropping in.

      All my best,

  20. Good story based on your real-life experience. Great you survived the poisoning. Well done. 🙂 — Suzanne

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