Ramona and I are beginning the New Year with a new rule for household living. After nearly forty productive and satisfying years working together in universities, think tanks, and on our ranch, we thought we had incorporated life's guidelines for living. However we missed an important one, a near fatal mistake.
Successful couples develop implicit agreements that become rules. These facilitate coordination and foster accommodation. They ease and simplify life. No need for discussion. I unload the bottom of the dishwasher, Ramona the top. I pick up the papers, she opens the bills. With gates, leave them as you found them is the default rule. These patterns simply evolve. They generally improve life.
Some of the rules involve safety. We don't leave the house with candles burning or the clothes dryer running. No discussion or debate, we just don't do it. When I'm going out to run machinery or check animals or irrigation, I tell Ramona what I'm doing and where I'm going. Same rule applies to Ramona when she hikes on our place.
Our new rule is simple: Don't hot tub alone or unattended. Here is how it evolved--and why it is so important. First the physical layout.
We live on a ranch ten miles SW of Bozeman. Anticipating retirement and to facilitate healthful living, a few years ago we added to our home. The addition includes an exercise room with an adjacent reading room leading to a handicapped bathroom and shower. A door on the south of the reading room opens to a small deck with a hot tub. Ramona's study and mine are a few steps down the hall.
We had spent Christmas week in Chicago visiting relatives and friends. While we enjoyed our visit, we also caught flu. Further, however nice the people and hotel, I find Montana a far easier place to live. We arrived home exhausted on December 27.
We awoke December 30 still ill. The temperature was minus 13ºF. We had new snow--and a steer out. I saw him, ear tag #42 I later discovered, across the Kleinschmidt Canal, about a quarter mile south. With the help of a neighbor, I got him back. Still fighting flu and after a few hours of work in the cold, I climbed in the hot tub.
Ramona asked how I felt after tubbing. Much improved I said. Wonderful she said. "I'll take one too. Please go to the post office." No, I responded, I'll help you in and stay until you're out. "Go ahead. I'll be fine", Ramona insisted.
Here is the key to our new house rule. Instead of running off to the post office I retreated to my study and read, just waiting for a refreshed Ramona to walk in. She didn't.
I hadn't set a timer but fortunately, in such circumstances one is built in. By now, she should have come by. Where's Ramona?
It's only 24 steps from my study chair to the glass door opening to the hot tub deck. I look, see her shower shoes but no Ramona in sight. I check the shower, three steps to the right. She isn't there either. I'm back to the deck door, open it, and look to the right and down.
There's Ramona, on the bottom of the tub, facing upward as though following the stream of bubbles from her filling lungs. I was utterly terrified, near panic. Code red minus practice drills.
I reach her, pull her head above water and then her to the top of the tub. Alas, although she weights only 120 pounds, I couldn't carry her, embarrassing in retrospect. So I drug her down the steps and laid her on her side, unconscious and not breathing.
I leaned on her ribs; she expelled water, started breathing, and opened her eyes. She still couldn't speak. I drug Ramona across the deck floor, over the doorsill into the reading room. More fluid out, air in, and she comes to. Brief prayer of thanks.
I called a physician friend. He told me to give Ramona oxygen from the tank in our work out room. Then get her to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital's emergency room. Our friend would call the ER and meet us there. Totally as friends, he and his wife stayed with us for over two hours. (Another MD friend, one unaffiliated with the hospital, arrived just after they left.)
Here is the happy ending. We checked Ramona in. The emergency department docs checked her out with kind personal care and multiple tests. The entire staff was wonderfully nice and highly competent. They keep her in the hospital under observation for two days. I brought her home January 1. A very happy New Year! She is quite scuffed up from my dragging her into the house but cheerfully alive and recovering. We still expect to ski out our passes.
Here is our new house rule: No hot tubbing alone or unattended. We can live with that.