It’s never good news when a family member calls on a Monday morning when they’re supposed to be at work. It wasn’t.

I had just carried in the last bag of groceries and saw my niece was calling.

“Mom’s having a heart attack,” she said, “and on her way to the hospital.”

My sister is having a heart attack? This can’t be, I thought, I just saw her two days ago and she looked fine. A hundred different thoughts raced through my mind, almost as fast as I sped to the hospital. This can’t be happening, she has to be OK, I need my sister to be OK.

Spending the weekend getting ready for her son and family to arrive from California, my sister had been busy with those things you put off until family comes and you have to get it done. The only problem was she kept having to take breaks because her jaws were aching, which she thought to be a sinus infection. By the time she got to the doctors’ office on Monday morning they told her she was having a heart attack.

When I arrived at the hospital she was in surgery, having several blockages in her heart repaired with stints. We all sat in the waiting area, staring at each other, staring at the clock, staring at our phones, and after what seemed like hours, someone (not a nurse or doctor) finally walked through the doors and I believe wanted to be helpful but really wasn’t.

“The doctor said he’s halfway done,” she said. “Her EKG goes up and then goes down, but she is stable, and will be in intensive care when the surgery is over” and with that tidbit of information walked away.

This time when we all stared at each other there were tears in our eyes. What does that mean the EKG goes up and down? Intensive care?

We did what every caring family does during a crisis and made a trip to get junk food to eat our way through the next half of the surgery. About the time I was starting to contemplate walking through the swinging doors with “no admission” plastered all over them, to find out what the heck was going on, the doctor was ready to meet with us.

She was going to be just fine. The surgery went well, she wasn’t going to be in intensive care, and actually had just been given a mild sedative and would be ready to see us just as soon as she got to her room.

Instead of giving my sister a hug or telling her how scary it was to think I might lose her, I offered her a banana. It was the only thing I hadn’t eaten out of my junk food bag, and it was either that or stand by her bed sobbing like a baby.

I called her today to check in and see how everything’s going. and we talked about our aches and pains, like we always do.

It’s good to get old with your sister.

Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at