I went to live with my paternal grandmother, Eugenie or “Grandma,” because my mother who had separated from my father could not afford to raise me and my sister Marise. My mother had just found out that she was pregnant with twins, in Haiti, a country where there were no financial support for a poor woman.
Years later, in 1982, Grandma, at the age of 78, offered to come and stay with me in San Diego. I had just separated from my husband, and all alone in San Diego, was trying to build a private medical practice. She offered to come because she did not want me to be alone in a town that was “too far from Haiti.”
It was good to have her healing hands helping me again. Sometimes, I would find myself so imbedded with self-pity that I would have heartburn and stomach aches. Grandma, who traveled with her little bag of homemade remedies, would come to the rescue like she did when I was a child.
I spent lots of time during my first year in San Diego building my practice. Compared to the busy life of residency training, however, I had free time, and I decided to take art classes. I had always wanted to be a painter. Also, I was not willing or able to pay the exorbitant prices asked for artwork to decorate the walls of my new office.
I also made new friends, explored the area with Grandma and took her to the movies, plays and musical performances. I was able to spoil her for all the sacrifices that she had made while I was growing up with her. Our relationship became even stronger. She had always been my friend, but now she was becoming my best friend. Again I had the opportunity to hear her life story. It had inspired me as a little girl growing up in a macho man’s world, to learn from her that I could accomplish anything, even though I was a woman.
I was driving to buy some art supplies one afternoon after I left my office, when a message came clear to me: “You have to return home now.” I did not pay attention and got off at the exit for the art store. “Go home, go home, go home . . , ” the message got stronger and stronger. I don’t need to go home now, I need the supplies, I thought. It felt weird that a conversation was occurring in my head. Then I remembered Grandma saying that you should always listen to your inner voice, unless it is telling you to do something harmful. Reluctantly, I made a U-turn one block before the art store and headed home.
When I got home, Grandma did not answer when I called her name. Then I saw blood all over the carpet in the living room. It led me to the bathroom where the floor was covered with blood around Grandma, who was lying unconscious. I felt her pulse. It was faint. I called 911 and when they arrived, one of the medics told me, “She is a lucky lady. A few more minutes on her own and she would have bled to death.”
I was still in shock when I realized that if I had not listened to that inner voice telling me to go home immediately. I would have been too late. Grandma would have died. Where did that miraculous message come from? I did not care to ask. I was just so grateful that because I listened, I was able to save the life of the most important person in my life.
Carolle Jean-Murat, MD, FACOG