Are You Still Breathing?

Hubby is a guy who has rarely been ill during his lifetime, so when I found him in bed unresponsive, panic mode resulted. That would be for me, not for him. After shaking him and demanding that he speak to me, the next voice I heard was on the other end of the phone line. The voice was saying, “Please be calm and answer my questions.”

Be calm? What kind of person responds to a distress call with that reply? I’ve decided this patient voice on the other end of the line was probably a recording, since nothing I said seemed to be processed and the voice continued on with a series of instructions and questions. My answers went something like this: “Yes, he’s still breathing.” - “That’s the correct address.” - “I need to put the phone down to unlock the door.” - “The door’s unlocked.” - “I’m still on the line.” - “No, his eyes are still rolled up.” - “I hear the siren now.”

Much of what happened throughout that long night is blurred in my memory, but I do remember some significant things:

•I can still picture the big boots of the firemen as, lugging bags of equipment, they entered our bedroom. (It may be that I remember the boots because new off-white carpet had just been installed in our home.) I remember the kindness in the voices of those strong rescue workers, the reassurance they offered as they sprang quickly into action (taking blood pressure and pulse, administering oxygen, inserting an IV needle, doing an EKG, calling medical personnel), I remember listening carefully to the detailed briefing they gave to the paramedics who arrived a few minutes later, and I remember vividly the very in-charge young fireman who wouldn’t let me go to my car until a neighbor volunteered to drive me to the hospital - no doubt because he thought me now to be crazy.

• I still remember how confident I felt when the crew of paramedics took over communication with the emergency room, rechecked vitals, arranged for transportation, and how reassured I felt that Hubby was in very capable hands as they carried him out the door and down the steps.

• I remember the care in the emergency room, the all night vigil, and wondering how things might have turned out were it not for the miracles of modern medicine.

Now one defibrillator and biventricular pacemaker, countless low-sodium dishes, and many prayers later, Hubby is enjoying good health again. Even knowing that his cardiologist gives good reports on every visit, I do have to admit that when I awaken during the night and can’t hear Hubby breathing, I reach over and touch him just hard enough to make him move. In that touch is my question, “Are you still breathing?”


My postscript for this entry has to do with low-sodium cooking. It took lots of experimenting to come up with tasty meals without the excessive sodium we were used to tasting in everything. I’m including one here, a vegetable soup recipe, for anyone interested in or needing to cook without salt.

Low-Sodium Vegetable Soup
Recipe by Verla Powers - Makes 10 servings (approximately 91 mg sodium per 1 1/3 cup serving)

1½ lb stewing beef 480 mg
2 medium onions, chopped 6.6 mg
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped 2.04 mg
1½ tbs extra virgin olive oil 0 mg
6 large carrots (peeled and sliced) 151.2 mg
5 medium potatoes (peeled and cubed) 50 mg
2 medium potatoes (peeled/cooked/mashed) 20 mg
14.5-oz “no salt added” diced, stewed tomatoes 70 mg
8 oz “no salt added” tomato sauce 126 mg
½ tsp black pepper .25 mg
¼ tsp red pepper 1.75 mg
¼ tsp tarragon .25 mg
¼ tsp celery seeds 1.00 mg
1½ tbs sugar 0 mg
2 bay leaves 3 mg

• Cook stew-meat in no sodium water until tender. Remove meat to chopping board (save broth) and cut into small pieces. Put chopped meat into 6 quart crock pot.
• Heat 1½ tbs extra virgin olive oil in a skillet. Add chopped onions and finely chopped garlic. Sauté until tender. Add sugar and continue to cook while stirring until onions are caramelized. Add crock pot.
• Peel and slice carrots. Add to crock pot.
• Peel and cube (5) potatoes. Add to crock pot.
• Peel, cook and mash (2) potatoes - cover and refrigerate
• Puree stewed tomatoes, then add: tomato sauce, red pepper, ground tarragon, celery seeds, and black pepper. Stir well and pour into crock pot.
• Add broth saved from stew meat and stir well.
• Add enough no sodium water until liquid is 1 inch over the top of vegetables.
• Stick bay leaves down into the mixture on each side of the crock pot.
• Cover and cook according to crock pot directions.
• When vegetables are tender, remove bay leaves, add 1 cup water and mashed potatoes. Stir well. Turn cooker to low heat. Cover and continue cooking until the broth is hot.
Serve with no salt top crackers.

(I freeze the soup in two-serving portions.)


  1. The recipe sounds great even if one is not on a salt free diet! YUM!

  2. Captain Nancy, we really like this soup, and it's a plus that it is low in both fat and sodium.