Maybe there was something in my heart telling me I should return to the hospital. That’s probably why last Friday the 13th — a day that began so fun by meeting one of my favorite baseball stars — I found myself driving to the Emergency Room with chest pains.
“There’s no way I’m having a heart attack,” I kept reassuring myself. But the signs were all there; difficulty breathing, pain in my chest and side, reluctance to admit it was a heart attack, blah, blah, blah.
No, I obviously shouldn’t have been driving myself but my wife and girls were at the high school for an event and since I was much closer to my destination and I didn’t want to disturb them, I hopped in the car and took off. Don’t try this at home.
I-75 was jammed so I decided on an alternate route. Thankfully it passed right by another Emergency Room in a sort of redi-med building. I swung in there.
“Hi,” I said to the receptionist, “I am a bone marrow transplant patient with a history of leukemia and blood clots who is experiencing pains in the chest and difficulty breathing.” Man, I sounded so professional. “Oh, and I’m on blood thinners too.” I was proud of my ability to succinctly give my history, like a walking/talking medic alert bracelet. But I was also supremely embarrassed.
“This is probably nothing,” I assured myself.
They got me checked in immediately and started the testing right away. Thankfully the heart monitor showed no abnormality and the blood tests indicated everything was okay. That didn’t help the look on my daughter’s faces, though, when I saw them later on. Seeing their fear, after I had been assuring them over and over again throughout the past year, made me realize yet again how my battle wasn’t just being waged for myself.
What new fresh hell was I experiencing?
After an ambulance ride downtown to Harper Hospital — in the bumpiest vehicle I’ve been in since, I don’t know, the old Ford pickup truck on the farm in North Dakota I used to visit when I was a kid — they kept prodding and poking and taking blood until a 1:00 a.m. ultrasound proved it was only pericarditis, a swelling of the sac surrounding the heart. More than likely it was brought on by my artificially low immune system or my previous bout with leukemia. The treatment? Motrin.
That previous sentence was longer than the amount of sleep I got that night, but I was happy to go home the next day and relieved that, at least for me, the stress was over. But I think in my family’s eyes, this opened old wounds that had only recently begun to scar over.
We’ve spoken about it individually and, bless all their hearts, they don’t want me worrying about them. But knowing I’m fine, my biggest concern is obviously with their personal states of mind.
We run the risk in the Curtis family of worrying too much about each other and not enough about ourselves, so somehow I need to shatter this. I know when I’m a year, two years, five and ten years removed from all this it will be easier for them to not live on pins and hypodermic needles. But I want that for them now, right freakin’ now.
And I’m sure what they want most, right freakin’ now, is for me to stop worrying about them.