I want to share this story from a reader about a baseball allegory and what it taught him about life. What he has to teach is valuable to us all, whether we are a baseball fan or not. Therefore, I hope you read it because baseball always gives lessons!
What Nearly Dying Taught Me About Living
I don’t think very many people (at least during their working years) wake up and wonder when they will die. I certainly didn’t. I liked to consider how long I would live. I would review all the variables in my life including that the human lifespan has increased dramatically through the centuries.
My neighbor, Laverne, is almost 90 and appears strong as an ox. My own mother is 95 and as sharp as a tack. She has a good quality of life despite a few back surgeries and a slow loss of hearing. So yes, I liked to think positively about my prospects.
However, as I write, I am reminded of a sermon I heard one Sunday that intrigued me. The topic was that life can change radically and often abruptly. The minister used a metaphor that life is like a baseball game. The batter was expecting a normal pitch, but the pitcher throws him off stride and instead delivers a surprise curveball.
Five years ago, I was expecting a day like any other day, you know, a straight fast ball.
I woke to a five-a.m. alarm followed by a cup or two of “joe” and then time with my little television, better known as an iPad. My wife was up early with me as we fed the animals together and prepared our lunches.
I was happy with my life as I was loved and felt very content. I also had my dream job as a professional Numismatist. If you haven’t heard the term, you would be like most. A Numismatist studies coins and money. I bought and sold coin collections up to and over $100,000. I spent twenty -five years doing this job I loved. I began at nine years old under the tutelage of my grandfather. I was considered a top expert in the field. It was a profession that was perfect for me. It was a blend of history, and design art rolled into one long adventure around the world!
I finished that start with a quick shower, breakfast and off I went on my 46-mile commute to work.
Looking back on that morning, I couldn’t have imagined how my day would end. Of course, most folks that morning would be expecting straight balls all day. I did too. However, my day would end with a curveball that was a brush with my own mortality.
That evening I cooked shrimp and rice. However, my dinner just refused to settle in my stomach. By 10, I was vomiting all that I had eaten. I later learned that shrimp are scavenger sea creatures who often feed in polluted waters (spoiler alert for you shrimp lovers).
I returned to bed and yet sleep evaded me. My body began to shake with violently. I first thought I was coming down with the flu.
I strong-talked myself, “Be tough! Don’t wake her! You’ll be ok!”
This didn’t seem to be the case as the shaking became worse and I could tell that I was developing a fever. It was foreign to me to feel so cold and then touch my forehead and know I was hot. I even grabbed a few extra blankets to attempt to warm myself….to no avail.
The best that I could explain my sudden illness was like witnessing a boy in high school having an epileptic seizure. There’s not much one can do except wait for the seizure to end.
At this point I was desperate for help! My heart was racing and my body shaking wildly. The shaking was rapid and constant like a run-away train. It was past midnight, and my wife was sleeping soundly. I had to wake her up. I seriously thought I was dying! My time on earth seemed awfully short.
“Call ambulance!” I mumbled over and over.
I was physically and emotionally hysterical. The ambulance EMT’s strapped me down on the gurney as if to tame my erratic behavior. While the ambulances bright red lights flashed outside, the two EMT’s began to load me into the ambulance. It’s strange how something out of context will grab and stick in your memory. I glanced across the street and my neighbors were in lawn chairs watching as if they were at a sporting event. I considered them a bit strange before this night, but this seemed certifiable. They never inquired about me either.
I entered the protective chamber inside the ambulance. I was then treated to what I’d call “a real breath of fresh air”. More succinctly, it was an oxygen mask. I had been hyperventilating in response to a temperature of 104 degrees and my heart racing at 150 beats per minute. The pure oxygen stabilized me for the time being. God, what a relief.
When you have been a repeat patient at a hospital’s emergency ward, you learn a few things. There are only two ways to be helped quickly. One is to arrive by ambulance and two would be to have a life-threatening medical condition, such as a heart attack or a stroke.
Into a small waiting room, I was settled. I was still quite a bit confused and puzzled by my wild and frantic behavior before arriving at the hospital. I pondered how did I become so ill? How did I seem to become so deadly sick in one evening?
The answer to my questions was to elude me for some time to come. I was questioned by several doctors and maybe it eluded them as well. To the best of my recollection (I was experiencing mental confusion at the time) I believe I received some sort of sedative and an antibiotic and then released.
However, I worsened and had to return not long thereafter. Sent home once again, it was not until the next day that I received a call that my blood work had come back abnormal and that I needed to be admitted.
I love to hear or read stories of those who have discovered A Good Death Lifestyle. Mark F. shares his story of standing on the precipice of death through a baseball metaphor to which we can relate. His Good Death Lifestyle followed, and he shares that with us in his short story. Enjoy!
I do remember one of the technicians telling me, “The human body has an amazing ability to fight off infections or traumatic injury.” I really felt lucky to still be alive. Later, I would learn how narrowly I had escaped death. My curveball was coming in hot!
During my time with clinicians, doctors, and nurses alike, I couldn’t get satisfactory answers to my circumstance. Therefore, I decided to turn to Dr. Google.
“Hmmm…”, I mumbled in my thoughts.
I began looking up a few key words like infection, fever, and rapid heart rate. They all pointed to a diagnosis of sepsis. I had never understood or had a reason to know what the word sepsis meant. I had a strong inclination that’s what I had though. After all my symptoms seemed to match up perfectly.
The week progressed and I wish the doctors had been more direct and explained my diagnosis and treatment. Finally, after a week’s ordeal, I was released from the hospital.
It took several weeks to return to a sense of normal. I told a nice customer who was a doctor my story. After listening to my story, he confirmed Dr. Google.
“Yes,” he said. “You had sepsis and you are lucky to be alive. If not treated correctly, most patients will die withing 24-36 hours.”
I was to learn later that it had been five days before receiving an effective antibiotic. I did narrowly miss having my last day. Yet, as with all things, there are lessons to be had and advice to be given.
I can state with conviction: Enjoy your good health and the loved one around you! Seriously, you can be fine one day and dying the next. I’ve been there. Life is precious, live as if you know that! You never know when you will be in the batter’s box and as you step up, the silent signal between catcher and pitcher is for a curveball.
Swing hard at life my friend, swing hard!