“The Episode” – A Night That Changed My Life


I don’t suppose any school night at our house was typical.  Usually, we were racing from a girl scouts function to basketball games or vice versa, or some meeting at school or church, or all of the above.  Oh!  And wolfing down some fast food grub or snacks at the basketball game.

I don’t remember if this particular night, the night of “The Episode,” was a school night, but I do remember that I was playing racquetball in the morning and looking forward to it.  And it turned out to be a most important night on my personal transformational journey.

I always looked forward to playing racquetball.  Still do.  I enjoy the competition and camaraderie.   At the time, I’d been playing with the same group of crazies for… ten, twelve years?  Crazies?  Well yeah, who else gets up to play racquetball and take verbal abuse at 5:30 every morning?

Since we moved to Winthrop Harbor, it was more challenging to navigate the logistics.  The Southlake Club was 25 miles away.  When we lived in Gurnee, I played three or four times a week.  Not so often any more.

But tomorrow morning we had a doubles match scheduled at 6.

Late on this particular evening, dishes done, kids off to bed, I was not feeling well.  My stomach ached most of the evening and I was growing more uncomfortable with every passing moment.

Now, I will spare you all the graphic details, but most of you’ve been there.  Gastrointestinal distress, you don’t feel like socializing, you don’t feel like reading, you don’t feel like doing anything.  It would be nice if you could simply pass out and wake up when it was all over.

There are… ah, certain… “things” you wish would happen so you can just get on with the rest of your life.

Well, nothing was happening except I was getting increasingly uncomfortable.  The gastric distress intensified and I didn’t sleep one minute.  Heck, I couldn’t even lie down!  Most of the night, I groaned and paced the floor, trying not to wake anyone.

Remember Violet Beauregarde, the gum-chewing young girl from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, who blows up like a balloon from eating an experimental piece of candy and needs to have the blueberry juice squeezed out of her?  Or Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life” where Terry Jones plays Mr. Creosote, the restaurant patron who eats so much food he finally explodes after eating an after dinner mint?

Maybe I should have eaten an after dinner mint and saved myself a lot of grief.

But then I wouldn’t be able to tell you this fabulous story!

You might have guessed.  I didn’t explode.  But after an endless night of misery (about eight straight hours of excruciating pain and “things” that happened that I won’t relate) and thinking I quite likely could explode, my early morning trip was not to the racquetball courts, but the emergency room.

So Kathy drives me to the ER.  Wouldn’t you know, on the way there, my pain begins to subside.  By the time the ER doctor finally sees me, my pain is gone except for a few fleeting memories.  Sheepishly, I recount my story; the doctor discusses possible causes, and says after a routine vitals exam, he’ll send me on my way.

Uh oh… not so fast.

“You have an irregular heartbeat.”

Next thing I know, I’m flat on my back on the gurney, staring into the glare of the bright fluorescent lights, wondering what the heck has happened in the last 12 (or so) hours.

“What’s wrong with me?  I take care of myself.  I exercise (translation: play racquetball two or three times a week and basketball on Saturdays during the summer, and one touch and one tackle football game every year).  This can’t be happening.  This happens to Dad, but not me!”

Further tests and a stress test a few days later concluded that “The Episode” was not heart-related.

We never pinpointed the cause of “The Episode.”  Doctors speculated that it may have been gall bladder related and possibly related to the high fat meal I ate that night.  Nothing conclusive.

“The Episode,” however, completely changed my life.

More about that in my next post.

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