A long-standing personal record was set aside last Tuesday afternoon. The mark, which had stood since 1985, was shattered in a most emphatic manner at approximately 2:30 p.m. as I vomited into a Dumpster behind Abilene High School.
The nearly 26-year-old streak of barf-free days was over. But, I had much more to deal with yet that day.
For the better part of the afternoon, I had been feeling fine. In fact, just moments before the undignified event, I had polished off a candy bar from the ice chest in the school vehicle. I had driven my tennis team to our final regular-season meet of the year and had just witnessed one of my doubles teams wrap up a match. In short, things were progressing normally.
Then, I felt an odd sensation not unlike a small earthquake in my head. I commented to the girls about it as the wave of dizziness passed over me. Then, the second, much more intense bout of vertigo struck. I grabbed for the fence at the side of the tennis courts. I didn’t tell anyone; I just took my folding chair and crossed the street to a shady area to try to regain my bearings and balance. My efforts failed. I sank into the chair as the world continued to spin.
I tried to focus on my surroundings. I knew I was going downhill fast, figuratively and literally, it seemed, so I began to consider a dignified way to lose my lunch without causing a scene.
I was in the building trades area of the Abilene campus, so there was a large Dumpster in the vicinity. I made my decision and staggered over, my body drenched in a cold sweat. It was moments later that the vertigo brought an end to my vomit-free streak of nearly 26 years.
Luckily for me, there were other adults, parents of tennis team members, at the meet. Dale Winter ( I now refer to him as St. Dale), was the first on the scene. He asked me questions that were pertinent and mildly amusing, I suppose, though I had lost my sense of humor when I lost my lunch.
He queried me about whether I was experiencing any chest pains, whether I needed to sit down, and whether I had eaten any cantaloupe lately. At that point, I was so dizzy, even speaking was an effort.
Soon, Eddie and Connie Weber came over to offer their help. Since I could no longer stand on my own, Eddie and Dale carried me to a chair in the shade. Moments later, I treated them to a second display of emesis. Any movement at all was more than my stomach could handle.
It was now apparent that my girls would be without a coach for the rest of the afternoon. Connie took on the job of watching out for the team. She also called my wife to apprise her of the situation.
One of the parents called the activities director to give him the news and to ask permission for Eddie to drive the girls home in the school vehicle. It was obvious, with my severe list to starboard, I wouldn’t be driving anything or anyone anywhere.
Eventually, my wife arrived to take me to the emergency room in Abilene. I can honestly say I don’t know anything about the hospital or the nurses who took care of me because I didn’t even want to open my eyes, but I do know every small bump and dip in the road to the medical center.
I felt every one.
The ER folks did their thing as quickly and efficiently as they could. For some unexplained reason, it was a particularly busy evening for emergencies. I received an intravenous solution to calm my nausea, but the dizziness remained.
I was prepped for an EKG, just to be on the safe side, the nurses said. I am proud to say my chest required a bit of shaving before the pads were put in place. The results were negative for heart problems. That didn’t surprise me. It was my head that was giving me fits.
I appeared to be a bit dehydrated from the day’s activities, so a drip of some sort of solution was administered. As a side note, I never before had thought about the fact that cold IV fluid could chill a person. When I mentioned that I was feeling a bit coolish, a nurse brought out a warm blanket that felt heavenly.
After an hour longer or so in the ER, I was released into the care of my loving wife. The nurse wheeled me to my van. As I rolled out the door, I was greeted by a concerned group of tennis girls, just back from a trip to Burger King.
Someone said something about taking pictures for the yearbook. I growled that I just might throw up again any second, so the girls scattered a bit. I collapsed into the van, and my wife chauffeured me home.
As I write this late Sunday, I am still not feeling fully recovered. I stayed home Wednesday and Thursday, writing school lesson plans from my laptop and emailing them to the high school.
I felt well enough Friday to accompany my tennis team to regionals in Wichita, though I didn’t drive. For the second year in a row, a Trojan doubles team has qualified for the state tournament. I need to concentrate on getting better so I can taxi them to Dodge City next weekend for the meet.
I feel blessed that things worked out the way they did. I am glad parents were around to help cover what needed to be taken care of during the week. I want to thank Dale and Eddie and Connie, along with our AD, Robert Rempel, for all their help and for not making too much fun of my stagger.
I thank my tennis girls for their concern and understanding as I was not on top of my coaching game last week.
Thanks also to my wife for literally being someone I could lean on. All in all, things could have been much worse. I might have toppled over and received a concussion or become ill while driving. The meet could have been in a town without an emergency room.
I will probably never know what caused my loss of equilibrium. There are a number of theories out there. I have talked with quite a few people who have gone through exactly what I experienced. In general, the recovery time seems to vary from three days to a couple of weeks.
I guess I will just have to be patient and take it easy. And then there’s always that new streak of barf-free days I need to work on.