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  • I don’t get sick often. But, the last two times we’ve traveled to Pennsylvania, I’ve come back to Virginia, sick. Two weeks ago, I came back with the flu. Two days flat on my ass, then I was up and at it, and over it. We went up and back last Saturday for a family holiday gathering. There were people we’d heard were sick that showed up, anyway. They must have gotten better! Or, maybe not quite...

    On Sunday, what usually takes me 4 hours took 7 ½, making my food donation pickups. The warehouse is a real mess since my fellow Sunday volunteer worker, Brenda, retired. I had to root all through the warehouse just to find enough empty boxes to store all the food I pick up, in, and I still didn’t have enough. All through my run, I was scrounging around for empty boxes at each grocery store I hit. I wound up having a record pickup day, 1835 pounds worth. My previous record was 1550 pounds. (I’ve picked up 36,000 pounds over the past year, all of which would have gotten thrown away if I hadn’t volunteered to do this. Most of that gets to families who really need it.) My truck got so full, I had to return to the warehouse to unload and put away all that food, then go back out for the rest. By the time I got home, I could feel the sick coming on.

    I struggled getting through work on Monday, came home, and pretty much slept for 12 hours. I can never sleep more than six hours. I felt a little better Tuesday and went to work, taking medicine, which I hate to take. I tried to drink enough water, but I must not have drinken enough. I only had to work half a day Wednesday, then took it easy at home that afternoon.
  • We had our typical New Year’s Eve. For the ninth straight year, we had 5:00 reservations for the Chef’s Table at Bazin’s on Church Street. That’s just a totally joyful experience for us. Patrick Bazin opened that restaurant up nine years ago, the culmination of a dream he’d had for many years, after studying in Europe and being a head chef of a famous DC Restaurant for awhile. It is such a joy to watch him in all his glory, as his place gets crowded and he works his crew of chefs to get all the spectacular meals out, timely and deliciously. He’s always delighted to see us, and after a scrumptious meal, we make our reservation for the next New Year’s Eve, always the first ones to do so.

    That was followed by our typically quiet New Year’s Eve at home, just me and the love of my life, enjoying wrapping up another year, together. I usually make it to midnight – she usually falls asleep by 11:30. She asked if I wanted to let her beat me at a game of scrabble (she always wins – I’m smart, but she’s brilliant). I said no, but I’ll be happy to beat her (at scrabble – no, I don’t beat my wife!)

    But, I faded fast when we got home. I figured maybe a game of scrabble, and then to bed for me. I wasn’t going to make midnight, this year. Around 7:00, I got a call from work. There was an issue that needed my attention. Food safety doesn’t take a holiday. If something unsafe is out there, we have to get it out of commerce as soon as possible. It makes no matter if it’s New Year’s Eve. The scrabble game was out, as was getting to bed as early as I'd hoped. It took me awhile to track down the person I needed to track down, on New Year's Eve, who could handle what needed to be handled. Finally, at 10:00, I was heading to bed, really feeling lousy, hoping a good night's sleep would usher me into the new year in better health.
  • I awoke at 2 a.m. There was tremendous pain in my chest. I went downstairs, hoping that moving around would help to relieve it. It didn’t. I tried sitting up in my easy chair in my cave. It got worse. I tried laying down on the sofa. It got worse. I began having trouble even moving, the pain was so all-encompassing. I’ve never felt pain like that, and I’ve been through a lot of physical pain in my life.

    I remembered what Stephen Levine had said in his book, "A Year to Live", about leaning into your sickness, instead of fighting it, so I tried that. Anything. It didn’t help. After about an hour, and no change, except getting worse, I spent 15 minutes debating about calling my wife from my cell phone, but didn’t want to freak her out. I tried moving, and very wobbly made my way back upstairs. I barely made it to the bedroom. She asked what was wrong. I said I didn’t know. All I knew was this pain in my chest was bad and getting worse. She asked if I could make it out to the car. At that point, I didn’t think I could make it anywhere. The pain consumed my entire being. I couldn’t move.

    Kathy called the doctor’s office emergency line, left a voice message, and waited for a call back. Nothing. So, she called 911. I was getting worse. They sent an ambulance. The rest is pretty fuzzy. They took my temperature, it was 104. I couldn’t handle light, so I kept my eyes closed, and kept trying to lean into whatever it was. If I was dying, I just wanted to get it over with. Anything but that pain. It just felt like my chest was going to explode, and my head wasn’t much better. Intense pain all around.
  • I went to Hawaii. I went to Iceland. I went to Alaska. I went to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. All in my mind. The pain kept bringing me back. If somebody would have offered to put a bullet in my brain, I would have gladly accepted that offer. Just make the pain go away.

    They ran an EKG. They took X-Rays - I couldn’t stand up for them, so they had to do it with me in the hospital bed. They had me hooked up to so many gadgets and gizmos, I keep finding these little tabs all over my body, that they missed when they released me. My heart was good. No pneumonia. I didn’t even have the flu. Just a bad cold, and dehydration, had created whatever I experienced. Are you kidding me? I felt like a total fool. But, only after that pain finally subsided, about 5 hours later. A bag of fluids, mega dose of tylenol to break the fever, and the worst way to start a New Year that I could possibly imagine.

    But, you know what? The rest of the year can only get better. Bring it!
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    Photos: Hawaii, Iceland, and Alaska taken by me - last photo by Paul Simoes Mendes, courtesy of https://unsplash.com/ - reminded me of where I went in Cape Breton Island.
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