Bill Marshall had just collapsed on the conference room floor in front of the entire management team. His co-workers swarmed around him anxiously barking questions. Are you alright? Where does it hurt? Can I get you anything? Can you talk? Bill wanted to answer all of them but the pain in his side was excruciating and he couldn’t get the words out. The muscles below his rib cage seized, failed to relinquish their grip. He couldn’t breathe. He clenched his teeth and tried to draw breath. His GM reached down and sat him in an upright position against the wall and handed him a bottle of water. Bill leaned forward, grabbing his ankles, trying to stretch the spasm away. Finally, the pain subsided. He sat against the wall, sipped the water and tried to regain his composure. He looked up, the entire room was staring at him.
“It’s all over,” Bill said. “Let’s continue.”
“Are you nuts?” his GM said. “You’re going to the hospital.”
Someone in the background offered to call an Ambulance. Bill resisted, insisting that it was over and he was fine.
“Have you had that happen before?” the controller asked.
“Not like that.” He lied. The truth was that he had. Not as bad but similar. He had mentioned them to his Doctor and they could find no explanation. Just one more thing to deal with.
“Well, we’re driving you to the hospital then. I’m not giving you a choice.”
Bill dropped his shoulders in defeat as he was pulled upright. He allowed his coworkers to take his arms as they ascended the stairs, walked outside, and got him into a waiting van.
By the time they had reached the local hospital, Bill felt fine. He didn’t want to go in. He had been the local hospital route before. It was always the same thing, they would run some tests and send them to his own doctor. Nothing would be accomplished except the waste of a lot of time. A doctor would come out and ask if he knew that he had Kidney issues. He was aware.
There was a bigger picture here shaping up. Bill’s GM was going in with him. When he hears the words “Kidney Disease” from the Doctor, it will be the first time his company learns that he is sick. Two hours ago, he was bulletproof. That façade was about to crumble. It was his biggest fear, that his coworkers will now see him as the sick guy. Bill had done an admirable job of denying, faking and downplaying his illness to his family, friends and employers for a hell of a long time. Now his Achilles Heel is exposed.