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.
“I don’t belong here”, I said. As I spoke I scanned the group assembled at the long table. Looks like 2 Head Shrinkers and an intern. They looked like reasonable people. I could work with them.
“Sir, won’t you agree that most everyone here would say that?” said the Benjamin Bratt lookalike, young and sharp Psychiatrist.
“Maybe. And with no disrespect to those who are here, this is different.”
“How?”, the very cute Intern chimed in.
“Because I tried to force my Doctor’s hand and they called my bluff.”
“Could you give us a little more?”
I explained to them that I was struggling with my dialysis treatments. I was having itching and cramping and spasms that made being in a chair unbearable. That I couldn’t get relief day or night and the insomnia was beating me down. When I couldn’t take it anymore I demanded that my Dr. admit me to find out what was going on. That I was going to hurt myself if I couldn’t find relief.
“That was a mistake that I regret deeply,” I said.
I explained that I wasn’t aware of the steps they would take after my threat. The room without sharp objects that I spent almost a full day. That I would be roomed with a bunch of twitchy, clearly disturbed people. God love them but I’m not one of them. That it just wasn’t what I wanted to accomplish. I was very clear to apologize for wasting their time. But I was clear…I am here for medical care because nothing has been resolved yet.
The next 20 minutes was a back and forth about the seriousness of threats and the callousness of ignoring them, taking an opportunity to partake in some group therapy, digging down to see if I really wanted to harm myself. I had to think about that one long and hard with chin in hand.
I had had some dark-ass thoughts while in the booby -hatch room. Cold, alone, sleep-deprived and ravaged by the lack of dialysis treatments is not a good combination for me. I fought thoughts of slashing my wrists and watching myself bleed out. I imagined putting my .38 Special against my temple, or should I put it to my chest to make a better open-casket? I fantasized about swilling a bottle of Ambien and floating off to peace at last.
“And your children?” I came out of my fog.
“What about my children”? I asked.
“Says here you have 4 children. Are you concerned about how they would feel if you harmed yourself?”
Hell of a question. Should be filed under “no-brainer” but it had to be asked. My children would be fucking crushed if I did that. My children and I have an amazing relationship that I cherish. They have been the biggest reason for me to fight all along. “Yes, I’m very concerned. That realization did come to me. I have a great support network all around…friends, family, my Mason brothers. What made me clear my head between my admission 2 days ago and now is one recurring and terrifying thought.” I paused to sip my coffee. “What if there is a hell and my penance is to watch my children grieve for me, to struggle in life and I’m forced to scratch and scream at a window but they can’t hear me?”
“That’s a rather specific scenario…” Benjamin Bratt said.
“It’s happened before in my dreams…”