A Season In Hell: My Medical Nightmare – Part 1
By Don Millard
It was 1989 when it all began and I was 24 years old.
I had a great girlfriend and was pursuing my dream of doing stand-up comedy in Florida. It was a good time to be me and I wouldn’t have traded places with anyone in the world. Little did I know that very soon I’d learn first hand that there are fates worse than death.
Driving home late at night from a show, a strange and unsettling thought crept across my mind. As I looked at my reflection in the rear view mirror, I heard myself say “I’m gonna die in some mysterious way.”
Whoa. Where the hell did that come from? As one who’d always had great health, I was taken aback by this, but chalked it up to weird thoughts one can have on a lonely stretch of road late at night. Nothing in my wildest dreams or strangest nightmares could have prepared me for just how accurate this eerie roadside prediction would turn out to be. It would make a Stephen King novel look like ‘Pippy Longstocking’.
It couldn’t have been more than a month or two later that I started to feel severely fatigued and washed out. I remember the date as September 1 as the day I started to feel sick. After about two weeks of feeling bad, I was laying listlessly on the couch at the condo my girlfriend shared with her mom and sister. Suddenly I got up and walked over to my girlfriend’s mom, who was a nurse, and said to her:
“I really don’t feel well.”
The words had barely escaped my lips when out of the blue my heart began beating so fast I was sure I was going to drop dead right there. My girlfriend’s mom quickly listened to my heart and took my blood pressure. Throwing off her stethoscope, she said: “Get him in the car and take him to the emergency room, Amy. His blood pressure is higher than my blood pressure patients!”
As my girlfriend raced me to the hospital, I was sure I’d never live to see the inside of it. In between gasps for air, I told her that I loved her. We were already planning a life together. Had I known what was in store for me, I would’ve chosen death a thousand times over. Gladly.
“Just hold on,” she said, running a red light.
I was rushed into a room in the ER where a team of doctors started working on me, poking this, prodding that, drawing blood. As they were hooking me up to an EKG machine, my heart rate began to slow down a bit and slightly resemble a survivable rhythm.
“I knew there was something wrong,” my girlfriend said to her mom and sister, who had just arrived. “He’s never sick.”
As I lay there awaiting a verdict, I worried that maybe this was AIDS. I had confided this fear to my girlfriend a week or so earlier and she had said calmly “Then we’ll die together.”
One of my doctors came back into the room and said the results of my tests were starting to come in and there were some irregularities. He told me that I was running a low-grade fever, my white blood cell count was up, and that there was blood in my stool. Beyond that, they couldn’t pinpoint a diagnosis. The EKG had come out normal.
“What about AIDS?” I asked.
“No, there doesn’t seem to be any sign of that,” replied the doctor.
When I was being discharged, I was told to have these same blood tests done again in about a week with my family doctor. I didn’t have a family doctor as I was never sick and didn’t go to doctors for anything. But I knew now that there was something terribly wrong.
So, about a week later I had the same blood tests done and, incredibly, everything came back normal. I simply couldn’t believe it. I was feeling even worse and now my tests were normal? WTF. But worst of all, I was now being told that I wasn’t even sick!
At 24, I didn’t know there were worse things than dying. But life was about to school me and conduct a master class in this cruel truth.