First off, I want to apologize to the fine folks at Writers of the Future and the friends in LA we were scheduled to see. I had been really looking forward to the trip and seeing and talking with a lot of old friends, and meeting some new writers. But I am not writing this from LA where I should be at the moment, I’m back at home.
We started on the trip just fine on Monday, made it the eight plus hours of driving to Red Bluff, CA, and stayed there the first night. Coming from the cool Oregon Coast to the hot temperatures of the valley that first afternoon was a shock, but I didn’t think much about it. Then the next morning at 10 in Northern California it was one hundred degrees and I started to remember what real heat was like and the problems I have with it. Even though our car was air conditioned, just going in and out of the heat for packing the car, going to breakfast, coming out, and stopping thirty minutes down the freeway I was having trouble.
By the time we stopped another thirty minutes down the freeway, I was pretty much gone. It was 105 and I have extreme problems with heat. I was drinking fluids, but still getting sick. Kris called a local area doc, got some help, and then after talking with the doctor turned around and got us home, somehow. That part is a blur to me.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
Okay, now a story about how at sixty years of age I have gotten to the place in my life that even brief contract with temperatures above ninety degrees knocks me down.
The First Time: Back when I was a golf pro, I lived in Palm Springs, California. I was the head professional of a nice course there and because in 1974 Palm Springs was beyond boring for a mid-twenties single man, I worked two nights a week at a restaurant called The Cask and Cleaver as a waiter, just for the social life.
One fine June day, the staff and friends of the Cask and Cleaver challenged the staff of El Torito Restaurant to a touch football game. (My girlfriend worked part-time at El Torito when she wasn’t managing the Penny’s Department store. Yeah, Palm Springs for young people in 1974 was deadly dull.)
We started at 7 in the morning and played until 10. Memory serves it was over a hundred degrees by 10 AM, but we were all young and used to it. No issue. I went back to my place, took a shower and then headed for my golf course. When I got there my father called and asked if I wanted to join him for a quick 18 holes of golf. A new (very private) course had opened and was letting local pros on for the day to take a look. (My father was also a golf professional in Palm Springs at the time.) I said sure, made sure my assistant professional had the course covered and headed to play golf. It took four of us until about three to finish and the temperature was close to 120.
Back to my golf course I went and when I arrived I noticed that the kid hadn’t picked up the range balls. Usually in the summer we had the range closed and the balls picked up by eleven in the morning because leaving golf balls sit in 120 degree sun was never a good idea. So with no one else around to do it, I jumped in the makeshift cart with the ball picker and headed down on the range. The cart had no roof.
That was the last thing I remember until I woke up in the hospital with tubes sticking out of me and machines all around me and doctors very happy to see me awake.
Luckily for me both the bar and restaurant of my golf course looked out over the driving range. From what the few members in the restaurant and the bartender said happened, I just drove the cart off into the desert where it got stuck in the sand. They thought it was funny until I fell out of the cart face first into the sand and didn’t move.
Severe Heat Stroke.
That was the first time. It became a funny story of my stupidity like some of my other stories that have the phrase in it “then I almost died.” Over the years, as I got older, I noticed that every so often, after working out in high heat, and not drinking enough fluids, I would get sick or dizzy or have some of the other symptoms.
On one of Kris and my very first trips together, I ended up with another bad case of heat stroke and threw up and lay in a trailer for a day while she had to socialize with my friends that she had never met. On another time Kris and I with a couple of friends flew into the Idaho Primitive Area for a backpacking trip. I had forgotten the lessons again and by the end of the first day of hiking in 100 degree heat with a heavy backpack and not drinking enough fluids, I was down sick. That time I had to be airlifted out of the primitive area. Not kidding.
Three years ago, while in the best shape I had been in for a decade, I went with Kris to run an easy 5-K on the beach. For a change the wind wasn’t blowing off the ocean and it got up to about 75, the hottest day of the year here. I had too many clothes on (expecting it to be cold on the beach like usual) and three hours later the doctors in the hospital had me hooked up to a bunch of different machines because they thought I was having a heart attack. It wasn’t until Kris remembered my heat problem and told them to give me fluids and salt that I came out of that one. (Heat stroke can often imitate a heat attack.)
A number of years back I went to a family wedding held in the courtyard of a hotel on a 115 degree day in Boise, Idaho. Yup, you guessed it, I sat in the sun (Kris wasn’t there to make me stay out of the sun or not go) and I was down yet again.
So, over the years, my body, through repeated episodes of my stupidity, has had heat stroke episode after heat stroke episode, usually with the upshot of me ending up in a hospital. And that repeated stupidity has had the expected result of making me very sensitive to heat above 90, or getting too overheated in work or exercise without extreme fluid intake.
Did I have another heat stroke episode on the way to Writers of the Future? Not quite. What I was in was what the doctors call advanced heat exhaustion, which is the lead-up to another heat stroke episode, and with many of the same symptoms. I was headed for another hospital visit when both Kris and I realized what was happening. (Mostly Kris.) I was already pretty sick and dizzy with heat exhaustion, and that was with only two hours total of exposure to the high heat, plus what I had the day before. And LA on Wednesday was having heat warnings.
For those familiar with heat exhaustion and heat stroke, the older you get, the more you have had it in the past, the more you are open to it. Also I have high blood pressure, controlled, but still a factor. I now have doctor’s orders to just stay out of 90 degree and above heat. As the doctor said yesterday, one of these times it’s just going to kill me. (Yeah, that got my attention.)
What is interesting is that Kris and I planned this trip with some of this in mind. We decided to not fly because of fear that being stuck in a hot, crowded plane on the runway would really hurt me. And we wanted our own car there instead of being driven around as offered because we wanted to be able to leave if I started having troubles with the heat. So we had thought of this problem. I was a little worried about the high heat under the television lights at the ceremony, but figured I would deal with that later.
What we didn’t have figured was how fantastically touchy I am with high heat these days. I spent almost $1,600 to make sure our car’s air conditioning was working well for this trip, (replaced the entire system actually, because here on the coast we never use it and it had gone south) yet I forgot about getting to the car from hotels, restaurants, and so on, usually across hot pavement.
I live on the Oregon Coast for a reason. Winter gets down to around 40, summer days, like today, are around 55-60 degrees.
As of today, Thursday, I am doing slightly better, but even writing this with a cool ocean breeze blowing over me is tiring me out. Time for another nap. Thanks everyone for all the good wishes on Kris’s blog and Twitter. Much appreciated.
So, again I am very sorry to the wonderful people at Writers of the Future for not making the ceremony and to all the great friends we would have had a wonderful time with. We hope to see you sometime in the fall or winter or spring.
I think summers I’m just staying right here.