Hospital Emergency RoomBy Robert Gills
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper 8/2007

My dear friend Bob Shea — one of Foxboro’s first citizens and friend to many of us — told me recently that I have been a little too “cranky” in recent columns. We talked about that and I told him I’d try to be a little more upbeat, and I thought I’d start here now.

It’s been a hell of a month for me. On Friday the 13th of July (I should have known) I was at work in Boston and I started to shake — I was freezing. Two hours later (I’ll spare you the details; you’re welcome) I’m at home shaking furiously, in terrible pain and unable to hold down water. The Daughtry/Nickleback concert goes on without me, and I can’t attend a friend’s wedding the next day in Connecticut. I especially regret missing Krystal and Brian’s wedding, but between the sickness and the intense muscular pain, the stairs were a challenge — a drive to another state was out of the question.

I figured my condition was food poisoning, but on Monday I’m no better. My doctor sends me to emergency at Beth Israel Deaconess in Needham.

Flash forward several hours and I find out there’s a spot on my lung, and I’m hearing, “Mr. Gillis, we’re concerned about some of your blood results and chest x-ray.”

Specifically, my Creatine kinase (PCK), an enzyme that catalyses the conversion of creatine to phosphocreatine (and does lots of other really good things) is too high. WAY too high (that was causing the incredible muscle pain). A normal level is about 100. Mine was ten thousand (10,000). At this level, kidney failure is imminent. With the double whammy of viral pneumonia and a viral infection — I wasn’t going anywhere.

From the emergency room to upstairs for my four day stay, without exception every nurse, doctor and staff member was professional, caring, and kind. I spent most of the time sleeping, being sick, incredulous that no matter what time I turned on AMC “The Untouchables” was on, or trying to sleep, but I felt real sympathy from the nurses when I was sick. I was touched that several stayed to talk a little about the Red Sox or Bruins. And on that night I couldn’t sleep at all — the nurse actually didn’t wake me for several hours to take my temp — “You finally fell asleep, we wanted you to get some rest.” Incredible.

Let me say again: Thank you to EVERYONE at Beth Israel Deaconess in Needham.

I was discharged Thursday and canceled everything that involved leaving the house. With Pneumonia, I worked from home the following week. Sue, as always, took great care of me.

As of this week, the latest blood tests are all normal and the pneumonia is gone. I’m nowhere near back to full strength but I am far better. Full recovery is still weeks away.

And I find myself just feeling very, very grateful. I was touched by so many people who called, who seemed happy to see me, and the people at work who told me they were worried about me. WORRIED! Imagine that!

Admittedly, what I went through was hardly a cancer scare, not a near-death experience, and was over in a few weeks. But renal failure was a real possibility, and this is the sickest I have ever been, so I am still very grateful for a return to good health. The experience was a tough one — but it could have been far worse.

We take so much for granted in our lives, and for most of us, good health (or even “pretty good” health) is usually a given. But being sidelined without warning for the better part of two weeks demonstrated to me how fast that can all change: My illness was actually the SECOND time I got that message in a week.

Four days before my adventure began, my mother was involved in a car accident. It was a pretty serious accident and could have been far worse or even fatal. Today, with the exception of some soreness from the air-bag deploying my mother is fine, her car is repaired, but for the family, it was very frightening. It was unexpected, and had happened in a moment, and once again demonstrated that life can change in an instant — catastrophically.

Again, I am filled with gratitude that Mom is well and the accident wasn’t far worse. Today I feel doubly blessed for the return to good health and a renewed sense of gratitude for the gift of Mom. I am very grateful.

We’re all hurting. We all carry baggage, we all work too hard, and we’re all stressed. We’ve all lost someone we love (or we will). We’ve each faced a health problem (or we will). But today, if you are able, take a moment to be grateful for the gifts that you do have, the people around you who love you, and the many blessings you have. You’ll be surprised how good you’ll feel.

Today, I am very grateful.

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