A friend of mine spent the past week in a local hospital with a serious heart condition and there was a brief time when it was questionable if he’d even live.
So, I found I did what I normally do when confronted with Fear. I turned to baseball.
And even though it was probably inappropriate at the time, it helped quell some of my worries and it gave me a focus and some sense of control that I felt was slipping away. I was looking for something familiar in a medical world that I was alienated with.
My friend fell ill last week and finally went to the doctor thinking he had the flu. The doctor instead told him his heart was beating too fast — perhaps from some viral infection — and he immediately admitted him to the hospital. Had he not gone that day, he may not have made it through the night, we later learned.
A monitor showed his heart was beating at 190 beats per minute. I, in turn, immediately thought that had he had one more beat per minute, he’d equal the 191 runs batted in that Hack Wilson had in 1930 with the Cubs.
It got worse.
On a monitor I saw the number ‘44’ and thought of the 1944 World Series that pitted the two St. Louis teams, the Browns and the Cardinals. His oxygen level was ‘98,’ which, of course, brought to mind the 1998 season of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and their epic home run race. The number “1.12” on an IV bag was Bob Gibson’s earned run average in 1968.
I also found myself thinking about my APBA baseball season, which I’ve always done during stressful times. I brought the game with me when my wife was in the hospital years ago, replaying a game while she recovered from some procedure or while we waited for more doctors’ results.
It helped. It gave me something concrete to deal with, something I could easily understand and something that was predictable at a time when things were totally out of whack with the consistency of the norm.
I use the baseball numbers to remember phone numbers as well. I break the last four digits of a number into two halves; those halves represent years. For example, the last four digits of my home phone are 6757. 67 represents 1967, the year St. Louis beat the Boston Red Sox in the Series. 57 is, of course, Henry Aaron’s outstanding Series of 1957 as he led the Milwaukee Braves over the New York Yankees in seven games that year.
My friend, the same one who was in the hospital this week, once told an acquaintance about my way of recalling numbers.
“Is he a genius?” the acquaintance asked.
“No,” my friend replied. “He’s just weird.”
And maybe it is weird. But it is a way for me to filter something unknown and process it in my own way.
My friend recovered and is now recuperating at home. He still has a way to go before he is better; he’s now also battling pneumonia and he has to take it easy with his heart for a while.
I’ve not told him about how I dealt with the Fear at the hospital and my worry for his health and how I tried to convert the unknown into baseball statistics and APBA game replays.
He would have thought I was weird.