by Trent Rentsch
August, my 12th year… My parents were having their annual client appreciation cookout. It was a true feast that I, as a chunky almost teen, certainly took advantage of. It took several burgers, a couple of hot dogs, half a dozen ears of corn, half a bag of chips, and thirds of my favorite macaroni salad to call it a meal, so it’s not so surprising that I ended up with a stomach ache… even less surprising when I hurled the majority back up an hour or so after I went to bed. What was surprising was that I continued the puke fest all night, and the following morning, and the following evening. “The flu, it’s going around,” the response on the second day from my Doctor. “No need to bring him in, just try to keep fluids in him and he’ll be fine in a few days.” In a few days, I still couldn’t keep anything down, and I was certainly far from fine. My Mother called the Doctor again, who assured her that it was one of “those types” of flu. Surely I’d be up and packing it in again in the another day or so.
I woke up the morning of “or so” when some invisible s.o.b. with a sledge hammer took a direct swing at the right side of my stomach. I remember shooting straight up in bed and screaming my most creative string of curse words before or since, then I passed out. Apparently my parents hadn’t heard, because when I woke up later for my now usual race to the bathroom, there was a note on the toilet from my Mom: Went to work. Called the Doctor again, still doesn’t think he needs to see you. Try to eat something, there’s pea soup in the refrigerator. Love, Mom. Considering that it would probably look the same going in, I opted for the dry heaves a few more hours.
Another week went by. My parents finally insisted that the Doctor see me. I think the fact that I couldn’t even crawl to the bathroom might have had something to do with it. He took one look at me and grabbed the phone, “This boy’s appendix has ruptured! I’ll meet you at the hospital!” As he phoned ahead with instructions (or what were to become in my mind the most horrifying tortures the medical profession has ever inflicted on human beings), I was already silently moaning what was to become my mantra for life. I’m afraid of Doctors, I’m afraid of Doctors, I’m afraid of Doctors, I’m afraid…
August, my 40th year…
It’s been so long since those few years when I spent more time in the hospital than out. The appendix was too “hot” to remove by the time they realized what was really wrong. It would have to “cool down” before it was hacked out of my body (I believe that those are all real medical terms). Meanwhile, I ended up with bone issues in my hips, and had steel pins permanently installed in both at two separate times. Then, when the time came to do the slice and dice on the offending organ, it darn near exploded again, causing more hospital time, more IVs and other assorted pokings and proddings, and more mantra. It was several years of my life that I would’ve rather spent worrying about zits and being a teenager and girls, rather than worrying which large sharp device might be used on me the next time I went to the hospital. In the end, I was certain that my lifetime quota of physical problems had been met, and I silently vowed to stay as far away from the medical profession as possible, happily ever after.
I was at work yesterday when the asshole with the sledgehammer showed up again. It was 6 a.m., Donna and Maury were about to start their show on WPTF, and I was running the board, just as I’ve done every morning the past 5 months. The first fifteen minutes are probably the most hectic, as we squeeze in a couple of phone-ins along with news, sports, traffic, and weather. When Tony finished the sports cast and threw it to Brian for traffic, I realized that cart deck 6 wouldn’t fire, so I’m slamming the cart in another deck. As Lisa calls with weather, and Maury is asking me something on the talkback… BOOM!! He swings, he connects, this time aiming for the left side of my chest.
Several things ran through my mind at that moment. My Dad had a heart attack several years ago, ended up having an angioplasty—threaded wires through his arteries like a wire puller through a pipe. It might just be gas; it had been a very indulgent weekend. If it is just gas, why didn’t it stop hurting when I burped? If it doesn’t stop hurting, can I hold on until Jeremy gets to the station—don’t know if Maury or Donna can run the board. Jeez, I turn 40 and start falling apart, first bifocals, now this! I’M AFRAID OF DOCTORS…
It did fade by the time I got home, but my bride, being both the creative and the rational, logical type, insisted that I go to the doctor. I, being the plain old emotional type, was finding every loophole I could to avoid the trip. She was already onto my primal fear. She also works with Make-A-Wish and Duke Children’s Hospital. She has seen tiny, suffering children endure truly agonizing procedures without a whimper. She has lost children she worked with despite all that modern medicine can do, and isn’t about to possibly lose her new husband just because his childhood memories make machetes out of needles.
Beauty and brains win out. I have an appointment. If it was just gas, whew. If it was something more, we’ll deal with it. Funny, but I’m still more stressed about going to the Doctor than the prognosis. Sometimes facing the known is scarier than the unknown. But whether it’s a rubber-incased finger inserted where you’d rather it wasn’t, a 50th attempt at a voice-over gig when the last 49 have been no’s, a plea for a long over-due raise from a foul-tempered supervisor… it’s not about life and death, it’s about living.
When faced with fear, some Creatives like to invent little make-believe worlds and hide in them, believing that if they ignore whatever they fear, it isn’t real. It’s a dream world, where they can’t face their fears and won’t make their dreams reality. My own dream is a basic yet important one… growing old with the woman I love, watching our children grow and have families of their own. It’s time for this Creative to make it real.