Every Wednesday from 8 to 10 a.m. I have a tennis game with my two sons and a fourth. Spring to fall, we play on the public courts in Central Park around 95th Street. In the winter, we play indoors at Midtown Tennis Club, 8th Avenue and 27th Street.
This game has been going on for a long, long, long time. At 86, I am still consistent but with the power of, say, Nancy Reagan on Bonamine. My serve floats in reliably with the speed of a large tractor laboring uphill. What I do is mostly return serve and then let the three of them battle it out. I am tolerated, even welcome, because I am father, our matches are close, and I foot the $160 bill at Midtown.
This past Wednesday, Peter, my oldest, and I won the first set. In the middle of the second set, I suddenly didn't feel so good. My energy sagged. I felt lightheaded and had discomfort in my upper chest -- sort of like heartburn. I suggested that I rest a bit, which I did, then back on the court. Two more games, during which I made an amazing shot that Nadal would be proud to do if only he could.
But again, I was tired and I rested. When I got up to serve, both my sons resisted. "that's it, Dad, we're finished." Now I hate to break up a game and I like to serve. "LET ME SERVE!" I screamed. "LET ME SERVE!." No use. The kids knew best. The hell they did, but what's the use?
Instead of changing my clothes and going to the office, I decided to take a taxi home and lie down. Peter came in the taxi and called my wife, Iris, on his cell. Iris told Peter I was having a heart attack and proceeded to call my cardiologist, who called us in the cab and said, "do not go home, do not go to my office, go straight to the New York Hospital emergency room."
Which we did. They were waiting for me. They did a brief EKG and then whisked me like a runaway train down corridors, up the elevator to the catherization lab. There they threaded two stents through my groin to an artery feeding my heart that was 100 percent blocked by a clot that had formed from surrounding plaque.
I spent five days in the hospital and was released this past Monday with some important restrictions called "doctor's orders."
Now here's the thing. If I had continued to play tennis, it probably would have been my last game. If Iris hadn't been home to take Peter's call (she often isn't at that time) I would have gone home, lain down and probably never risen. If Doctor Inra had been unable to talk to Iris immediately, I would have gone home.
Luck was certainly with me last Wednesday.
Is there a moral in this story? I think there might be but it doesn't interest me.
I'm just glad to be alive.