Day One -- The Adventure of Getting There
One of the upsides of lurking on all of these fly fishing boards is that I have met some really great people over the years. I have also received a ton of great information about potential trips to take. So this year when it was time to sit down and plan the annual “bye” week fishing adventure away from the 8th grade football team that I coach, I called upon friend, master bamboo rod builder, Matt Schliske and he once again came through with the winning idea. Thanks again Matt I owe you a lot over the years. Anyway, I soon had Monte my fishing partner set up and had scheduled my flights and rental cars and was spending all of my free time at my desk (read that as not working when I really should have been) dreaming and scheming about the Jackson Hole area. I had topo maps and satellite maps spread out on my desk and different fishing reports about the area on my computer and was busy cross referencing my Delorme………….in other words I was getting ready for another back country extravaganza.
Well other than time dragging slowly until the expected departure date, all was progressing great ……………… that is until a week before I was scheduled to leave. I had spent a wild and crazy Friday night flying in on a redeye from a California business trip to watch my senior in high school son’s team play a football game. The game proved to be a loud roaring action packed double overtime nail biter which I watched breathlessly through clenched eyelids while praying that as a center he didn’t throw the “ole” block and get the QB killed or worse yet dribble the ball back to the QB at a key moment or worse even yet put it fifteen feet over his head. But that had turned out well as he played a great game and they won. I was scheduled to coach a big rivalry game the next Saturday afternoon for the 8th grade team …. So in short it was the normal wild crazy and hectic weekends most of us live with all of the time. However this one would be anything but normal, when my alarm went off Saturday morning I opened my eyes to see the red numbers of my clock doing laps around the room at a rate that would make Richard Petty proud. I quickly shut my eyes and cussed my age and fading vision and told myself to concentrate … only to open them again and having the numbers jumping in so many different directions it made my head spin, and made the bed spin as well. Naturally I did what all of us old former “party animals” do when we get the bed spins I put a foot on the ground and tried to focus on the ceiling to stop the spinning. Laying there thinking “dang how much did I drink last night” ... only to realize with a sudden jump of my heart that I hadn’t had anything to drink. I jumped quickly to my feet in a state of confusion only to miss somehow and wind up lying on the floor……..which was also spinning at a high rate. I forced my self to stand after a quick moment or two of panic and realized that I was swaying like a tall pine in a thunder storm. I tried to take a step and once again missed it completely and landed on the floor with a loud thud……. My wife’s voice then entered the spinning mayhem of my brain with a well timed “what is the matter with you can’t you be quiet and let me sleep for once” …….. I then tried to begin a staggering and weaving crawl toward the bathroom to try and head off the wave of nausea that was threatening to erupt out of me. I then heard her sweet and loving voice once again … “I said what the **** is the matter with you” and my only thought was “I wish I knew” as the nausea wave finally won its battle to leave my body…… only to followed by another and another. I expected that to make me feel better but it didn’t, the room just keep spinning and I just had to lay flat with my eyes squeezed shut and pray that whatever had hold would let me off the spinning circus ride I was on. My wife by now had figured out there was something wrong and was trying to get me to go to the hospital, which of course I was trying to fight against as I had to coach a game that afternoon and had a fishing trip scheduled for next week…. But by the time I had tried to fight to my knees and stand up … to prove to her I was okay… I took a nasty fall into the side of the sink leaving me gasping for breath with my ribs screaming in agony only slightly less loud than the panicked buzzing and spinning in my head……… and I finally said “get me to the hospital”. As I headed to the hospital my thoughts turned much deeper and scarier than the football game I was gonna miss and the fishing trip that appeared doomed. Real scary thoughts began to form … words like stroke, brain damage and death forced their way into my normally unconcerned head. The fact that I apparently couldn’t walk or stand struck home with a force like my son the center hitting me full blast. As they got me to the hospital and into a wheelchair I began to fade out of it a little until I realized that there was no waiting and they were literally rushing us back into the exam rooms ….. Once again those dark macabre thoughts of death and permanent damage just couldn’t be held at bay any longer and they rushed around like punk rockers slam dancing in my already addled brain. They stuck me with an IV and I began to fade out …. Vaguely hearing conversations about stroke and brain damage ……. And my thoughts turned to the important things in my life and I felt true fear ….. Raw unfiltered fear …. Not really for myself but for my family and what I might miss and that thought made me cry even in the state I already was in. Then strangely enough I felt great fear from the thought that I might not ever fly fish again ……. Then thankfully I faded out ……………
I awoke several hours later heavily sedated but with the room doing only a slow roll like a ship on heavy seas not the circus ride spin it had been earlier. My wife was smiling and chatting with the nurse and I knew without being told that the crisis had passed. It turns out, I had a major case of vertigo and no signs of a stroke or any brain abnormalities at all, well at least not any I didn’t already have before this whole thing started. I was told that this was caused by a virus, which in short means they can’t really do anything to “fix” you and they can only treat the symptoms which I later found out means to put you to sleep so you don’t feel the room spinning like a drunken sailor. I was told the symptoms would lessen and go away hopefully within six weeks……… Six weeks my *** I have to coach a football game, even though I can’t stand up. Turns out the game had been over for 13 hours and they had lost in overtime … … dang vertigo. Then the real tragedy began to sink in, these people seemed to think that since I was stumbling and mumbling like I was on the mescal “drunk” of a lifetime ... minus the giggles of course … that I shouldn’t fly out to Jackson Hole in less than seven days for a hiking, camping and fly fishing trip. They actually thought something like this should make me cancel my trip. What silly people they are……. The “bye” week is a one time event and I have to coach every other week … never mind the guy who walks and stumbles like a drunk all over the sidelines…… he is harmless. So that meant I had to go fishing on schedule or skip the trip entirely…and they certainly didn’t know that these fishing trips are what lets me find my perspective and restores balance to my life … … and right now I needed all of the balance I could get. So missing this trip simply wasn’t gonna happen. So I spent the next six days convincing everyone who would listen that I was going whether they liked it or not. My fishing partner Monte said he wasn’t going to go since I was sick, trying to protect me from myself. Naturally I bluffed and told him that I would miss him when I went by myself, at least I like to tell myself that was a bluff, but then I have never been very smart. Finally Monte gave up and decided the only way to protect me from me was to go and do it in person and my wife gave up and added another few $100 K to my life insurance value. Soon enough I found myself on the ground at Jackson Hole Airport. Dizzy and stumbling around like a drunk … minus the giggles …….. but with one **** of a big smile on my face……… I was going fishin……..