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You are Fortunate not to be Running in Heaven
by Don Drewniak

My wife, Dolores, and I spent a week in St. Marteen located in the Caribbean Sea in the late 1970s during a school-vacation week. A rickety bus, probably of 50s vintage, was waiting for us (okay, the driver was waiting) along with two dozen other vacationers. We were all going to the same seaside resort.

Off we went. If memory serves me correctly, we had traveled up and down three steep hills and were beginning to climb a fourth one when the bus conked out. This was, off course, well before the appearance of cellphones and the bus did not have a two-way radio. Nor did it have air-conditioning. Under bright sunshine with the outside temperature in the low 90s, the bus was insufferable.

I waited less than ten minutes before paying a visit to the driver who quite fortunately spoke English.

“How far are we from the resort?”

He informed me than it was slightly less than four kilometers and added that the entrance was on the left side of the road.

I had not seen a single vehicle pass since the time of the breakdown and the thought of sitting in a hot, crowded bus for what might be hours was not a pleasant one. Fortunately, most of our belongings were packed in suitcases. I had no carry-on items and Dolores had a small purse and a small carry-on.

It was back to Dolores. “Let’s go, we can run there in twenty minutes time.”

She had been running as much as five miles a day, so I knew it would not be a problem. I was greeted with silence when I addressed the rest of the vacationers and asked if anyone wanted to jog to the resort. We were sitting at a bar three hours later when the rest of the guests arrived.

I went out for a run the next morning and came across a runner from the U.S. who was in his second week at the resort. We ended up running nine-to-ten miles together. Add to that ten-to-fourteen miles each of the next four days.

Dolores and I returned home early evening on a Sunday night. I woke up the next morning and headed for the shower. Finished with washing, I stepped out of the shower and was overcome with a wave of dizziness and nausea. The next thing I remember was being carried out on a stretcher into an ambulance.

Dolores had called the local volunteer fire chief who also oversaw the town’s ambulance service. There was a small sea of volunteers on our front lawn within minutes. As I was being wheeled out of the house, the fire chief whispered to her, “From my experience, it’s either a cerebral hemorrhage or mononucleosis.” He might as well have hit her over the head with a Rogers Hornsby 50-ounce baseball bat.

Hornsby, who played in the major leagues from 1915 to 1937, was one of baseball's greatest players. His lifetime batting average of .358 ranks second to Ty Cobb’s .366. He holds the modern era — 1901 to date — single season batting record with an amazing .424 average. As a sixteen-year old, he wanted to play baseball so badly that he wore a wig, and pretended to be a woman in order to barnstorm with the Boston Bloomer Girls.

I wasn’t aware of much during the drive on the way to a local hospital beyond that my blood pressure was “dangerously low.”

Once in the hospital, the doctor, who was more than likely in his sixties, was waiting for me in the emergency room. A nurse hooked me up to an IV as he examined me and had several tests administered. He also queried me about my activities during the previous few days before leaving the room.

He returned within forty-five minutes holding a drinking cup. “Drink this,” he said with a Cheshire Cat grin.

By this time, my thinking ability had returned. “What is it?”

“What you should have been drinking during your vacation, orange juice. This and other liquids and foods that contain high levels of potassium. You are fortunate you are not running in heaven.”

He then proceeded to detail the role of potassium in the human body and concluded by saying, “Your wife is waiting to see you. And, yes, she brought you clothing. You’ll be discharged in two hours. Have her buy some bananas and orange juice on your way home. Also, if you are going to continue to run high mileage, research the other foods that are rich in potassium.”

I thanked him several times.

CB radios peaked in popularity in the mid-1970s and were still in vogue in the rural area of Massachusetts in which I both lived and taught school. A rumor soon began to spread via CB’s that I had died. There were more than a few students who were quite disappointed when I returned to teaching two days later.

From then on until I retired from running in 2005, I was careful to monitor my potassium intake as too much can be as dangerous as too little.