|Publisher:||Greenleaf Book Group Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)|
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Four Days, Four Flights
I was at the top of the totem pole.
I had surpassed all others on my globe-trotting climb to the top of the financial industry. I was a man on a mission — a constant blur of motion as I steadfastly pursued my career goals.
I have a resume that would impress the best of the best. I spent years devoting nearly every waking moment to the Price Waterhouse financial services consulting group. I started and grew their Tokyo division, which led to my designation as partner.
When that challenge was no longer enough, I left Price Waterhouse and joined Credit Suisse First Boston as the regional financial controller for Asia Pacific. When they moved me back to Manhattan to serve as American financial controller and then on to global managing director of financial systems and strategy, I found myself bored once again. I needed an even greater challenge. I had to keep moving. So my wife and I relocated, yet again, to Chicago, so I could take the position of global controller at Citadel, one of the most successful hedge fund companies in the world. At forty-one, at the peak of my game, I was the go-to guy in the financial services arena.
I have an impressive resume, but it didn't come without a great deal of effort.
And in an instant, it was all gone.
I remember bits and pieces of the weeks leading up to my collapse.
For instance, I remember being impressed by the view as my wife and I landed on Mauritius, an island off the coast of Africa, en route to an all- inclusive resort. As would be expected, we were dressed for relaxation when we walked out of the airport into the bright sunshine, with sunglasses in place and shorts showing off our untanned skin. Winter in Chicago had, as usual, been brutally long. Things were starting to thaw there, but it would be another month, at least, before we had day-to-day nice weather. We were in major need of a warm getaway, and I remember the sun feeling exceptionally good, despite my wandering mind.
I was, as always, thinking about work, wondering if the last presentation had sealed the deal with a stubborn international client. Those concerns had me checking my email, via BlackBerry, as often as possible.
"What are you doing?" Kelly asked as someone had to weave around me, my nose pointed directly at the mobile screen.
"Just checking my email," I mumbled in reply, too busy absorbing what I was reading to meet her eyes.
"Don't worry about your email, Ted. Look! This place is beautiful." Though the words were true, her voice lacked its usual conviction, and that did make me take notice. I placed an arm around her shoulders, thinking that she really could use the sun. Her face was quite pale.
Then my BlackBerry beeped an alert, and my eyes were back on the small screen.
When we climbed into the back of the car that would take us the rest of the way to the resort, I looked up at Kelly again. She was resting her head against the black leather seat. I poured a drink from the decanter beside me and offered her one. She shook her head ever so slightly, turning the drink down.
"Is there a gym at the resort?" I asked, believing that conversation would help her perk up.
"Yes. You aren't going to work out this week, are you?" she replied.
"Of course I am. I always do," I answered. It was an argument that she couldn't win, so she just shook her head at me, as she often did.
"Try to enjoy the vacation, Ted."
I chuckled and slid in closer to her. "I will."
She smiled but still didn't lift her head.
"Are you okay?" I asked, feeling the warmth of the back of her head seeping into my arm.
"I'm okay. I think I must have gotten motion sickness on the plane."
I knew that wasn't the case, and so did she. We had been together for years, and in all the time I knew her, she'd never suffered from motion sickness. A fever took hold of her later that day, and she spent the majority of our time in Mauritius in bed with the flu.
Without my wife to keep me from it, I worked. That's how I was and what I did. I spent most of our trip using the resort's Wi-Fi to keep in contact with my colleagues and clients. Many were all too happy to take a trip to the African island to meet with me in person. After all, Kelly was right; the place was beautiful.
A week later, with Kelly feeling much closer to her normal self, though without the tan that she had so hoped for, we boarded a flight headed back to Chicago.
"When do you leave?" she asked as we buckled into our seats.
After taking the requested pillow from the stewardess, I turned to Kelly. "I leave Sunday. Shouldn't be gone more than four or five days." I went to Europe on business about every six to eight weeks.
"I'll have to check the itinerary. Overnight, though. Ten-hour direct flight to London, then on to Luxembourg ... and I think that'll be the only other stop this time."
"That's good," she said, accepting a cocktail from the stewardess. A devious grin tugged at her lips as she looked up at me and sank deeper into the airline chair. I watched her take a sip of her drink, and then she set her hand on my arm. "It's not all bad, you know. Comfy pillows, drinks, snacks. I could get used to flying all of the time."
I laughed. "Well, it's not all it's cracked up to be, you know," I responded, leaning back a little farther in my own chair.
* * *
That flight to London on the Sunday after we returned from Mauritius was the first of four international flights that I would take in a matter of four days. The final flight of the four was the return trip from London to Chicago on Thursday. On this flight, I was exhausted, which wasn't like me, and I figured it was just the lack of sleep, jet lag, and being away from home for so long.
"Can I get you anything else, sir?" the stewardess asked after handing me the pillow.
"No, thank you. This'll be fine. Can you just wake me ten minutes before we land for a cup of coffee, please?" I said.
"Of course, sir. Sleep well." Whether or not her words had anything to do with it, I can't say, but I do know that I slept that entire flight. I didn't wake for the meal, a drink of water, or a trip to the bathroom. "Sir, it's time to wake up. Sir? I have a cup of coffee for you," she said in a sweet voice. I smiled in thanks and took a sip of the coffee. I never sleep through an entire flight.
It was Thursday afternoon, and I was checking the incoming emails on my BlackBerry on my way out of the airport when my limo driver called out to me.
"Good afternoon, sir. How was your flight?"
It was then that I noticed that I wasn't walking right. I found myself limping every four or five steps as I walked over to the limo. "It was fine, thank you."
"Are you all right, sir?"
"Yes, I'm fine. Just tired from the flight," I answered, further baffled at the fact that, despite the hours of uninterrupted sleep, it was a true statement.
The driver glanced at my leg as I got in. I guess my limp was more obvious than I thought. "Leg is bothering me. Too much time sitting on the plane, I guess," I said, rubbing it a bit as I sat in the soft leather seat.
The driver didn't say anything more, and I promptly put the thought out of my mind. There was work to do, and besides, this wasn't the first time I'd had trouble with my legs. I had long since given up on the idea of having legs free of varicose veins. I had asked several doctors about them and was always told that the noticeable veins in my legs were superficial and not the dangerous kind. Even if I had them stripped, for cosmetic reasons, varicose veins like mine usually come back anyway. Genetics at its finest.
When I arrived home, Kelly greeted me as soon as I walked in the door. "Welcome home," she said and then gave me a small kiss on my cheek before quickly returning to what she had been doing before I walked in. I watched her make her way to the kitchen. She had laid a stack of my mail on the entry table, like usual, so I grabbed it on my way to my office.
"You're not going out, are you?" she called from the other room.
"No, I'm going to get these bills paid and get stuff ready for work tomorrow."
"Do you need help getting unpacked?" she asked, sticking her head into the doorway.
I smiled and shook my head. Even though traveling was part of my routine, she always seemed excited to see me come home. "No, I'll do it. I've got to get my gym bag packed anyway."
She rolled her eyes and walked away. I knew that most people didn't work out like I did, but it was a part of my routine that I wasn't willing to part with. So the next day, like every day, I would wake up by five so I could be in the city by six. That gave me an hour to work out and a few minutes to get cleaned up before I had to be at the office. Kelly laughed at me, but she was health conscious too. We both maintained a healthy diet, didn't smoke or take recreational drugs, and drank infrequently, in moderation. Physical fitness was a priority for us in life. And for me, not only did it allow me to feel good, but it didn't hurt my image in business either. I was the picture of good health.
Except, my leg hurt.
When we walked out of our home an hour or so later to get some dinner, Kelly asked me about my leg. "Why are you limping?"
"I'm not limping. My leg ... it's just a little sore." I rubbed it and made a conscious effort to walk naturally. "What do you want to eat?"
"Sounds great," I answered, opening the front door for her.
We arrived at our favorite local sushi restaurant in the next town over and were seated in the dining room.
"Don't you want a drink?" Kelly asked after the waiter came to take our drink order and I declined anything other than water. Typically, I would have ordered a large hot sake and enjoyed every warming sip with our sushi, as I had done when I lived in Tokyo.
"Not tonight. Just water is fine," I said.
She looked at me with a funny expression but let it go and told me about how she'd spent her time while I was away, saying once again how much she wished that she hadn't been sick on our trip. I was happy to keep up the usual stream of conversation, happy to be seated across from her eating the delicious meal, but when the bill came, I quickly pulled out my card and handed it to the waiter. I was ready to go home.
"Would you do me a favor tomorrow?" I asked Kelly as we walked through the front door of our home. "Can you call and schedule me an appointment with my doctor? Just sometime later this month, after your appointment."
"Are you all right?" she asked. Concern covered her face. "I can try to get you in sooner."
"I'm fine. It's just that my leg is sore, and sometimes it feels like I'm experiencing growing pains. The doctor will just say the same thing he always does, I'm sure. 'Don't worry about the pain. It's no big deal.' But it feels worse than usual." I rubbed my hand over it, and she agreed to make the call for me.
I made my way to our bedroom and sighed as I sank into the couch in the sitting room of our master suite. Kelly laughed and fell back in the chair beside me. "You're not going to sleep already, are you? It's only eight o'clock."
"Nah. Not yet," I said groggily, picking up a Men's Health magazine. I really was tired, but I flipped a few pages until I came to an article of interest. "Look, maybe I should start taking this supplement," I said, showing her the article.
"You already take a few different ones," she answered. I pointed to the list of the four supplements men should be taking. I was already taking three of the four.
The Apprentice was on, and a few minutes into the show, Kelly asked, "Did you see that commercial?"
I picked up the remote and rewound it, thinking again how wonderful TiVo was. I watched the commercial but didn't respond.
"Did you see that?" she asked again, looking to me, surprised that I didn't have a comment to make about it. "What's wrong? Don't you think that's funny?"
I didn't respond. I realized I couldn't respond. Suddenly, I couldn't get my mouth to form any words. I was extremely light-headed, and I began to shiver. I felt pain in my head like a really bad migraine but something I had never experienced before. I couldn't say anything, and nothing made any sense.
"C'mon, Ted. It was funny, and you know it. It wasn't that bad."
I didn't answer. I couldn't answer. I was too busy almost dying.CHAPTER 2
Hours Tick Away
I knew in a second that something was wrong. Ted had a blank stare, and he kept blinking, blinking, blinking. He was squeezing his right hand and leaning to the right.
"Are you okay? Can you breathe?" I asked him.
He didn't respond.
I grabbed the phone and dialed 911. The operator asked what was wrong. What was wrong? I explained to her about our night — about having just come from eating sushi, how we were watching a commercial during The Apprentice, and the way Ted was acting. She asked me if he could walk.
I turned toward him. "Ted, can you walk?"
He didn't answer.
The operator spoke into my ear. "Someone will be there soon."
My heart raced, but I tried to stay calm ... for Ted, for the medics who I hoped would be there soon, for myself. I lightly took his hand. "Stay awake, Ted. Keep yourself up."
A few moments later, I ran downstairs to let the police in, and within minutes, the paramedics were there too. I explained the situation to them, but they couldn't tell me what was wrong.
They then started working on Ted. His blood pressure was low and falling. The bottom number kept dropping: 100-something over 72, something over 58, something over 40. The paramedics were asking him questions that he couldn't answer. I couldn't answer them either. My heart raced, and his blood pressure kept falling.
Every second mattered. Was he going to be okay?
* * *
The questions from the police, Kelly, and the paramedics stirred the air around me, sometimes penetrating the fog and sometimes orbiting me like the space stations circle the earth. Even when I was able to make out some words, I could only stare at the fuzzy, concerned faces above me.
"Are you okay?" Kelly asked.
I'm scared, I thought, and then her face fell out of focus and then back in. I could tell she had asked something else, but I hadn't heard her. My eyes traveled to the television screen. The scene was frozen there. TiVo. Funny commercial. Why the hell can't I laugh?
Kelly was asking me another question, or maybe she was telling me something. I couldn't tell. She was walking down a tunnel, and I couldn't figure out where she was going, but before I could ask, she was gone, and the room had gone dark. Dark and heavy. My head throbbed against the pressure around me. I wonder where the Tylenol is, I thought, but then the pain was so bad I knew it didn't matter. Maybe aspirin would be better. It occurred to me that I might be having a heart attack, and as I sat in my dark, silent, pressurefilled world, my mind tried to remember what the symptoms of a heart attack were.
At some point, I was back there, in the same room, with the same television, and Kelly's eyes were as full of fear as I'd ever seen them. The paramedics' words continued to orbit. A policeman came forward, through the mist, and asked me something else. I couldn't answer. I couldn't tell them what I was feeling or what had happened or that I might be having a heart attack or that the aspirin was probably in the bathroom.
I felt ... removed. And scared. And helpless.
I felt myself being carried through a fog. I caught a glimpse of the living room, with the furniture that my wife had so painstakingly picked out when we had moved in. I saw the front door with the finicky lock that notoriously fought me and my key. I saw the flashing lights of the ambulance, but none of it made sense.
They started an IV, but Ted's blood pressure continued to fall. The bottom number was down to 39, then to 32.
I looked on, helpless, while the paramedics worked with Ted.
"If his blood pressure gets any lower, he's not going to live," one of them told me.
Luckily, a few minutes later, his blood pressure stabilized. I breathed a sigh of relief.
They put him on a gurney and carried him through the house and out to the ambulance. I followed.
* * *
Where are they taking me? I wondered. Kelly had said something to me about the hospital, but it seemed like I had been riding for so very long. Haven't I?
Awhile later, I found myself in what I thought was familiar surroundings. I'd been in the same emergency room — Evanston Northwestern Hospital — only two weeks before. I'd brought Kelly there when she had difficulties breathing, but it looked different through my haze. Or maybe I didn't know where I was at all. Wherever I was, I knew I was lucky to be alive.
Two of our neighbors, friends of ours, came outside when they heard the ambulance. I saw them as the ambulance drove away with Ted inside of it.
"Kelly, are you okay? Is Ted all right?" Concern tugged at their faces, and it took me a minute to respond.
"I don't know. I don't know what happened," I answered. I tried to smile for them, but I'm not sure it was much of a smile. "I have to go. We have to get him to the hospital as soon as possible." I got in my car and took off.
Excerpted from "Relentless"
Copyright © 2018 Ted W. Baxter.
Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 Tragedy
Chapter 1 Four Days, Four Flights 3
Chapter 2 Hours Tick Away 10
Chapter 3 A Massive Stroke! 18
Chapter 4 Game Changer 27
Chapter 5 Can't Is a Four-Letter Word 36
Chapter 6 I'm Okay, Except I'm Not 47
Chapter 7 Not Fast Enough 57
Part 2 Early Life
Chapter 8 Relentless Since Birth 73
Chapter 9 Pedal to the Metal 79
Chapter 10 Moving, Moving, Moving: Out, Up, Everywhere 87
Chapter 11 I Wanted More 98
Part 3 Building a New Path
Chapter 12 Turning Point 105
Chapter 13 Setback … a Seizure?! 116
Chapter 14 I Decided to Win 120
Chapter 15 No More Limits 131
Chapter 16 Taking Charge Again 140
Chapter 17 Expanding Creativity 146
Chapter 18 Sports as My Recovery 154
Chapter 19 Life Changes 160
Chapter 20 Fresh House, Fresh Start, and Socialization 164
Part 4 Giving Back
Chapter 21 Therapy and Volunteering in Southern California 171
Chapter 22 Hello, Positive 178
Chapter 23 In Retrospect 183
Appendix A How I Did It: The Techniques and Activities That Led to My Post-Stroke Recovery 198
Appendix B Sample of Therapy Exercises 203
Questions for Discussion 209
Author Q&A 211
About the Author 215