Orville woke up in a bed he did not recognize, in a place that was foreign to him, although it did seem to be a medical facility of some sort. He looked over to see monitors that had wires running from them and were attached to his skin in various spots on his body. Where the hell was he and what had happened? Orville looked to the left and right, but the generic-looking sterile environment was giving him no clues. And for the life of him, he could not recall what had gone on that might have brought him to this place. He pressed the call button he found at the bedside and in a few seconds a nurse in a crisp white outfit waltzed through the door to his room.
“Welcome back, Mr. Peterson,” the trim brunette nurse said as she came to a chart on his bed and made some notations.
“Uh…thanks, I guess.” Orville replied shakily, “what is this place? Why am I here?”
“I know it is all very confusing right now. Let me get Dr. Rodden and he can fill you in.”
But she had flitted away as curiously as she had appeared. Orville lay back, his mind racing. The last thing he remembered was being in the anteroom just outside the lab at RMD. And he had seen…oh, crap….now he remembered….but why was he in a hospital? Just then he looked up as a tall and lanky man in a white lab coat wandered in, smiled at him and sat in a chair by his bed.
Greeting, Mr. Peterson….I am Dr. Rodden. You gave us a bit of a scare in the last couple of days.”
Orville’s jaw opened slightly at his words, not knowing how to respond.
“I am guessing everything is a bit of a blur for you right now, huh? Just lay back and I will bring you up to speed, OK?”
Orville nodded and relaxed against the pillow at his head, but overall his body and his mind felt anything but relaxed.
“OK, Dr. Rodden….can I ask something first?”
“Sure…just call me Ben.”
“Where am I and why am I here? How did I get here?”
“Yeah, I guess that would be a fair place to begin. What is the last thing you remember?”
Orville told him that the lab at RMD was his last solid memory and Rodden nodded.
“To begin, you are at St. Anne’s in Laconia. You know of it?”
“They brought you here from your workplace a couple days ago after you collapsed there. You remember anything about that?”
“I remember being at the lab at RMD….then I had these weird sweats and my heart was racing like I had gone for a run….then I woke up here.”
Rodden nodded, as he already would have guessed this, though he always like to see if his patients offered up anything more.
“How do you feel today, Mr. Peterson?”
“Orville, please…..OK, I guess all things considered. A bit tired and weak maybe.”
“Understandable, Orville. I ran some tests and reviewed your overall health history, which is pretty good for a man your age, and I believe you suffered a transient ischemic attack, or TIA for short. You know what that is?”
“Vaguely,” Orville replied, “like a stroke?”
“Sort of. It’s not a full-blown stroke but can cause stroke-like symptoms. It occurs when part of the brain experiences a temporary lack of blood flow. You might have also heard it referred to as a mini-stroke.”
“Am I going to be OK?”
“You mean like any disabling factors in the aftermath like a real stroke?”
Orville nodded as he dreaded the response.
“Highly unlikely. A TIA can mimic the real thing, and the symptoms can be very similar, but it is very rare to cause the things you might be familiar with in a stroke victim.”
Orville sighed with relief.
“You just said you had some sudden sweating and an accelerated pulse at the lab?”
Orville nodded again.
“I guess I passed out.”
“Your tests indicated some blood pressure irregularities. Any other symptoms lately like changes in your vision, severe headaches, weakness in your limbs, confusion, abnormal sense of smell or taste with anything?”
“Nope,” Orville replied, nothing like that.
“Ever have episodes of fainting, difficulties with your speech, or trouble with your balance in the past?”
“That’s good. Anything else you have going on medically that is new?”
“Not that I….wait….I have had this chronic sciatica in my left leg for a while now. I’ve been having Bill Everett over at the Rosemont Avenue Clinic treat me for that. Could that be involved?”
“Not likely. I know Bill and he’s tops. How about stress?”
Orville was about to brush this one off, but the way Rodden was looking at him and the tone of his voice made him know better.
“I guess a bit, Ben….who doesn’t these days.”
“Your co-workers told me about some sort of new project you are working on at RMD. They say you’ve been pushing the envelope pretty hard lately.
“No more than usual. The company has a lot riding on this thing, Ben. So, yeah….Thomas and Loraine and I have been…oh….pretty consumed with it I guess I would say.”
“Well, Orville, there is nothing here in your tests that are any real red flags, and up until now you’ve been really healthy. And I know patients do not like to hear it and often just ignore it, but stress can be just as much of a warning sign as anything. I do not want to frighten you, Orville, but the TIA can often be a wake-up call that a more serious stroke could be around the bend.”
Orville felt like the floor had just fallen six inches as he took this all in.
“Please take this in the spirit intended, Orville, but you are not a kid anymore. Our bodies and our minds change as we age. I think you really need to consider making some lifestyle changes going ahead.”
Orville was stunned. Sure he was beginning his sixties now, but until this incident he had felt fine….just that sciatica. Was Rodden actually suggesting it was time for him to cut back at RMD if not bow out altogether? How could he now? They were so close to success with this one. Could he just bargain his way through this and then maybe pack it in? Certainly if the projections of this application were like Frederick and Janice had predicted, he would never have to worry about his finances anymore. But was he ready intellectually and emotionally to walk away….that was the real question.
“You thinking my job at RMD could have brought this on, Ben?”
“I cannot say with absolute certainty, of course, but with all your other factors and a lack of any other basis for this, I would say it is a distinct possibility. I know that is pretty vague and not what you were hoping to hear.”
“Actually, Doc…” Orville replied, “ I was hoping to hear you tell me to just try and take it easy at work and not to push as hard as I have been lately. But that does not sound like what I am hearing if I read between the lines.”
“Fair enough assessment. I cannot make any of my patients take my advice, Orville, I can only offer and hope they value their own health enough to follow it. Sure…you can go back to RMD and keep plugging away. But I would hate to see you have a more serious episode down the road.”
“OK, Doc….I’ll think this all over….really. Anything else?”
“Just one. Just before you fainted at work, your colleague, Thomas said you mumbled something about La Mala Hora. That mean anything to you?”
Orville felt a chill ripple over his frame. He was not sure how to play this one with Rodden, but it made no sense to try and cover it up. Number one, this guy seemed sharp enough to know when he was being lied to and second, what if he had really seen her here in America…as crazy as that sounded to him just now?
“I did not ask before, Orville, but did you see something before you passed out? Something odd?”
“You mean like did I hallucinate?”
“That’s a bit harsh. One of the TIA symptoms can be mild hallucinogen-like vision with an abnormality in blood pressure like yours.”
“You thinking my borderline hypertension made me visualize La Mala Hora?”
“Look, Orville….I did some reading on this….legend. It is just a legend, you know?”
“So they say, Doc….”
Orville knew he was backed into a corner now, but he assumed the doctor/patient confidentiality would kick in before they carted him off to some asylum. He exhaled in resignation and filled in Rodden on how he had come to know of and experience a possible sighting of this “legend” while in Guatemala.
“You now believe this is real, Orville?”
“I only know what I was told and what I saw in El Zapote, Doc. My friend, Francisco, a native Mayan believes it, and after talking to him I am not sure I am qualified to just write that off.”
“Remember what I said about changes in our bodies and minds as we age, Orville?”
“You think I am crazy?”
“No…not at all. But based on what you just told me about your experience in Guatemala, I am concerned. That trip obviously had a huge impact on you, as I am sure it would have been for me as well. But what I am worried about it that your hypertension may have been instrumental in bringing on a vision of this from your strong memory and association of it. And maybe the anxiety stimulated by the vision on top of you blood pressure issue brought on the TIA which was set up by work-related stress.”
Orville said nothing, looking out the window as he considered Rodden’s theory. It was possible he supposed.
“Would you consider talking to one of my colleagues to help you try and put this all in perspective?”
“Again, a bit harsh for my taste. Dr. Fote is a psychologist. She is really good at this sort of thing and I cannot force you but would highly recommend it. What’s it going to hurt to talk to someone about it?”
Orville pondered that, knowing he had spoken of this to no one besides Francisco. Sure, he thought…what’s it going to hurt…
“OK, Doc….give me her info.”