When Sports Mattered

Jack Johnson in the Ring with James Jeffries

Dear Reader,

For this week’s contribution, I shall direct you to another website where I wrote a short piece on the race riots which broke out over the Fourth of July in 1910 after Jack Johnson successfully defended his crown again Jim Jeffries. You can find it here.

I missed the first week of class this semester, as I was hospitalized having lost the ability to swallow. They did some testing and determined I wasn’t aspirating, and so they stopped there. I’m still struggling to drink even water and I cannot eat anything solid. It takes 10-15 minutes for me to drink a 16 oz bottle of water. Given that the disease I have causes my body to dry out, I have to consume a gallon a day or I risk dehydration. And I can no longer drink that much.

You would think that doctors would take it seriously, but they don’t. Each specialist tries to pawn me off on a different specialist. I’ve asked for a feeding tube, but they say no since I have no evidence of aspiration. It’s just a matter a time before this causes a serious, if not fatal, complication. It’s so bad that I have left written instructions for my wife to insist they take slides of my brain after I die because, as some of the doctors suggest, there is a neurological cause. (But several neurologists refused to test me for anything because I “don’t fit the profile” for someone with a neurological disease.)

I’ve seen over 20 different doctors, including some in the Houston Medical Center, where you can get some of the finest health care in the world. But they just don’t seem to give a shit. After all, it’s not them who is suffering. It’s me. And as an added bonus, when I got home Tuesday, my right arm stopped working. As in, I can’t raise it. The pain is centered in the shoulder joint. I know enough anatomy to know that it is probably the rotator cuff. It hurts like hell. There’s nothing I can do, though. I cannot, under any circumstances, have a rotator cuff surgery as that would mean I have to sleep in a recliner for weeks and due to my spinal injuries, I have to sleep flat on my back. Sitting down or reclining is absolute murder. So I’ll just have to suffer through it and learn to use my left hand.

Then again, given the rapid progression of my swallowing issue, I probably won’t be suffering for long. I apologize for sounding so gloomy, but everything I say is true. My body is shutting down and the doctors don’t care. I’m just hoping to make it through to the end of the semester.


A Different Path


Dear Readers,

I have, on occasion, been asked if I had not entered the fire service as a young man, what I would have done for a career. Admittedly, during my years on the job, I saw my share of challenging situations and had my own close calls, I never faced the ultimate challenge. The reason why my research focuses on firefighters in war zones is precisely because I never worked in one myself. A fact, I hasten to add, that I do not regret as I am lucky to have grown up in a place where such things don’t happen. However, there is a small part of me that wonders if I could have done it. Could I have worked in Berlin during World War Two? Or London during The Blitz. Belfast during The Troubles. Or more current conflict zones like Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine and Syria. The answer is that I don’t know.

To return to the original question, though, there was a second career plan should the fire service not pan out. Had I not been able to secure employment in the fire service, I wanted to be a journalist. I was torn between a print journalist and a photojournalist. I had no desire to work in television. To be more specific, I would have wanted to go to work either as a freelancer or for the AP or Reuters and report from conflict zones around the world. Ideally, I’d find a war going on somewhere that the rest of the world is ignoring and go there to cover it. Would it be dangerous? Yes. Frustrating? Certainly. Rewarding? Possibly.

I guess part of the reason that this appealed to me was from watching news coverage from places like Sarajevo and Grozny during the 1990s. That said, I’m a better writer than I am a speaker, and so you’d not find me in front of the television cameras. If I had my life to live all over again, would I go down this path? Probably not. I’d stick to the fire service. However, if I get to have another life after this one, it is what I’ll most likely do. I’m happy with the way my life turned out, so I have no regrets about not pursuing this career. Sometimes, though, I do wonder what my life would have been like if I had.

Then again, maybe I was just born with a death wish.