The Other Me

The Other Me

‘Hello, Panic, My Old Friend’

Early in 1995, my friends and I went to the Indoor Cricket Sports Centre for a practice session. It was a hot, muggy day – not that that bothered me. After playing eighteen months, my fitness – even if I was still drinking and smoking – was high. I could play through anything.

I bowled several balls and felt puffed. That was normal. You pushed through it. Only I couldn’t catch my breath. My heart raced. I was dizzy. My equilibrium was gone. Every time I bowled, it felt like the whole Centre reared off-kilter.

I left the court, grabbed a sports drink, and sat down, waiting to feel better. My panting and racing heartbeat slowed, but didn’t return to normal. Still, when I felt good enough, I went back onto the court and bowled again, only to have the same result. From there, I sat out what remained of practice.

Afterward, I drove Dean and Simon home, panting all the way. Simon was asthmatic and I asked him what that was like. He said it was like you couldn’t catch your breath. I wondered if that’s what I was suffering – an asthma attack. I didn’t know how asthma developed, if it could just hit you, but right now there were no explanations.

I dropped Dean and Simon off at Simon’s house, then drove to my GP’s clinic, telling them that I needed to see anybody. Dr Warren was away, so they told me I had to see Dr Persakis.

I sat and waited and waited and waited, and by the time Dr Persakis called me, I still couldn’t catch my breath. He checked my pulse, was surprised at its speed, then listened to my chest. He then organised for me to have x-rays, suspecting – I think – that one of my fractured ribs might’ve collapsed and punctured a lung or something, although that accident was eight months ago.

I drove to Radiology, panting; waited, panting; and got my x-rays, panting. I drove back to the clinic. The receptionist again told me to take a seat, but I asked if there was somewhere I could lay down. She said I could lie down on the seat. I asked if there was somewhere I could lie down privately, and she brought me to a little foyer in the back.

I lay there, trying to work out what was going on. There were things I could rule out, like heart attack. If I’d been having a heart attack, Dr Persakis wouldn’t be sending me for x-rays. My mind dissected all the possibilities, and then drifted away until I lost all attachment to my thoughts. By the time Dr Persakis finally called me, I was relaxed. Everything was back to normal.

Dr Persakis said my x-rays were fine, and wasn’t sure what had happened but told me just to take it easy tonight, although I was meant to resume the indoor cricket season. When I got home, I called my friend Bruce and asked him to take my spot in the indoor cricket team, telling him I’d had some weird episode. He agreed, and I lay on the couch and watched TV. Later in the evening, when I got up to make myself a sandwich, I had a dizzy spell. That happened lots over the next week. I was worried whatever had happened might be about to happen again.

The following week I saw Dr Warren. He thought it might be an inner ear disorder called Meniere’s Disease. I’d had inner ear infections since I was about twenty. All my muscles would ache, I’d feel dizzy and nauseous and have no balance. Usually, I’d take Stemetil – the standard med – and if I wasn’t better by the first pill, I was by the second. Now the Stemetil didn’t work. Dr Warren tried a whole range of other drugs, but with no success. Some even knocked me out and made me sleep the whole day, or screwed with my balance and hand-eye coordination.

I became house-bound while all this was going on and was tentative about returning to indoor cricket. I played one game, but was terrified throughout I’d have another attack. Another time, I showed up and it felt like the whole centre was rocking under my feet, like I was on a boat. One of the guys we used as a reserve said I looked as white as a sheet and asked if I wanted him to play for me. I said I’d let him know after we warmed up pre-game. One pre-game warm up delivery later, I told him he could play.

Then I went home.