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The Mast-Head: Ron’s Warning Call

Thu, 12/01/2022 - 07:51

Preoccupied by other things, I put off calling back a friend I'd known since my teenage years after his number popped up on my phone recently. Ron, as he asked to be identified here, was persistent and left a message for me at work. I knew it was serious.

Ron is the kind of friend you see parked outside a deli in his truck, always good for a joke or maybe a comment about how it has all gone to hell in a handbasket. I could not remember the last time we had spoken on the phone.

He got right down to it, telling me in detail about how he had skirted death after three aneurysms in his abdomen, already past the usual rupture measurement, were detected at the 11th hour. Had he gone to work that day, instead of seeing Dr. Blake Kerr in Wainscott, his doctors later told him, he would have been dead. Though that day is unavoidably coming, I have not had to deal with more than one or two obituaries of people with whom I was close growing up, and did not want to start now.

Like many men, Ron, a pack-a-day smoker, had gone years without visiting a doctor. Now, having survived his ordeal, it was his goal to get in touch with every person he knew to urge them to get their checkups. 

Ron was home by the time he finally got me. He described a Southampton radiology technician's hands shaking after his initial exam, then a blazing fast ambulance ride to Stony Brook University Hospital. Up to that point, he had thought he was just having back pain.

Asked at the emergency room about his medical history, Ron answered, "What medical history?" He was in the intensive care unit several days before his early-morning surgery. Thirteen days after he went in, Ron was sent home and started calling friends.

After the surgery Ron said he wanted "everyone to relax and try to be nicer to each other." He also hoped that nurses and emergency medical technicians would get more recognition for what they do. 

And, "Get a yearly checkup," he said.

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