Thursday, April 26, 2007

God Bless Fire Ants


I spent 30 years in the Navy. As organizations go the Navy is really hung up on physical fitness and health. Try as I might, I really could never find a reason to argue about being healthy. Argue? You can’t argue with the Navy. The Navy insisted on “minimum” standards, weight, height, percent body fat. You had to do so many push-ups, so many sit-ups, do a run/walk. All of which were designed to give you a full body workout. In my younger years I was able to do the minimum sit-ups and push-ups, but that run, just killed me. For years I just barely managed to finish the run in my allotted time. I had been a smoker since I was 14 and running just didn’t cut it for me.

One particular year I was struggling with completing the run. I generally practiced about a week or two before the test was to be given. On the date of the test, the command had decided to use a new track. Since I was in the second group of runners, I had the opportunity to observe the other runners as they completed their run. I quickly noticed that everyone was adding 1 to 2 minutes to their previous time. Come to find out the previous Commander hated to run as much as I did and he had set up the old course ½ mile short. At any rate, I got scared because I didn’t have a minute to spare. So…since the Navy gave us a choice to do the run or do a swim, I chose, at the last minute to do the swim. You need to understand the run, was a run WALK…meaning all you had to do is get to the finish line under your designated time. When I tried the swim I discovered that walking does not work.

I failed the Physical Readiness Test, a major blow to anyone who wanted to advance, and at the time for 3 successive failures people were being put out of the Navy. I took up jogging with an increased vigor. That’s being too generous, the Navy put me on remedial training (every morning at 6:00 AM) (why does the Navy do every thing at 6 AM) we did a work out to include a mile and a half run. I was a reluctant jogger and did not (and still don’t) understand how anyone could do this for fun, but I was not going to lose my career. I subsequently passed the next Physical Readiness Test, which took me off the remedial track, but I continued to work out, because it was easier to do the tests. I managed to run and still smoke.

After I was taken off the remedial training I was jogging in Louisiana to maintain my physical condition and trouble happened. You need to understand the weather in Louisiana...its 90 degrees with 90% humidity. As a matter of fact they fly flags when it’s safe or not safe to have outdoor physical activity. When a black flag flies you are to stay in doors. One evening (my theory was that it was somewhat cooler in the evening) I went out to jog. But…it had been a black flag day. I had been running a route through my neighborhood that took me about 2 miles and 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Towards the end of my run I decided to sprint that last portion and shortly after I started sprinting I experienced pressure in my chest, light-headedness, and profuse sweating. I wanted to lie down in the worst way, but since I was having difficulty seeing I didn’t want to chance lying down on a fire-ant hill (a common nasty creature found in the South). I struggled to get home. I was convinced that I was having a heat stroke and that once I was cooled down I would be ok. According to my wife I was gray by the time I arrived home; she wanted to call 911, but I wouldn’t let her. She called our neighbor who was an EMT and she called 911.

I was at the hospital in 30 minutes and received a “cocktail” of clot busting drugs, which returned the blood flow to my heart. I ended up having heart surgery 6 months later, and 1 week after an angioplasty I was out jogging again, because I had a Physical Readiness test approaching and I was not going to fail. And, I had quit smoking…but that is a subject of another story.

I am thankful for fire ants – because of them I did not lie down and die. I made it home and here I am...thanks little buddies...

1 comment:

jessbess1978 said...

That story still gives me chills...