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Major Tom to Ground Control: “I am scared”

This morning I found myself in a rocket ship headed nowhere. I was lying on my back with what looked like the makings of a helmet around my head. There was a mirror above my head angled in such a way that I could see ground control albeit upside down. A faint voice came in through the headphones that snuggled my ears. And there was music: a tribute to David Bowie playing loudly to comfort me for the 40 minute ride I was about to take... and I was freaking out.

Twice they had to extract me from the ship because the inside was so small that it made me panic. Ground control said it was big in terms of other ships of the class, but it was too small for my comfort. My arms could touch the sides of the ship if only I was allowed to do so. The only communication device was a small ball that when squeezed would sound an alarm.

Being a good techie, the very first thing I did when handed the ball was to squeeze it. Milliseconds later alarms went off and the technician had to run to a set of dials and screens to quiet the alarms. He wasn’t mad about it as many people in my position feel the need to quality check the backup systems.

For the minutes leading up to launch I heard a beat reminiscent of something coming out of the minds of Thomas and Guy from Daft Punk. “The robots certainly must have been inspired by this great machine.” I was told that it was merely helium being injected around the copper tubing and the sound was from a pump mounted deep inside. It sounded like a good beat and I started to move slightly in an effort to dance, but I was told to only move my hands and not my feet.

It was then that the needle entered my left arm. What astronaut needs a needle on lift off? I thought. The technician quickly left my side and went back to his array of knobs, screens and dials.

“Ground Control to Major Tom… ”

“Take your protein pills and put your helmet on…”

“8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1… may god’s love be with you…”

The sound that emerged from that machine was scary and my palms quickly started sweating. Oh god, I thought. I am stuck with nowhere to go but hold on while the whirring and clanking and banging drowned out the music.

“I’m stepping through the door and I am floating in a most peculiar way. And the stars look very different today. For here I’m sitting in a tin can.”

You are right David. This is a tin can and there was nothing I could do. Then David started clapping and a sense of calm came over me. The calm lasted until I opened my eyes again.

The inside of this ship was stark white with small white lights dimly lighting its interior — as if to mock me with its confinement. There was a two inch gray stripe running vertically. This gray stripe was the only thing grounding me and preventing me from feeling like I was floating in a most peculiar way — just an average level of peculiarity.

The ship’s noises died down and the technician came over the radio. “You have been in there for 15 minutes Richard. Stay strong.” His words were comforting as I felt abandoned and alone with no sense of time. The constant clanking made me feel as though this ship was breaking apart on take off. However we were not going anywhere.

It was at the point when the noises became high pitched that I told myself to love the machine. It was trying to help me and its purpose today was to help the others that cared about me figure out what happened.

The day before

The day before was like any other day. My face was lodged inside my computer like usual and I was listening to music coming from a Bluetooth speaker in the corner. At around 10 in the morning my left cheek started tingling and became itchy. I scratched my beard with a few fingers of my left hand to get rid of the itch while staring at my screen.

The itch got bigger. Now it was itchy and tingly from my left eye to my throat. The inside of my mouth on the left side also felt odd. Moments later I noticed my left arm was tingly too. And then my chest.

I happened to be thinking of a friend’s dog at the time and couldn’t remember her name. Alarms started going off in my head.

Moments later someone was talking to me and I wasn’t listening or I couldn’t understand what they were saying. It was too quiet. Regardless of which it was, the information wasn’t coming in. I got really scared.

I did my usual check of my carotid artery to ensure that blood was flowing and felt a bit at ease when the thump thump thump of my pulse went past my index finger. I left the room and went to get some water.

Upon my return my computer immediately pointed to Google searching for “tingles in left cheek.” A WebMD article about Bell’s Palsy came up. “Yikes! I hope it isn’t that,” but any armchair medical quarterback knows that it’s best not to diagnose oneself.

I told the folks in the room what was happening and one handed me a couple children’s aspirin. Down they went followed by a call to my doctor.

A couple hours later I was in my doctor’s office. My blood pressure was 106/66 — a great reading, and I was quite boastful about how I had given up meat over 14 months ago. The nurse with the purple streak in her hair smiled and nodded in approval.

Let’s face it, at 42 I wasn’t supposed to be here for this exam. I had a healthy diet, exercised a few days a week, and overall took pretty good care of myself. So why was I here?

You had a small blood clot enter your brain. It seems to have passed without incident.

A blood clot. Like an aneurysm? No. A blood clot. Aneurysms are where an arterial wall ruptures. This was a case where a little blood clot got past my heart and caught in my artery. And thankfully it went away on its own.

My doctor advised me to get a big bottle of children’s chew-able aspirin (81mg) and take one a day as well that he was scheduling me for an MRI of my brain — with contrast.

So this morning I went to the imaging center and they strapped me into the MRI for a claustrophobic ride to nowhere. I was there for over an hour but my ride was about 40 minutes long.

My goals with sharing this with you are two-fold. I needed some way to help me process what happened and creative writing does wonders for my soul. Secondly, If you are over 40, please consider getting a big bottle of children’s chew-able aspirin (81mg) and take one a day. Thanks for reading.

Disruptor & Austin entrepreneur with 4 acquisitions and 2 exits to the public markets. Proud father, husband, and philanthropist. @richardbagdonas

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