"Your Wife Could Die"
“I don’t want to alarm you, but your wife could die.”
I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist of the message from my new boat friends. The couple waited until Lola got up from the table to deliver the news.
Naturally, I downplayed their warning. If Lola was going to die in the Netherlands, it would be from hostile cyclists, who are, without question, the tiny nation’s apex predators. Whatever was going on with that sharp pain in her leg wasn’t a big deal. Why? Because I didn’t want it to be a big deal, which I’m pretty sure is how medical science works.
But the couple insisted. We had met them just a few minutes earlier at the front of the boat on the second day of the cruise. Lola and I sat down to play a card game called The Crew. At the next table, Jeff and Jana were playing cribbage. Naturally, we bonded over our shared nerdiness and were soon playing cards together. At some point during the game, Lola mentioned how her leg began hurting overnight. After a long international flight followed by a full day of walking, she woke up to a weird red rash at the bottom of both of her calves and a sharp pain at the top of one of them. She was now walking with a pronounced limp. Jeff and Jana must have exchanged a look that I missed, because the second Lola was out of earshot, they both pounced.
“My aunt had those symptoms and she died,” Jana said. “Last week.”
Apparently her aunt, who was in good health, spent a day on a long road trip through Texas. When she was walking around the next day, she noticed a sharp pain in her leg and a weird rash, just like Lola’s. Within a few days, she was dead from a blood clot that detached from her leg and made its way to her heart or brain or some other location it wasn’t supposed to be. Really, there’s no good place for a blood clot. Jana and Jeff were missing the funeral because they were on this cruise. I couldn’t blame them because they booked their trip way in advance and their relative rudely died just recently. Note to my extended family: Please schedule any tragic deaths at least two full years in advance so I can work my vacations around them.
A few minutes later, Lola came back to the table. I was torn. Jana and Jeff didn’t want to freak out Lola and ruin her vacation, but they clearly didn’t mind freaking me out and leaving the burden on me. I still believed her symptoms didn’t indicate anything serious, but I also didn’t want her to die in the one-in-a-million chance her leg pain indicated something much worse. I brought up the possibility of her impending death in the most casual way possible.
“So you don’t have a blood clot, but all your symptoms definitely match a blood clot.”
Very reassuring. Lola took the news well. Like me, she thought it was something minor, like a pulled muscle or a strained hamstring. Then an alarm went off on Jana’s phone. Her aunt’s funeral wasn’t just that week. It was literally during our card game. Jana and Jeff left to Skype into the service. That was a little ominous, even for someone as cavalier about life and death as me.
Lola and I went back to our room and debated what to do. It was probably certainly almost definitely nothing, but what if it wasn’t? Would our kids have to Skype into a burial at sea? Lola started Googling symptoms, which is never a good idea. According to the internet’s leading experts, it was either nothing to worry about or an absolute death sentence. Glad we cleared that up.
I called down to the front desk. The clerk there said she’d have the manager call us back. I waited by the phone while Lola continued to look up all the fun and interesting ways she might die. The phone rang.
Listen to this episode with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Exploding Unicorn by James Breakwell to listen to this episode and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.