After his son left the house to attend college three years ago, Mickey took up the game he once loved and played in his youth, engaging it with gusto. Shortly after, he had a handicap of 18 but now he's a scratch golfer.
He got that way by essentially living his life on the golf course, once driving so many balls one week that he sustained a stress fracture in his lead wrist. Dr. Hermes said it was the first time he'd treated a fracture in a golfer and advised Mickey to limit his swings to no more than 200 per week to avoid another fracture.
Mickey's obsession nearly ruined his marriage. He often played four rounds during the week and one or two on weekends. The 59-year-old loved socializing in the clubhouse, lingering for hours after playing a round, frequently eating there too, often forgetting to call his wife, turning his cell phone off so as not to be distracted. One night she became so incensed at his lack of consideration that when he arrived home three hours late she threw the pot roast and potatoes out to Max, their black Lab.
Rhonda was considering a divorce when Mickey, stocky and overweight, developed chest pain that resulted in a 5-way coronary artery bypass graft. She now felt obligated to stay and besides she had 34 years in the marriage. She wondered anyway how long he might have to live. She knew that husbands often live for years with these grafts -- at least those who had changed their ways for the better. She recalled how Richard, Stuart, and Bobby had all made changes and had become healthier for it. At any rate, she figured at minimum Mickey would be staying home more, and that was a good thing.
The doctor advised Mickey to walk the course, saying it was about the equivalent of five miles and would be excellent aerobic exercise. Mickey complained on two points. That it would make him later getting home and the club actively discouraged it.
Mickey never changed his eating habits or his lifestyle in general. In the beginning he patronized the doctor and humored his wife but his obsession with the game continued to detract from his energies in making the lifestyle change that he needed, that his doctor advised, and that his wife encouraged. Eventually, he also developed diabetes.
At the clubhouse he frequently ate "The Landing", a 1/3 pound grilled Angus hamburger topped with Swiss cheese, mushrooms, and mayo. His next favorite was the Landing's "Club Sandwich", laced with turkey, honey ham, bacon, and American cheese, also with mayo. He ate many of the other savory dishes served at the clubhouse grill -- and elsewhere, like the casino buffet, the French Club, and his favorite sandwich shop, Covetti's. Rhonda thought he was in love with eating as much as he was with golf.
One Saturday morning Mickey ate a breakfast of buttered pancakes and syrup, fried eggs, orange juice, toast with jelly, and coffee with sugar. After finishing the meal he sat down to read the morning newspaper only to see the words and lines blur. He checked his blood sugar at his wife's urging and it was 405. He asked Rhonda to make an appointment.
The doctor told Mickey he had large amounts of protein spilling in his urine, the protein level registering 150 where less than 30 was normal. His kidneys were leaking protein severely, an advanced complication of uncontrolled diabetes.
Dr. Hermes explained to Mickey that in the same way you might imagine rolling and dropping a 20-foot putt, you can think of these leaking protein molecules as tiny golf balls rolling and dropping into the holes on the putting greens of the kidney, not cups but now holes, and disappearing forever, never to be retrieved. And the holes on these renal greens numbering not 18, but in multiples of 18, and which over time enlarge in size, making it easier to lose more and more balls, which judging from the number of times Mickey dined out Dr. Hermes surmised that Mickey was on a path to kidney failure requiring the need of a dialysis machine.
He was instructed once again to comply with his diet, check his blood sugar, and to start walking and lose weight. Dr. Hermes recommended Mickey buy the book by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.
At home Rhonda tried to put the right food on the table, learning all she could from the American Diabetes Association's website. But because Mickey raised so much hell in the house about her not cooking his favorite meals she relented, letting him eat what he wanted.
Rhonda feared he would have a heart attack or die and she confided as much to friends. After Mickey gained another twelve pounds she made sure his life insurance policy was paid up and the papers were secure in the house safe.
Two days after his 61st birthday Mickey woke up partially paralyzed on his left side, his lead side. In the hospital he was found to be in kidney failure and his A1C of 12% indicated his average blood sugar for the previous three months had been 300. His dense paralysis lessened slightly over two weeks allowing him to have minimum movement of his left side. But his days on the links were over.
One Wednesday morning, at the age of 62, his vision having progressed to being legally blind, the once scratch golfer sat in the fourth dialysis chair from the end, dreaming of those two years in a row when their foursome -- he, Gerald, Kenny, and Dale -- won the Slavic Invitational at the Sunkist Country Club, where the greens had been maintained to perfection with meticulous care -- not too fast, not too slow -- and the cups had all been perfectly placed.
He often reminisced about them good ole days.
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"Our bodies are our gardens -- our wills are our gardeners."
-- William Shakespeare