Charles E. Richardson

RICHARDSON: Don’t tug on Superman’s cape

“Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

If you’re my age, younger or older, you know exactly who I’m describing. “It’s Superman!”

Since his introduction in National Allied Publications in 1938, the Man of Steel has been on radio, TV, movies, Broadway and video games. We all know Superman is a fictional character, but many of us, mainly men, have a Superman complex. We think, just like the Man of Steel, that we are invulnerable and that no bullets are capable of taking us out.

Unlike the fictional Superman who could only be felled by Kryptonite, there are health bullets flying at us that -- since we’re Superman -- we choose to ignore. My inner Man of Steel had a meltdown last week and if not for some loving co-workers, I might have been in some real trouble. Of course, I professed my invincibility, but they had already called 911. Thank God somebody had some sense, because I didn’t.

I was trying to maintain my reverse bucket list. A bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you die. A reverse bucket list is composed of things you don’t want to do before you leave this earth. Staying out of the hospital was on my reverse bucket list, nor had I ever been in the business end of an ambulance. Well, so much for that.

Like most Supermen, I ignored telltale signs that should have told me I was sick. For two nights in a row I sweated like I was in an Indian sweat lodge. I soaked through sets of sheets. Over the course of four days, I lost 17 pounds. I was drinking water as fast as I could, but there was no way I could catch up -- and of course -- I still had the “I’m fine” mantra going.

Now let me tell you how dumb that was. I’m diabetic. My numbers looked like a bowling score going into extra frames. If my batting average had been that high, I’d have a statue in front of the new Braves Stadium. You get the picture.

With my symptoms, loss of balance, slurred speech, they first thought I might have had a stroke. I felt like a Star Trek test dummy. Off we went where this Superman had never gone before -- CT scan here, EKG (the second one) there. Later an MRI and a thyroid scan and a chest X-ray.

Fortunately, it turned out to be something much less dramatic. No stroke, just pneumonia and extreme dehydration. My wife put me on electronic lockdown. I asked for my laptop, “Nyet” was the answer. I asked for my iPad. She stared at me and said “Bu yao.” Supermen must be persistent so I asked for my phone, and she started speaking in tongues I understood.

This episode, while traumatic, taught me a few things. I work with some wonderful people. Conna, Lisa, Don, Brenda, Rebecca, Mike and Travis got busy and wouldn’t listen to my protestations.

You don’t realize what kind of a jewel we have in the Medical Center, Navicent Health, until you’re on your back staring up at a ceiling. Now I know why people seek out cities with great health care facilities when they retire. The staff was friendly and personable to a fault -- from the EMTs, Lisa Suggs and Melanie Benton, who picked me up, to the charge nurses on E-5: Heather, Mena, Tori and Hilary. I forgive them. They were just doing their job to wake me out of a good snooze to check my blood pressure, blood sugar or intravenous fluids. And there was another group of professionals who work with Dr. Arthur Grigorian -- Amy, Peggy and Cheryl -- who made a scary procedure, an arteriogram (you don’t want to know), less frightening. and the post op nurses were super.

I have never been one to ask for help but it came out of the woodwork. Lottie Hayes and Makeba Rogers, colleagues of my wife, rushed to the hospital to support her and the rest of the Title I team sent a card with a little somethin’ somethin’ in it -- and they don’t even know me. My neighbor, David Hamlin, even cut and trimmed my grass.

So for now, you should probably not spit into the wind or pull the mask off an old Lone Ranger. It’s also not a good idea to mess around with Jim, but to tug on this Superman’s cape? To my chagrin, it is probably OK.

Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraph’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at Tweet @crichard1020.