Kenneth L. Hardin: I’ve finally found the time to bleed

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 9, 2024

By Kenneth L. Hardin

I don’t get sick very often, but in the last year, I‘ve tried to make up for decades of pesky good health. When I do finally fall ill, I’m reluctant to seek medical assistance until they have to roll me into an emergency department slumped down in a wheelbarrow with my legs dangling out over the sides and moving in and out of consciousness. Even then, I’m answering the triage nurse’s meaningless obligatory question of how I’m feeling with, “not too bad.” I take seriously the whole idiotic position of manning up and being tough, introduced to me as a child and cemented in the military. Whenever I’m under the weather and I heroically fight through the misery and pain to valiantly push on, I liken myself to the character in the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger hit movie, “Predator.” During a pivotal scene, when former pro wrestler and Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura was told by a comrade he was shot, he cooly replied, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Yeah, that’s how I roll too when I’m feeling a bit on the puny side.

My spate of good health came to an end in the last 12 months as I’ve spent more time in emergency rooms and hospital stays than I would like to. A national study revealed that 60-80% of all doctor visits have a stress-related component. According to the Mayo Clinic, chronic stress can lead to health problems that include heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep problems, weight gain, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. As often as I play the Powerball, I’ve never been able to match more than three numbers at one time, but out of the aforementioned list, I’ve managed to hit the jackpot on several of these together. I sought out a mental health professional once and really wasn’t surprised at her assessment. She told me I don’t trust anyone enough to let my guard down and share what’s going on with me. She added that I tend to internalize everything, which then leads to physiological issues that manifest into health concerns. So, what action did I take immediately after hearing this? I said to myself, “I ain’t got time to bleed” and set out on the arduous journey of opening the Veterans Social Center. I told y’all I was stubborn and hardheaded.

Let me give you a rundown of how I’ve established a great relationship with the good folks at the Salisbury VA Medical Center lately. I’ve managed to survive a bout with COVID, hospitalized for dehydration due to that wonderful little bug known as RSV, battled the flu in the hospital once, and less than a month later, contracted it again and fought it at home. About three weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to experience the coup de grâce of medical maladies. For the entire month of March and part of April, as I worked tirelessly to prepare for the Veterans Social Center’s 2-year anniversary celebration, I was the sickest I’ve ever felt in my life then. I will spare you the sordid details of what I was fighting daily, but will reveal I was consuming a bottle of the pink stuff every three days for an entire month. I was lightheaded, nauseated and consistently had the bubble guts. Knowing that I was putting on an event that would define our organization’s existence and future, had invited guests from the business, political and media worlds, and so many veterans relying on me, I embraced the “no time to bleed” mantra and stupidly soldiered on.

On the day of the event, I took a big swig of the thick pink stuff, put on my game face and led a well-received event. Little did any of the attendees know, I was fighting hard to just stay upbeat and upright. At the conclusion, as I was desperately trying to get to my office to sit down, I made pleasantries and held conversations with many attendees and conducted media interviews. Weeks later, I went back and viewed the interview and recoiled at how awful I looked and sounded. A few days after the event, I couldn’t stand upright and decided I now had the time to bleed. After five bags of IV fluids, a cadre of blood and radiological tests, I was told I had salmonella poisoning and was severely dehydrated. Salisbury should be proud that we have a medical facility of this high caliber and people working there who genuinely care about the veterans they’re entrusted to serve.

This last hospital visit and my continued dealings with the impact of its effect prompted me to decide a couple of articles ago that it was time for me to throw in the towel after over three decades of putting my health and wellbeing secondary to serving my community first. I’ve received correspondence from many people, some who were understanding and supportive but others who selfishly asked that I not lessen my involvement. What drives me to find the time to bleed is the phone call I had with my 4-year-old grandson during my recent hospital admission. He asked, “Pop Pop, when are you coming home?” I can now say, “Everyday, for good, baby.”

Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.