It was early December, around 2 in the morning and I was lying looking at the ceiling on a bed in the emergency room in Williamsburg, Virginia. My mind was filled with all these things I wanted to say and I wanted to confess. Thinking to myself, “I’m not that bad of a guy, I’ve tried to help people, I’m not perfect, and I have good life insurance.”
My friend, a retired colonel was in the room with me. He watched them take my blood pressure and saw my heart rate and said “You look terrible.” I think I may have confessed to some things, maybe even some things I really didn’t do. It was apparent that I was in a very bad state. My friend once again said something to the effect of “You look bad.” He may have used Army language.
How and where did all this start?
The previous day I had been working in Houston, Texas. It was a long day and I hadn’t stopped for lunch or anything else. Wanting to catch the last flight back to Virginia later in the evening, I was trying to get everything finished.
A friend at work had introduced me to real licorice, or licorice in a pure form. It came in a little tin box and looked like pencil lead. I loved it. My daughter describes it as tasting like “coffee with vinegar.” It’s a good description.
Previously, I had never eaten black licorice jelly beans or any type of licorice candy. This stuff was different, it was good. My friend had bought the box of “pure licorice gems” at one of those international type stores. On the day he let me try it; I stopped on the way home and bought a lifetime supply I think.
While working in Houston that day, I think I consumed two boxes of the pure licorice pencil lead looking “gems.” I remember thinking that the licorice was making me feel good and energized and untiring.
This didn’t surprise me; I had been studying the medicinal effects of licorice for a couple of weeks after my friend had introduced me to the little black gems in the metal box with the smooth sliding lid. It is said to be a remedy for asthma, whooping cough, bronchitis, ulcers, viruses, influenza, arthritis, athlete’s foot, canker sores and dandruff. It had to be good for me.
Finishing my work, I hustled to the airport in Houston. There was even time to eat my first meal of the day. I’m not crazy about eating in airports, but I decided on Chinese food. It was ok for Chinese food in an airport, but I was feeling a little woozy.
The last flight out was around 8 or 9 Houston time and I was scheduled to get back to Virginia after midnight. The flight was fine, but I was starting to feel bad, really bad. I was having these sensations that I was being pumped or filled with air and it didn’t stop and there was no relief or valve to let it out. I felt “puffy.” I kept telling myself that I could make it home and I’d be fine.
After arriving at the airport in Virginia, I continued to feel swollen and bloated and like I was about to explode. I made it to my car and started home. The trip was only about 20 minutes so I really felt I was going to make it. The drive seemed to take hours. My legs felt funny, they were throbbing and I was sweating and starting to worry.
I pulled into the driveway and left my luggage in the car. It was around 1 AM and my family was asleep. I went into my office to sit down and see if I could figure out what was going on with my body. My clothes felt like they were clinging to me and trying to suffocate me like a boa constrictor.
I started pulling my clothes off. I dropped my pants and looked at my legs. I knew my time had come.
My legs, particularly my lower legs seemed to be about three times their normal size. Sweat was pouring off of me, I probably started crying. I could only think that my kidneys or liver were failing. I got my wife up to tell her good bye I think. She of course said I needed to go to the emergency room right then.
Neither of us wanted to wake the children up or leave them alone, I needed a ride to the emergency room. It makes you wonder doesn't it? You're dying and you don't want to wake the children.
I was going to die with dignity; I didn’t want an ambulance waking up the neighborhood. I called our police department to see if they could discreetly come give me a ride. They wanted to send an ambulance. I refused.
Who could I call at 1:30 in the morning? My buddy, he would help me. He’s been in combat and could handle these situations. He was there in his truck in about two minutes. He’s a good guy, even if he told me I looked terrible all the way to the emergency room. He used Army words.
Well, there I was in the emergency room, all swollen up and my heart rate and blood pressure going through the roof. My friend was feeling really sorry for me and I was talking about every terrible thing I’d ever done. I’m not Catholic, but he is most of the time. Maybe he was taking my confession.
The doctor was very concerned and came in and started asking if I had other health problems or symptoms. I honestly don’t remember what I told him, I do remember him looking puzzled a couple of times like “Why did he tell me that?”
Then the licorice came up. The licorice, all the licorice I had eaten in Houston. There is a warning on the little box that you shouldn’t eat too much; I didn’t pay attention to it. You apparently can have too much licorice.
I had overdosed on licorice. The doctor left the room; I could hear him down the hall.
“Everyone come see this, this is the first time I have ever seen this.”
I’m still dying at this time thinking that the doctor is more worried about writing a paper on my episode. He came back with a few nurses; they seemed to be having fun.
He assured me I wasn’t going to die. The colonel took me home. The colonel can be trusted. He is Catholic most of the time, but a good friend all of the time.
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I'm BN Heard and I like semicolons, dogs and small doses of pure licorice.