It was August of 1997...and it was one of those sweltering, hot days that is suffocating in its intensity...one of those days where your lungs hurt with every hot breath you struggled to suck in...one of those days that, just by existing, caused every sweat gland to go into overdrive, leaving you drenched and soaked and miserable.
I was playing in a charity softball game that day. It was an annual event that I had done for many years - and I had no reason to believe that THAT year would be any different than years past.
And I was the catcher. Which meant that I was wearing a mask and a chest protector - which only intensified the heat and the suffocation I was feeling. When it's SO hot, that you pretty much want to play naked - extra clothing is the LAST thing you want. Bleh.
The game was moving along, at a relatively good pace, until about the 4th inning...we were on the field, playing defense, and for whatever reason - things started falling apart. Batter after batter stepped up to the plate and would just LAUNCH a pitch - and we couldn't get ANYONE out if our lives depended on it. Everything that could go wrong - did.
One run...two runs...six runs...crossing the plate...it just kept going and going, like a bad dream...and the whole while, I am DYING from the heat.
Runners would slide into home plate for no reason other than to kick up the dust, which would stick to me like a second skin and then get stuck in my dry, parched throat. I was literally eating dirt...and it was awful. The dust was icing on an already tortuous serving of heat, dirt, sweat and misery.
I found myself getting very agitated. WHY couldn't we get the third out? WHY were my teammates doing this to me? I found myself getting confused. How many outs were there again? I couldn't remember. I was pretty much in a daze....
After what seemed an interminable amount of time, we were FINALLY blessed with the third out, and I began stumbling towards the dugout, with only one thought on my mind....
I needed water. Quickly. Soon. Asap. Now.
And as I stumbled over to the dugout, the unthinkable happened. I passed out. Collapsed - right there on the field.
I woke up in the back of an ambulance...with a paramedic on either side, treating me for heat stroke and severe dehydration.
I survived. The organizers of the softball tournament were smart enough to have an ambulance on sight - which probably saved my life.
And the reason for this post? Because sometimes, we don't take the heat seriously enough. Heat can kill. No matter your age. No matter your physical condition. I was 35, in excellent physical condition - and I almost bit the bullet that day.
It's hot. We had a heat index yesterday of 113 degrees here in KC. And we are now up to our 4th possible heat-related death this week in the area. These deaths are avoidable!!!
So, please. Stay heat smart. Don't get to the point where I was. Stay out of the heat. Drink water. Take it serious.