For a number of years now, during the last week in January, I have co-emceed an awards banquet at the Minnesota Newspaper Association state convention. With any luck, that was what I did a few days ago, although I am writing this beforehand.
The awards banquet honors newspaper employees in such categories as “Best Feature Story” or “Best Ad Campaign.” The awards are prestigious in that some of the
categories have as many as 50 entries.
The number of awards given is several hundred and the ceremony takes close to two hours. During that time, I am standing at a lectern reading names of individuals and newspapers from around the state.
About five years ago, toward the end of the ceremony, I turned my head to see if the winners for the next category were ready to receive their awards. It was as if my brain made a full revolution in my head. I felt woozy.
I did not slur my words, but I was concerned enough that after finishing reading the winners in that category, I did a couple of deep knee bends, which got my heart pumping a little faster.
I made it through that evening, and ever since, I have had a chair on stage that I can use as needed to get through the program.
I thought of that while watching Gov. Mark Dayton’s State of the State address Monday evening. About 45 minutes into the speech, the governor took a drink of water, took a deep breath, then badly slurred his next words before collapsing. He fainted dead away, hitting his head hard on the lectern as aides grabbed him and lowered him gently to the floor.
Within a few minutes, the governor regained consciousness and appeared fine. He did not go to an emergency room to get checked out, and his office initially downplayed the event. The next day, however, he announced that he has prostate cancer, and was heading to the Mayo Clinic to get checked out.
The governor has my utmost sympathy in this incident. Although not a physician, I think I understand what most likely happened, assuming the prostate cancer is not in an advanced stage.
As we get older, most of us are not in as good physical condition as we once were. If we stand in one place with our heart idling along in neutral, our blood tends to settle in our legs away from our brains.
By contrast, many people the governor’s age could easily walk for two hours because the heart has to work a little harder because of the exercise. Stand in one place long enough, however, and any of us can become light-headed and even faint.
I truly hope that is all that happened to the governor.
I was witness to a similar incident in Duluth about 15 years ago. I was sitting in the office of one of my bosses when a co-owner of the company walked in.
My boss had just returned overnight from a newspaper conference in Toronto and was tired. We sat there discussing the various business challenges we were facing, when suddenly my boss stood up, took a step around the corner of his desk, and said something that was complete gobbledygook.
I took one look at the co-owner, and he said, “Go call 9-1-1.”
As I ran out of the room to find a phone, he stood up and caught my boss just as he collapsed.
It seemed like it took forever for the EMTs to arrive, although it was probably no more than 10 or 15 minutes. They spent 10 minutes with him, strapped him to a gurney, and as they wheeled him out, my boss, fully conscious, said, “We’ll continue this conversation when I get back.”
Such events are much more frightening to the people who witness them than they are to the people who experience them.
My boss also went to Mayo to get checked out, and they found nothing. The event was termed a “temporary ischemic attack” (TIA). “Ischemic” is defined medically as “deficient supply of blood to a body part (as the heart or brain) that is due to obstruction of the inflow of arterial blood (as by the narrowing of arteries by spasm or disease).”
In this case, it must have been a spasm of some sort because my former boss remains in good health so far as I know.
As for Gov. Dayton, there is growing concern, however. In addition to the cancer, he stumbled on his way to the podium Monday and also fainted during another speech a few months ago.
One commentator said the governor works too hard, that he had written his own speech.
That may be, but no matter our station in life, rich or poor, high or low, good genes or not, natural law plays a role. We are given our bodies and need to use them properly to make them last.
Unfortunately, much of the thrust of modern society has been to use our minds to figure out ways to use our bodies less.
Where once society was mostly agrarian, with farmers doing back-breaking labor on small plots of land, today most of us have desk jobs or at least jobs that require little physical exertion. Even farmers are more sedentary, spending more time on computers checking commodity prices or riding around in air-conditioned tractor cabs instead of walking behind a team of horses.
Nature doesn’t care. We all need an hour of exercise every day. We delude ourselves when we say, “I don’t have time.”
As a result, most of us don’t have as much time here as we would have liked.
Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Record. Reach him at (320) 616-1932 or by email at [email protected]