Monday, April 13, 2009

Stanley is a real cool Kat(z)

About four years ago, I was sitting at my desk at work and I looked up to see Stanley Katz. Stan is from the Chicago area and I grew up in Illinois. Even though we lived on opposite ends of the state, we ran into each other on the bridge tournament circuit back in the day, as they say.

Stan had just taken the job as Chief Accountant at the ACBL. He has an MBA in finance, and I always called him a bean counter. He liked that term, and used it himself. We formed a bridge partnership of sorts and played in some local tournaments.

Stan started playing poker online. He hadn't really played before, so began at the micro-stakes. Occasionally at work we'd take a break together and swap bad beat stories -- all the degenerate usual poker stuff. Then one Saturday I arrived at the poker room at Sam's Town Casino (Tunica) and Stan was playing in the $3/6 limit hold 'em game! It wasn't long before Stan showed up in my office and told me he had played in a poker tournament and made the final table!

Things were going great for Stan. He had adjusted to his new job, and was settling in here in Memphis. He was on blood thinner medicine, so he had kept his physician back in the Chicago area. It was on a trip home that disaster struck.

Stan was staying with his friends Ginnie and Jeff and decided to walk over to his parents' house, five blocks away. As he crossed the street, a lady making a left-hand turn hit Stan. He was walking in the crosswalk, but he was in her blind spot. She was traveling 27 mph, which doesn't sound that fast, but when a car hits you at that speed, it's serious. She wasn't talking on her cell phone or anything like that -- she just didn't see him.

At first we didn't think he was going to make it. He was in a coma for about two weeks, and spent around the next four months in the hospital. It was nearly two months before he was aware enough to realize he had been hurt.

When he came out of the coma, his sister was there. "Do you know where you are?" she asked. "Paris," said Stan. I asked him if he was being a wise ass, but he said, no, that's where he thought he was. I guess the pain medication must be some powerful stuff -- I'm just sayin'.

Bridge was on his mind during this time, even though he was out of it. When he wanted the nurse, he would call for the "Director!" When he was told that his friends, George and Stacy, were coming to visit him, he said, "Trump it."

Eventually he was able to leave the hospital, but he had to face two back surgeries and endless hours of rehab. He had a helper who came and stayed with him, but Stan says the day he could take a shower on his own was a very joyous one! Yes, we take ordinary things for granted, don't we?

Last Friday, we got an office e-mail that said there would be a breakfast Monday (today) in the employees' lunch room at 8 a.m. It said we would have a special "mystery" guest. Yes, that guest was Stan, and he entered the room today to a rousing ovation. He walked with a cane and still had some after-effects from his accident, but he sure looked good to us.

"I took two vacation days, and came back 11 months later," he joked. Stan was in good spirits, but it wasn't always that way. During recovery he had to deal with depression.

Stan says he still plays poker and bridge online. He played live bridge three times, but it's hard -- his stamina is not what it used to be because his body is still healing. He also says that in the middle of a deal, often he has to stop and count out the hand. What was once automatic is now hard work.

They say there are no atheists in a fox hole. Although raised Jewish, Stan used to be agnostic. Now, that's changed. He feels there is a God -- some being that helped him through his tough times. I guess surviving when everyone pretty much thought you were a goner will make you reexamine things.

Stan has heard that the lady who hit him was devastated. Twice she wrote letters to him, but he didn't read them. He says he wasn't ready then. He says he is ready now, though, and is receptive to talking to her on the phone. He states he wants to help her gain some closure because it was traumatic for her, too. I think that's a good sign. To survive in the beginning, Stan had to think about himself first. Now, he is well on the road to recovery, and can think of others.

UPDATE: I just talked to Stan and there are a few corrections/additions. He was in a coma for five weeks, not two. He was walking to his parents house from the doctor's office (not Ginnie and Jeff's house). He was in four different hospitals. I misunderstood how fast the lady was traveling (and stated 27 mph), but actually they are not sure how fast she was going. The lady's two letters were read to him, but he says he couldn't relate, and declined talking to her on the phone at the time.

1 comment:

  1. Heart warming. When I had read about halfway, I thought it was going to be a sad tale. I am glad for your friend.

    Yes, we do take the samll things for granted.