Two score and eight years ago, a fine doctor and my namesake, Thomas Harris, debuted me at the Georgia Baptist Hospital.
Georgia Baptist is gone. Dr. Harris and my mother have both made their respective trips to the other side. My current doctor has informed me this week that if I don't turn from my wicked dietary ways, I may be joining them.
I went this week for my annual physical. I don't know why I call it an annual physical, because I usually put it off for about two years in between.
The nurse came in and took all of my vital signs and then it was time to draw blood.
"Where do they usually draw your blood," she asked.
"Did you see that elderly man who was holding the April 1994 edition of Field & Stream in the waiting room?" I asked
"Yes," she replied.
"From him," I shot back.
She wrapped one of those latex things around my upper arm and then found the vein. If blood was gasoline, she got about $8 worth.
Then, it was time to hook me up to the EKG machine. This is the part of the story I like the least.
They hooked little wires up to my arms, legs and chest. You're supposed to show something called "sinus rhythm." I learned that in the 1970s watching episodes of "Emergency." As it turns out, my rhythm is a little off. Half the people in the choir at First Baptist Church could tell you that.
"I'm going to refer you to a cardiologist," my doctor said.
I took some consolation that they didn't call 9-1-1 and strap me to a gurney. They also didn't give me any of that "Ringer's lactate," which was the fluid they always gave the sickest souls on "Emergency."
I got back to the office and called the cardiologist's office. They ask me for my vital signs over the phone. When you call a big-time cardiologists office, the most vital signs are what kind of insurance do you have and what's your policy number.
The lady was really nice and I was waiting on her to say, "Come on by this afternoon."
They're not going to see me until July.
So for the better part of three weeks, me and my ailing heart have got to wait it out. The only way to get in sooner is to lie on the floor and clutch my chest.
My biggest fear is that my colleagues would just think I'm taking another nap and will walk right by my office without giving a second look.
Meanwhile, I'm going to do all the right things, like eating oatmeal, drinking red wine and taking some of that tonic they used to advertise on "The Porter Wagoner Show." Of course, there is not a nickel's worth of difference between red wine and tonic.
I called down to the church and spoke with the very Rev. Bruce Fields, who is in charge of praying over the ailing. I asked him if he would come to see me if I end up in the hospital. He said he would. I then asked him if he would wear a robe. Bruce dislikes sin almost as much as he dislikes clerical robes. He said he would wear one just for me and bring a flower, too.
Just hearing that made my heart feel good.
Harris Blackwood, a native of Social Circle, is on the editorial board of The Gainesville Times. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. This column originally appeared in the June 1, 2006, edition of The Covington News.