Thursday, July 26, 2007

Flashback: 1987: A Subdural Hematoma Interrupts the Placid Flow of Life.


[Fifty years of politics written for my kids and grandchildren]

With the “Quaker Oats Anti-Takeover” bill unpassed but well-covered in Canada, causing Brascan to pitch in its cards, I resumed lobbying and government relations advocacy on a more placid note for Quaker Oats. In the Spring of 1987 I went to White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia and the “Greenbrier”—a classy resort—to attend a conference in government relations at which I was to speak, sponsored by the Public Affairs Council, a trade association consisting of companies with government relations programs. On the night before I was to speak, I spent several hours reading in my room, then went to bed. At about midnight, as was usual for a distinctively middle-aged gentleman, I arose to visit the bathroom in a semi-slumber.

On the way back to my bed I hazily imagined where the bed was in my mental formulation and threw myself down on it…only to discover that in the darkness I had missed the bed and flung myself on the floor where I cracked my head severely on a piece of furniture. In fact so loud was the smack caused by my head that the guy in the next room called downstairs to inquire about the commotion. I groggily got up and made my way to the bed. There I slept a kind of disturbed sleep and awoke the next morning with a severe headache.

I made the talk, caught the plane back and resumed work but day after day I was bothered with a dull, recurring headache. I would take aspirin several times a day which would temporarily relieve it. Then a few days later came some light nausea which passed. I had to emcee a political dinner honoring Henry Hyde and felt…strange for me…that I did not want anything to eat or drink. In the midst of the event I had the unmistakable feeling I would destroy the evening by throwing up. It didn’t happen. The next day being a weekend, I went to a so-called “Doctor in a Box,” a commercial establishment funded by Resurrection hospitals where you would be treated by a doctor on a moment’s notice. She said it was probably a sinus infection. The weekend passed and I returned to work only to bother the company nurse for some aspirin.

She was a veteran nurse and a very good one who undoubtedly saved my life. She asked, “why are you coming in here so often for aspirin?” I told her it was probably a sinus infection which is what the doctor in a box had said. She asked if I had a fall recently. I thought back and said yes I had about a month ago at the Greenbrier. She said nothing judgmental but added that if, by chance, I had an irrevocable urge to throw up I should go immediately to a hospital and ask for a cat scan. As a matter of fact, she added, if she were me she’d go to a hospital and get one anyhow. That afternoon while having coffee, I raced to the Men’s and threw up so I called my wife and we arranged to go to Lutheran General Hospital for a c-scan.

After the c-scan as I was buttoning my shirt, I suggested that Lillian and I grab dinner at the Marriott-O’Hare near our house. When we arrived at the Marriott, Lillian was called to the phone by the waiter—an occurrence I thought strange. When she returned, white-faced, she said: “We’re not eating. The hospital called. You have a blood clot in your brain and they must operate tonight—as soon as we get there.” As we drove to Lutheran General Hospital, I thought: ah, it’s so soon over for Tommy Roeser. All of age 58 and now to undergo a brain operation. Then I thought: do they have a Catholic priest at Lutheran General? I have to go to confession and make my final peace with God before I come sauntering in to His company.


  1. Tom,
    The old joke in the neighborhood is that Resurrection Hospital (and immediate care) was good for broken legs ONLY. Good thing the Lutherans were able to patch you up!

    I wonder if you've been known to frequent the Emerald Isle on Northwest Highway for a pint of Guinness?

    Brian Masterson

  2. That's funny. I took my broken leg to Resurrection. Worked out ok, I guess so it must be true what they say.

  3. Tom-
    One who has read your works, and has similar ethnic ancestry, would have thought you would have a harder head!