So I said, “Harry, how you doin’?”
Harry Muir of Delaware, Ontario, was a promising pitcher in the Toronto Blue Jays organization when he was featured in a film I wrote more than a dozen years ago called *Chasing The Dream*.
Harry stood out from the crowd of kids trying to throw and hit their way into major league baseball, not so much for his arm but his heart. Smart, polite and friendly, Harry’s the kind of son that makes you wish the parents had written a manual on raising children.
So, Harry calls me out of the blue last spring to get together over a beer. Oh, and I forgot to mention Harry’s other natural talent - barking like a dog.
The Baby Jays were playing in Utica the season we had the cameras on them and it was my job to get local colour into the film - the guy who remembered Babe Ruth barnstorming through New York State; the guy who drove Mickey Mantle to Oneonta for Mickey Mantle Day and blew his six-pack budget in the first ten miles...
The Utica ballpark manager had no such gems, but he did have a dog - the only season-ticket-holding dog in all of baseball.
And there he was, chasing foul balls and making a noisy nuisance of himself - Prince - a large, badly coiffed, beige French Poodle. Or maybe it was The Dog Formerly Known as Prince; it’s been awhile. But he had his season ticket secured to his collar to validate his unique status.
Except, on this day, Prince was totally out of control because another dog had breached his territory and was threatening his claim to fame.
It turns out Harry Muir was barking from the visitors’ dugout and driving Prince berserk. When a groundskeeper was sent to the field to apprehend the new dog, the one without a season ticket, everybody agreed Harry had a better bark than Prince.
Later, as I interviewed Dutch, Prince’s owner, on camera, he ended the session by leaning forward and lowering his voice like he was about to reveal to me the Fourth Secret of Fatima.
“And Bill, when we bought Prince the season ticket – “
“We worked it out in dog years so we got him the senior citizens’ discount, too!”
So, we met in the bar of my hotel, and it was terrific to see Harry again.
I’d met a mutual friend on a plane going to Europe years ago who told me that although Harry never made it with the Jays, he was pitching professionally for a French team on the Riviera and having a ball.
So I said, “Harry, how you doin’?”
And Harry said, “Well, eight months ago I had this sore throat and I felt dizzy. My wife was at work, so my dad drove me to the hospital, and all of a sudden, they’re running me into the trauma room and everybody is in a panic, and they hook me up to about 10 machines and they’re shooting drugs into me from every direction.”
Even before testing his blood, a brilliant diagnosis by Dr. Mithu Sen had her staff treating Harry for streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. That one doesn’t eat flesh, but is usually fatal.
“So, all my organs shut down and now I’m on dialysis and there’s some talk of amputation, but then forget the amputation because now they’re thinking I’m not going to make it anyway and I go into a coma, so I don’t know what’s going on.”
What was going on was a ‘round-the-clock love-in with his parents by his side, his sister decorating the room with funny plastic flowers and his wonderful wife Tracey, placing a framed photo of Harry in his Blue Jays uniform right on the bedside table where he’d see it if - when - he woke up.
“And after 18 days in a coma, I came to, my organs had started working again and they took me off the ventilator. And I lived, Bill, I lived!”
And I said, “Harry, it’s always about you, isn't it?”
“All I asked was how you’re doin’, Harry, and immediately it’s my organs failed and my life was in danger; my my my!”
“Harry, let me tell you something, when two guys are having a beer and one guy says, ‘so Harry, how you doin’?’ the correct answer is, ‘Not bad. You?’
“So, you got married since I saw you last, huh? I wished you’d talked to me first.”
Okay, so that was not my response to Harry’s near-death experience. I was stunned. And I was grateful that while most victims die from this horrible infection or spend the rest of their lives on a machine, Harry walked out of that hospital and is fit enough today to throw batting practice in the Inter-County League.
I was so happy that my friend Harry had cheated death, that I offered to do something I detest almost as much as streptococcal toxic shock syndrome itself. I agreed to play golf.
I weaseled out of actually playing, of course, but I did emcee Harry’s charity golf tournament, Play It Forward; we raised $10,000 for the people who saved his life. It was no surprise that the only organ this wretched disease didn’t go near was Harry’s heart.
As I conducted the live auction, Harry barked a medley of Frank Sinatra’s songs in the background. And we made a deal. First, we’re going to keep in touch and see each other a lot more. And second, whenever we meet and I ask him how he’s doing, he’s promised to reply, “Not bad. You?”
MAY 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND
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