I had 2 opportunities in my life to get really rich…but I blew ‘em both!
The first occurred around 1997 or so when I went golfing one morning at the Cedar Creek Municipal course here in San Antonio with my good buddy, Steve Somen.
Our families were planning to spend the day at the nearby (and magnificent) Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort that we often frequented.
Our wives & kids would meet us there later after we completed our round.
We decided to minimize any possible questions or interrogation & get our butts over to the Hyatt Regency as soon as possible…after we finished.
So we headed out to our “home course”, Cedar Creek, and arrived well before sunrise.
We asked in the clubhouse, since we didn’t have a reserved tee time, if we could just head out before the regularly-scheduled groups hit the course. And since it was just the two of us, we would be moving along fairly quickly compared to the foursomes (group of 4 golfers) behind us.
They’ll never see us nor know we were ever there.
The guy behind the counter relented & agreed to let us head out.
We teed off in the dark & moved quickly rapidly around the course.
So rapidly, in fact, that we encountered the sprinklers still going off on certain holes.
(Note: The sprinklers for all 18 holes were on a basically set schedule. They “knew” when sunrise would be & therefore, when the first group would be heading out. They also calculated the approximate time when that 1st group would be hitting each hole to ensure that the sprinklers for that hole wouldn’t be going off.)
Each hole varies in length (from ~150 yards to 500+) & shape. There any many different sprinklers, on different timing schedules, for each hole.
We came across our first problem of the day on the 3rd hole. The fairway sprinklers were going off, but finished their job as we started to tee off. The grass was fairly wet, naturally, but it wasn’t a huge inconvenience.
Similar situation on the par-3 7th hole.
We were able to complete the front 9 without a major incident.
On #11, however, the sprinklers were going off full blast.
We called back to the clubhouse to ask them to please turn off the sprinklers on that particular hole. They were able to override the system & the sprinkling subsided in about 30 secs.
We completed that hole & continued on our way.
Everything was fine.
Or so we thought.
When we reached the 17th hole, a beautiful 175-yd par 3 off an elevated tee box, we realized that the sprinklers must have just stopped as we came around the bend. The fairway was obviously wet as well as the cart path closest to the tee box.
We didn’t think much of it.
We hit our tee shots, jumped into our cart (yes, ol’ Hot Rod LaRoo was behind the wheel) & we headed down the hill & onto the cart path.
Well, before you know it, the cart path has a series of quick, sharp turns that must be navigated carefully…and we were coming upon them rather quickly.
Ya see, I parked our cart high on the hill, right next to the tee box.
There may…or may not…have been a hand-written sign at the bottom of the hill that read, “No carts past this point!”
They wanted us to actually walk up the hill…without the perfectly-capable cart in which we were already seated???
Anyway, we come racing down the hill, onto the wet cart path & headed into the S curve!
I immediately slam on the brakes. Hard!
The wheels lock. The cart goes into a skid. Then it actually starts sliding sideways, with the driver’s side leading the way.
And we’re headed straight into the huge, squared timber that separates the cart path from the fairway like an impenetrable barrier.
The left-front wheel & fender smack right into the log barrier…and that brings the cart to an immediate halt!
And since everyone’s somewhat familiar with the laws of physics, when a speeding object comes to a stop without gradually reducing its speed first, anything & everything inside that is not securely tied/held down, will continue to keep flying in the same direction!
And they, er, we did!
I flew out the side of the cart as there are no doors or anything stopping you from doing so, nor any seat belts. I bounced on the very hard cart path a number of times, then rolled down a small ravine onto a pile of rocks.
Steve tightly grabbed a hold onto the roof of the cart right before impact & wound up hurting his thumb as he was thrown toward the driver’s side.
Meanwhile, I was totally convinced that I broke my back!
The front of the cart was pretty demolished. We called the clubhouse & asked them to bring us another cart as the one we had died.
I felt incredible pain as I eventually got to my feet & climbed out of the shallow ravine.
Then, suddenly…miraculously…all the pain subsided. Disappeared completely.
I felt numb. Weird. How could I not be in pain when I was just in total agony not 10 seconds ago?
What the hell!
We picked up our bags off the cart path & walked to the green.
We both parred the hole (made it in the standard 3 shots)! That alone may have been a miracle!
We headed to the 18th, a long, difficult 425 yard par 4.
Of all the rounds that I’d played at Cedar Creek, I never, ever parred #18
This time, I parred it. Double miracle.
We returned our replacement cart, headed to our cars & drove home.
I took a shower before heading out to the Hyatt Regency to meet Laurie & Heather…Steve’s family were also there with mine. I didn’t notice or feel anything different.
Oh, well. Just lucky, I guess.
I found everyone at the little kid’s beach by the side of the Rambling River (a long-winding “moat” where hotel guests can either wade or ride tubes while enjoying their refreshments, floating along the way).
After a few minutes, I wanted to go inside for something (it was over 100° at that time) so I headed toward a back door at the very rear of the hotel, not more than 150 feet from where everyone was sitting. But you had to go around a corner to reach the door.
Halfway there, I blacked out. Completely.
Next thing I knew, I woke up face first in some mulch, under a small tree. I was in complete pain & it felt as if my body was on fire.
I had trouble breathing. I couldn’t talk, much less, call out for help. I couldn’t get to my feet.
I really felt like I was gonna die right there & then…probably less than 75 feet from my family & friends! No one apparently saw me & since this was a seldom-used exit, no people were going in nor out.
It took me about 25 minutes to crawl to that back door!
As soon as I reached it, a hotel employee saw me, opened the door & helped me up. He wanted to call 9-1-1.
I asked him to pls bring me to the lobby so I could just cool off. He brought me a glass of water & kept asking if I needed medical attention, thinking I was suffering from heat stroke or just had a heart attack.
It took me a good 1/2 hour to fully come to my senses & get that rubber outta my legs.
I was completely soaked from head to toe.
Of course, I was cross-examined by the prosecuting attorney as well as my own defense counsel when I eventually made it back outside.
I don’t think anyone believed me!
“We’ve been right here all the time & surely would have seen or heard you!”
I showed them that, from this angle, I would have disappeared from their view as I went around the corner & besides that, I couldn’t speak or stand up.
The following day, my wife took pictures of the back of my body.
From the heel of my foot up to the back of my neck, and every square inch in between, I was completely covered in back & blue.
And some purple & yellow, too!
I looked as it someone actually body-painted me!
I eventually went for a complete set of X-rays as I feared having a blood clot.
No clot, but my doctor (a very dignified, silver-haired woman in her 60s) did comment, “In all my years as a doctor, I have never, ever seen anyone with a worse case of arthritis! You have it absolutely everywhere & it’s as severe a case that I’ve ever seen!
“Boy, are you gonna have some big trouble as you get older!”
That was 22 years ago & she was absolutely right!
Now had I found myself a nice lawyer, I could have easily sued the city for negligence. Letting us out on the course while the sprinklers were still going off? Skidding on a wet cart path?
At a minimum, it could’ve been one handsome settlement. And I even would’ve shared some with Steve for his stress & his poor thumb thingie!
But I never did…’cause I’m an idiot!
The second opportunity for me to become a rich man was a couple of years earlier, in September of 1995.
And the circumstances were quite different.
My wife was diagnosed with cancer in June of that year.
She underwent external radiation treatments for the next 2 months.
Then, in September, she would have 2 surgical procedures performed, 2 weeks apart, where a metal rod, containing a radioactive material, would be inserted into her abdomen to kill the tumors.
She would have to lie perfectly still for the 2 days following the procedure as any type of movement could do irreparable damage to anything else that the radioactive rod touches.
The first operation goes smoothly & I would be allowed to see her when she’s brought back to her room.
“Absolutely still for 2 days!”
As I enter her room, Laurie is standing up & walking around!
I hit the ceiling!!!
“What are you doin’?!! The doctor said to lie perfec…”
“I can’t! I’m burning up inside! I’m itching everywhere & just wanna scratch my insides! It can’t take this, baby!”
“PLEASE go & lie down! I’ll call the nurses & see if there’s something they can do! But in the meanwhile, PLEASE lie down! PLEASE!”
I got her to return to bed, but she couldn’t, wouldn’t, lie still! She was squirming & moving & trying to get comfortable…but to no avail!”
I begged the nurses to give her something to relax. They contacted the doctor & returned with some painkillers & something to help her sleep.
Two weeks later, she was getting ready for the same exact procedure.
But this time, I insisted on being with her until they wheeled her into the operating room.
While I was with her in Pre-Op, one of the nurses came in to do some preparatory stuff to get her ready for the procedure.
All of a sudden, Laurie calls out, “Lemme see that!”
She’s talking to the nurse who’s holding some sort of ointment tube.
She grabs the tube & looks at it closely.
“Sulfur!!! This has sulfur in it!!!”
Then she holds up her wrist so everyone could see the plastic wristbands they put on you at the hospital.
One of them is for any allergies the patient may have.
“See this? I’M ALLERGIC TO SULFUR!!!”
She starts crying. And she’s furious at the same time.
The nurse was horrified.
“Don’t you guys check this shit?!?”, I said, more than slightly perturbed.
The nurse stood there, white as a sheet.
“But that should have been known when they prepared for the procedure! I’m so sorry! I’ll get a different ointment for you.”
Then, almost simultaneously, we both put 1 & 1 together!
That’s what caused all of Laurie’s issues with the first procedure. She was allergic to the sulfur-based ointment they used.
This procedure, after this incident, went extremely smoothly, as did the following 2 days. She was able to lie perfectly still without any discomfort, burning or itching.
Little did we know at that time, but the first procedure caused a lot of damage inside of Laurie.
While it may have, indeed, “stunned” the tumor, it also burnt a bunch of her insides as well.
On Christmas morning (~3 months later), she had to have emergency surgery to remove part of her intestine. Apparently, burnt tissue flaked off & caused a major blockage.
They were able to save her life that Christmas.
One year later, TO THE DAY, we had to have another major emergency surgery on Christmas morning.
This time, they removed even more of her intestine & she had a complete hysterectomy…again, saving her life.
While she eventually died on Sept 2001…the day before 9-11…and probably still would’ve have even if they didn’t screw up her first procedure with the use of the sulfur ointment, she suffered dearly for their mistake & had to undergo a pair of life-saving surgeries on consecutive Christmas mornings.
And while a successful lawsuit against Santa Rosa Hospital (the one in San Antonio’s Medical Center) would not have brought my daughter’s Mom back to her & me, we would have seen Laurie LoRusso’s name of the outside of the hospital or, at least, have that wing named after her.
Please don’t ask me why I didn’t seek legal recourse. Yeah, it would’ve have brought Laurie back or prevented her from dying, but it would have set up Heather for life & basically, taught that institution a very hard lesson.
Just like I think about my late wife every single day since she passed, I also kick myself for being so stupid.
Doesn’t matter how “smart” you may be (I have a 150+ IQ and never got any grade, even on a test or pop quiz, lower than an A in my life until my sophomore year in college when I stopped attending class regularly)…that’s not enough from preventing you from doing some of the most stupid stuff in the history of mankind.
Thank you for listening to me.