There are certain moments in life that are totally unexpected, that catch you so far off guard nothing could really prepare you for them.
I had one of those moments last week.
After leaving The Marietta Times at the conclusion of my work shift Thursday night I ran by Food 4 Less to pick up a few groceries and then on to Wal-Mart for a couple other errands.
While making that trek I began having difficulty breathing and pain in my chest.
That was nothing new.
I'd been having off and on pain for at least a couple months but that night I finally got frustrated with it and decided I'd had enough.
Thus about 12:15 a.m. Friday morning I found myself in the emergency room at Marietta Memorial Hospital visiting the doctor to finally see what was wrong.
Turns out I had a collapsed lung about four to five ribs down on the left side of my chest.
At about 12:30 Dr. Allen McElroy was called out of his bed to come to the ER and by 2:30 a.m. I was in surgery having a chest tube inserted into my left lung to re-inflate it.
Now I'm no expert at medical terminology or anything, but basically what happened to me follows.
My collapsed lung, which was termed a spontaneous collapse because the cause is unknown, was caused when the outer lining of my lung was apparently punctured allowing a pocket of air to build up.
That pocket of air on the outside of the lung put pressure on the lobe of my lung, which in turn caused it to collapse while the air pocket expanded.
This type of collapsed lung is apparently pretty common in tall, thin males but there's still only about 9,000 of them across the United States each year.
All the many weeks and months that I was having those slight chest pains that I kept ignoring that pocket of air was putting more and more pressure against my lung, restricting my ability to breath as it collapsed my lung.
If it had been allowed to go long enough my collapsed lung eventually could have developed into a life-threatening condition that I never would have guessed I could have.
After all, I'm only in my mid-20s with a great heart rate; my blood pressure is good, my cholesterol's fine and all in all I'm in decent shape.
I can still dunk a basketball (though I have to work pretty hard to get up there anymore), I can still hit home runs playing softball with the Little Hocking Volunteer Fire Department over the summer and I can throw 300 punches in a minute and a half in karate class.
Not exactly the type of person to expect something as serious as this.
I don't know if that's why I kept writing off chest pain or if I was just being stubborn but it's a good thing I finally gave in to what my body has been trying to tell me for the past several weeks.
I spent two days in the hospital after surgery with the doctors constantly running chest X-rays to make certain my lung stayed inflated.
So far, so good, but there's a better than 40 percent chance for a recursion of the lung collapse within the next year, meaning the odds are pretty good I could find myself in the same situation again.
The two days in the hospital are just the start.
I'm not allowed lifting anything heavier than my miniature dachshund (and I had to talk my way into being allowed to pick him up), there's no long distance walking and I'm off work until this Thursday at the earliest.
All because I didn't listen to my body when it first started breaking down.
My hope is that if anyone picks up the paper today and sees this maybe they'll think a little bit about what their body is trying to tell them.
Normally when something's wrong your body will give you some type of a clue, whether it's chest pain or just fatigue and soreness.
If you are having any symptoms that are out of the ordinary, go see your family doctor before you need a trip to the ER and a late night surgery to keep something from threatening your life.
Don't do what I did and put it off because there will come a time when you've put it off too long and that late night surgery will be too late to help.
I'd like to end this by taking a moment to send a special thanks to Dr. McElroy for coming in so early to operate on me Friday morning and still getting me home in time for Easter dinner.
And to all the athletes, coaches and people I work with - I'll see you when I get off the IR.
Kevin Pierson is a sportswriter for The Marietta Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 376-5440.