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Reflections From A Flawed Character

An emergency which made this man realize there is humanity and humane effort in my community.

I figured I would make my first post one of my own recent life experiences.

I had a harrowing ordeal on Tuesday. I went to the Main Street Market in Schwenksville to buy cranberry juice and cigarettes after my long workday. Most of that day I had been gasping for air and had a recurring feeling of light-headedness and a feeling of imbalance. My apprentice Alec Hoffman said I did not look well, to which I replied: Al, I am fat and old and I do not take care of myself; of course I do not look well.

For whatever reason, I never want to lay my problems out to others. I am of the philosophy that I only share formally with people if they actually care to ask and really want to know, opposed to those who just ask how I am.

All day I had felt horrible, but because of the holiday rush I continued to do my career with little down time. I instructed a young barber student from Delaware, named Matt DeDonato, all day because he wants to become a "real" barber and learn the techniques a man of my experience has to share. I aptly gave awesome haircuts all day. I tried with earnest to not break.

There was a gentleman who is or was a customer that was in a few weeks ago. He came in the barber shop an hour before we closed and got up and left the barber shop after I mentioned I was going to take a quick break. This was after the gentleman took it upon himself to move the items I had on my shoe shine chair, placed there so people do not sit in it, as it is in need of repair. So after a long week of 15-hour days, this gentleman had left disgusted because I would dare take a break. I am sharing this with you, dear reader, in the effort to make a greater point not to bash or berate. I was confused at first why this gentleman got up and left. Then I thought about the gentleman's background and knew he was a corporate military man and was used to everything right away. As I am a small town barber shop owner, I must admit that I do not work quickly and am not sympathetic enough at times for a customer's need for urgency on a Saturday afternoon. So, since then, I have deprived myself of breaks. This goes back to my not sharing my problems with people, which is a character flaw on my part.

I had cellulitis in my leg at the time. I also have poor blood circulation because I am fat and stand 15 hours a day doing a career I love -- enough to bear the pain. I unknowingly then had the beginning of my trouble with my heart that will tie in my whole story. So because of the rejection I faced from a customer whose name I took the time to remember, I neglected my health and pushed myself harder than I should have. I work very hard and I love what I do -- even if it means neglecting my health.

I pushed myself for the last few weeks. I neglected sleep. I helped others in different parts of my life. I ultimately neglected myself and my health. My customers in my barber shop mean the world to me; that is why I use the part of my brain required to retain their memories so vividly. I am typically not a handsome man by the standards of mainstream society; I liken myself to the offspring of Fred Flintstone and Magilla Gorilla. I have a neurological disorder that I have been known to exploit for my own self-serving purposes in life. I share this because, dear reader, it is my priority in life to make people feel really good about themselves. I am a perfectionist, and I know what it takes to give a gentleman a flawless perfect haircut that is both flattering and distinguished and is also attractive to potential future mates and current spouses. I do my career very well, I do not mind saying. So in my obsession for maintaining a very high standard in my industry, I neglect my needs. I have created a place like no other in the world; I know because I have looked. It is my need in life to make people feel good; not just about themselves, but in their outlook on the world and their interactions with others. I have, in essence, made a place where time stands still -- if only for a fleeting moment.

So after my long day that fateful Tuesday evening, I arrived at the Main Street Market to buy my cranberry juice and my Nat Sherman cigarettes, which I can be seen chain smoking on Main Street any day of the week.
I felt very short of breath. I trudged to the door of the market with little to no breath. A customer had left the store, and I forced a good evening to him as he left. The young man asked how I was, and I told him I was living the dream. If living the dream meant I was feeling very faint and could not breathe and felt like I was going to die, then I was living it at that moment. I grabbed the door of the market and just dropped like a sack of potatoes. I came to clarity for a moment to the store owner, Abraham, helping me up and then running after the ambulance that he had called that passed by one time.
Two very capable ambulance technicians arrived and helped me up. They told me my skin was pale and I did not look good. I later found out that after two more minutes, I would have been dead. The EMTs helped me into their ambulance, and in my delirium I informed them I could not afford an ambulance call. Despite my poor health, all I cared about was a financial obligation I could not or did not want to afford. The EMTs, one of whom is a customer at my barber shop, told me not to worry. His name is David, and he was very comforting. His partner was named Jason, I believe. They interjected humor in my care, which I believe is lost in most forms of bedside manner in these times in which we live. I am a big fan of humorous anecdotes and humane actions from health care providers.

I was given some breathing treatments and still did not feel in top shape. Yet I tried insisting on wanting to go home; I wanted to sleep because I had only three hours the night before. Apparently my heart rate and blood pressure were at dangerous levels.

I was taken to Phoenixville Hospital, where I might add, I was given excellent treatment -- even upon my arrival there. I was rushed into an examination room. I must tell you, dear reader, that I abhor hospitals. They are too clean, and in my past memories represent death and sadness for myself and others. The aforementioned being the reason I was there that evening, I suppose. I was told my blood oxygens levels at the time were very low and my heart rate was not good and they needed to do this or that. I informed them I did not understand their industry jargon and instructed them to help me however they saw fit. I am not a very patient patient at all, by the way. I liken myself to the obstinant folks that are stereotyped in movies and television. I kept clamoring about cranberry juice or some babble.
The nurse, whose name was Joe, looking at my enormous size and contemptuous glare told me they want to help me, but I have to allow them to help me. So within minutes, I had two IVs in my arm and sensors all about my chest and one sensor on my finger and machines beeping. Blood pressure cuffs were inflating and deflating on my arm.
I either fell asleep or went unconscious for either a minute or two an hour or so; I am unsure. I woke to my beautiful and loving wife there stroking my arm, with her beautiful chipmunk face saddened by my ills and pain. My wife, Haylie, is and has always been the only person there for me in my life in good times and bad. She refers to herself as a barber shop widow because my work consumes a good portion of my day and time together is scarce during the day.

I lay there in this gurney with doctors and nurses in and out and Haylie sitting beside me, giving me her genius blend of comforting words and sarcasm that I love so much in her. Haylie poked fun at my respirator on my face and told me she loved me so much. I started to cry because I know she loves me, and at times I neglect her and her needs because of my own self-serving needs and because I am -- quite frankly -- very selfish in nature. I love my wife, but sometimes I forget how to act with my wife after 12 to 15 hours in a barber shop setting and being around gentlemen all day. I told my wife I would take better care of myself.

A doctor resembling Gene Shalat came in and said I was going to get an MRI. I did not know of this million-dollar machine beforehand. I was injected with dyes and poked and prodded. I told the MRI Technician that I have Tourette syndrome and may be fidgety, but will try to remain still. He told me it is a 40- to 50-second test. After getting the results, I was told there were no blood clots or anything to worry about. I received my other reports saying my electrolytes are normal and my liver function is that of a 20-year-old and kidney function is very normal, and despite the low blood oxygen level and low heart rate and poor lung function, every other aspect of my physical makeup was extraordinary. I jokingly informed the doctor, of course, that I was a time traveler and needed to keep my kidneys and liver functioning well. The doctor laughed as he walked away humming what sounded like "Dancing Queen" by ABBA. I was instructed that I should stay overnight so my breathing could be monitored. I refused the advice because of my need to make gentlemen look good for the Thanksgiving holiday. I was told to return if my breathing got worse. My wife drove me home and I retrieved my vehicle from the Main Street Market in Schwenksville and thanked Abraham, who happened to be there doing inventory, who made the call to 911 to rescue me. He wished me well and I went home to my very loving wife, who told me she wants me to live and to take better care of myself. I want to take better care of myself, but am lacking in the common sense needed to do so. My wife made the bed and tucked me in and rubbed my back until I fell asleep.

I awoke the next morning and realized I have to cut down on my cigarette intake, if not actually quit all together. I love being a barber, and I love serving the fine gentlemen who patronize my barber shop in Schwenksville. I want to continue to do just that for the next 40 to 50 years or so. I am thankful for the strangers and friends alike who helped me to make myself better so I may do the career I love so much. I went back to work at 11 a.m. and did my duties with a few breaks until 7 p.m. I went home to a clean house and a clean bed. My wife Haylie bought new allergen-free pillows and an air purifier to help me breathe better. I love her so much. Haylie is my savior; she is my muse. I sit here now writing this blog to share my experience. This is more a lesson for me than it is a story for you, dear reader. I am a man of experience, and after these events I have experienced, gratitude and thankfulness for those who came to the aid of this young writer and barber. Thank you. All of you I thank for your prayers and well wishes and general concern for the needs of a stranger.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

liveliveart@gmail.com November 24, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Banner jackie, banner.
Haylie November 24, 2011 at 06:55 PM
Amazing ! So proud of you :)
margie gorman November 24, 2011 at 07:22 PM
John, it's wonderful that you took the time to sit down and write about this experience. Gives us all food for thought. I look forward to seeing you again soon. Love, Margie
Jon Thele November 24, 2011 at 09:17 PM
Great you're ok John! We'll all help you take better care of yourself! We want you here for a long time!
Ray November 25, 2011 at 02:31 AM
John, sorry I got up and left on that Saturday. It wasn't your fault, I had very loose bowels and I passed what I thought was gas but ended up warm, wet and stingy. So I'm sorry that I set these things in motion. I should have told you at the time that I would come back after I changed my leakage, but I was too embarrassed. I would have came back but I thought I heard someone laugh when I was leaving and I thought for sure that my discharge surely had soaked through my trousers. Well with that being said, God bless you John and continue to give the best haircuts in the Philly area. And I will lay off the Rolling Rock and slimy lunch meat in hopes my butt water doesn't repeat itself.
Jennifer November 26, 2011 at 05:40 AM
Thanks for sharing this with me John I didn't check the paper today. Glad Dave was a comfort to you.
David A DuBray November 27, 2011 at 01:27 AM
John,I'm glad I got to read ur 1st post finally. I'm sorry it took me this long. But I'm glad u realize what the problem is and what u need to do to fix it. Ur a great man,great friend,professional barber and business man who I have a lot of respect. I want u to be around for many yrs to come so we can share a lot more life experiences with one another. If u need anything at all u know u can ask me and I'll do my best for a great man and better friend!
carolina paul November 30, 2011 at 04:13 AM
John, great to see you here on the patch! i look forward to reading your posts!
Katie December 06, 2011 at 05:06 PM
Glad you're feeling better. :)
Tony Olecki December 06, 2011 at 08:31 PM
John, finally got around to reading this post. Great job. Keep it up. Hope you're feeling better.
Robert Falcon December 29, 2011 at 10:17 AM
John, first of all you, doing better is what is most important! Regarding the individual who walked out, don't sweat it, you must focus what you do best, the art of cutting hair, bringing people together and the wonderful ability making people be themselves. You have consistently welcomed all who have come through your doors that alone speak volumes. The holidays bring added pressure, however if people truly believe the true spirit of the holidays, they would embrace what you bring, offer and provide which is genuine a forum where one can be themselves and experience the place where one can have the best haircuts in a warm and inviting barber shop. Take care of yourself, so you may continue taking care of others. Happy New Year!

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