How Comedy Nearly Killed Me (and how it still might).
Oct 26, 2018
As some of you know, a few years back I almost died from a pulmonary embolism.
A pulmonary embolism is a sudden blockage in a lung artery. The cause is usually a blood clot in the leg called a deep vein thrombosis that breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream to the lung. Pulmonary embolism is a serious condition that can cause
- Permanent damage to the affected lung
- Low oxygen levels in your blood
- Damage to other organs in your body from not getting enough oxygen
If a clot is large, or if there are many clots, pulmonary embolism can cause death.
Luckily my symptoms (shortness of breath, leg pain, sweating) happened in a grocery store. The manager of the store called 911 and I got to ride in an ambulance to the hospital. The entire way the EMTs were commenting on how purple I looked. I told them it was my aura.
My clot was the largest my pulmonary physician had ever seen. But luckily it was a newer clot, and was easy to break up with a intravenously administered "clot buster." (I still have an old clot in my left leg and as a friend of mine put it "it's so old it's a scar.") It probably won't ever break loose, but if it does, I'm probably dead.
Now what does this have to do with stand-up comedy? Sitting. Sitting mostly in my car but sometimes on airplanes.
See, I started comedy during the Big Comedy Scare of the mid 1980s. There were paying comedy gigs all over the U.S., especially in the midwest. So I drove a lot! Sometimes 12 to 15 hours in a day. And I'd do that for weeks. Sitting on my butt in my trusty Volvo. (Sometimes I flew, but not in the Volvo.)
Eventually all that sitting caught up to me. Years later (early 2000s) I had a long bout of sciatica, which eventually went away. The clots didn't go away. They just moved, from my legs to my lungs. I had a bilateral pulmonary embolism, both lungs. But, like I said, I survived.
So why am I telling this story? So you, fellow comedians and butt sitters, stand up and walk around for a few minutes. On airplanes you can do this while they're moving, cars not so much. Gotta park them first.
Stand up and stand-up. Keep yourself healthy and do what you love for a much longer time.
James R. Zingelman is the "real" name of Hypnotic Comic Rusty Z.
Please add a comment
I enjoyed reading this. What a great point to stand up. I used to live a sedentary lifestyle but now I am on my feet and moving most of the day. Country life, grandkids, and critters are keeping me moving. Thanks for sharing your story buddy.