Late at night on Christmas Eve of 2013 after watching It’s a Wonderful Life, I felt like I was having a heart attack. Enough to drive myself into the ER (I know—driving myself wasn’t the best idea). After being examined they didn’t understand what was happening. I appeared to be fine but they could see that there was a strain happening on my heart. Since I had just gotten over a terrible case of strep throat, I asked the doctor if that could have anything to do with this. The young doctor at first said no, but then after consulting with someone else he came back and told me that I was right. He also said I had rheumatic fever.
“Rheumatic what?” I said. “Isn’t that some kind of 18th century disease or something?”
As I lay in the bed at ER waiting for more details, I took out my phone and Googled the disease. The first thing I learned was that rheumatic fever was “very rare,” with fewer than 20,000 US cases happening every year. It can occur when a body’s immune system overreacts to a strep throat infection that hasn’t been fully treated. Rheumatic heart disease weakens the valves between the chambers of the heart.
Needless to say, that was a very different Christmas. “Look what Santa brought you! An echocardiogram!” Thankfully everything was fine, but ever since then, I’ve been very careful with anything to do with strep throat.
It’s no surprise this experience gave me a story idea. I had started writing short bits for a novel in 2013, so I decided to use the Christmas Eve memory as a starting point for a book. In my story, however, the guy who has rheumatic fever dies. No spoiler here . . . I make it clear at the start of the book that the character has died.
This is how Midnight began. It would take six years to finish it.
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