The phone rang early this morning; not super early, but about 7 a.m., earlier than we usually get calls on a Sunday. It was Sakura, our daughter-in-law, calling from Tokyo. The combination — early morning, and the fact it was Sakura, not Eamon, on the phone, had an instantly alarming effect; that only increased as I listened to Kate’s end of the conversation — something had happened with Eamon, and he was in the hospital.

After a minute, I groggily got on the phone. The story is this: Eamon apparently woke up Sunday morning and found it extremely difficult to breathe. Sakura called an ambulance, and he was taken to a hospital. Once there, doctors determined Eamon had suffered a collapsed lung (also known as "pneumothorax").

That’s easy enough to treat, apparently, though the process doesn’t sound pleasant. Here’s the way one option is described: "Definitive treatment involves placing a plastic tube within the chest cavity, through a small incision near the armpit, under suction and water seal. This chest tube may need to stay in place for a few days before it can be removed."

In terms of what causes a spontaneous pneumothorax, smokers are at higher risk than most people. But Eamon’s not a smoker. It turns out he falls into another risk group — tall, thin people, among whom this condition occurs more frequently than among us somewhat shorter and wider folk. The doctor who saw him after he was admitted said surgery might be necessary to prevent a recurrence.

So what do we do now? Just wait to hear from Eamon. Under normal circumstances, it’s so easy to communicate back and forth that the 5,000-plus miles between us doesn’t seem like a big deal. Suddenly, we have a situation where there’s no substitute for physical presence in terms of being able to give comfort (and get it) and really size up the situation. Having the impulse (or the need) to go is one thing, and going is another:  I actually just found a round-trip United flight to Tokyo from San Francisco that’s priced at … $9,555.24. Seriously. (I also found a flight on a non-household-name airline, Asiana, for something like $1,400).

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