Tomorrow is Halloween, my absolute favorite holiday, and as with last year, I was planning to gab about the best of America's spooky diversions, from seasonal haunted houses and actual haunted locales  to ghost tours and ghost towns . I thought that I might also share my own experiences at some of the Big Easy's signature attractions and events, such as the House of Shock  and the Endless Night Vampire Ball  – both of which my husband, Dan, and I had intended to attend this past weekend.
That was the plan – until, of course, life intervened. You see, on Friday morning, Dan gave me a real-life scare – one to which the most terrifying haunted house would pale in comparison. Since Tuesday, he'd been suffering from what we both thought was an ordinary stomach flu. By Friday, though, his symptoms had markedly worsened, to the point that he felt as though he were having a heart attack. So, after getting no response from my “911” phone call (in itself a scary occurrence), I dialed for a cab, guided Dan into a chair outside our apartment, and waited for help to arrive. Not long afterward, a cab driver begrudgingly showed up to navigate us through the pre-Super Bowl construction mess in the French Quarter to Tulane Medical Center in the Central Business District.
As we inched through traffic, Dan's face grew ever paler, and I became ever more worried. Even the talkative cabbie, who seemed wont to complain about everything under the sun (especially Mayor Mitch Landrieu's city renewal plans for next year's Super Bowl), looked concerned. At the entrance to the Emergency Room, Dan collapsed, which, in retrospect, might have been a serendipitous if harrowing incident. The ER staff members, after all, were compelled to act – and act, they did. Immediately, three nurses helped Dan into a wheelchair, located an empty bed, and hooked him up to intravenous fluids. Following multiple tests and several serious discussions, an ER doctor suggested that Dan was suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding – most likely due to his excessive intake of Ibuprofen for stress headaches.
In fact, he'd lost roughly two-thirds of his red blood cells over the course of a few days. The subsequent lack of hemoglobin had resulted in an extreme loss of oxygen to his vital organs – hence, the heart attack-like symptoms, such as dizziness, shortness of breath, and a racing pulse. As it turned out, Dan might have had an actual heart attack had we not arrived at the ER when we did.
So, needless to say, Halloween was no longer a concern. Instead, we spent the next five days in the intensive care unit, where poor Dan suffered a litany of tests, received six units of blood, endured constant, round-the-clock IV drips of fluids and medicine, and had to refrain from eating or drinking anything more than ice chips. When I wasn't hounding various nurses and doctors with questions and helping to make Dan more comfortable, I was sitting in a nearby chair, trying to read. Although I'd brought along a veritable stack of options, the books that helped to calm me the most were two recently acquired travel-related ones: Audrey Sutherland's Paddling North  (Ventura, CA: Patagonia Books, 2012), a moving memoir about the author's solo kayaking trips through Alaska, and Chuck DeLaney's Top Travel Photo Tips From Ten Pro Photographers  (New York: Allworth Press, 2012), a helpful how-to guide produced by the New York Institute of Photography and filled with gorgeous images from around the world.
Although I plan, in future posts, to discuss both in greater detail, let me just say, for now, that each book offered a tranquil escape from my considerable stress over Dan – and gave me hope that he would soon be well enough to join me on our own travel adventures. While he lay in the hospital bed, trying to will his body to heal itself, I'd like to think that our conversations about future trips (inspired, in part, by the books I'd brought) made him even more determined to be sprung from the confines of Tulane Medical Center.
Luckily, Dan came home earlier today – and although he's still on the mend, he's no longer frightening me as he did last Friday. Hopefully, this health scare will serve as a warning for both of us to minimize our stress over work, money, and other day-to-day concerns – and spend more energy on the things that matter most, like traveling the country together and having memorable encounters along the way. Life, after all, can be incredibly uncertain, even at the best of times, so it's important to make the most of it while we can.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below, contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com, or connect with me on Facebook  and Twitter .
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of a Florida Keys beach © 2012 Daniel Martone / Text © 2012 Laura Martone