We were in what television producers call (ironically enough) a dry run, a real-time rehearsal. Larry even inserted commercial breaks. By then I had overloaded my system. The shakes had been so bad before I entered the booth that I drank a few extra bottles to wash down my medication. The shaking stopped, but I became disoriented. I fumbled with the IFB (the "interruptible feedback" earpiece that broadcasters use to stay in contact with the producers), and when it came my time to speak, the words would not come out properly. "The gutf is a difcut cuss for hitting specialty the green? I mumbled. Over my IFB I heard the producer say, "What?"
He quickly went to someone else, but within a couple of minutes, I heard one of the announcers say, "Laura, what do you think about that?"
Jolted out of a stupor by hearing my name, I said, "Right, that's. It...good shuts."
What the hell had I just said? I didn't understand myself, so I knew there was no way anyone else had a clue. There was a palpable pause. Within a couple of seconds the rhythm of the telecast resumed, and I tried to regroup for another try. The least I could do was complete one coherent sentence.
When Larry gave the signal to come back to me, my brain and my mouth weren't in sync. I wanted to say, "She's got about 144 yards to the flag," but what came out sounded like, "Sheesits but hon fur yurd...flig"
That was it. Twenty minutes into the rehearsal Larry pulled the plug, and I was asked to leave the booth. Mortified and disoriented, I stood on wobbly legs and tried to maneuver my way down the narrow metal stairs. About a third of the way down, my bladder began screaming for me to hurry, while my inner ear was telling me to take it slow. I didn't look at the ground for fear of getting vertigo, but I knew that I had to get to a rest room as quickly as possible. I stumbled down the last four stairs, holding on to the thin handrail. I had been assigned to the 15th green, fully a quarter of a mile from the nearest rest room. My legs carried me quickly toward the clubhouse but not quickly enough. As I stumbled through some high grass on the right side of the 16th fairway, my bladder released.
With my pants stained front and back, I slumped down and sat in the grass until a passing LPGA tour official offered me his jacket and a ride back to the clubhouse. I accepted the jacket, then looked down and saw my future in television drowning in a puddle of urine.
I spent the better part of the next year in a drunken blur, and that's how I came to be lying in the intensive care unit at Sand Lake in 1996, a brown-eyed internist with a serious countenance looking at me very solemnly as I lay strapped to the bed. "We're going to do everything we can to help you, but you need to prepare yourself and your family for the possibility of the worst," he said.
Death. He was talking about death...dying...checking out. Leaving my kids behind. This was no scare tactic, no syrupy substance-abuse counselor telling me how awful it was to drink. This was the real thing. My head continued to swell, and my hands looked like roadkill. I wanted to cry, but my eyes wouldn't tear because of all the blood that had seeped from the sockets. "Oh, my god," I said to myself. "I'm going to die a drunk."
My mother came and wept at my side. "I love you," she kept saying between sobs. "Oh, god, I love you so much." She stayed by my bed through the first 24 hours, crying and preparing herself for my imminent departure from this earth. Then Mom left for a few hours and returned with the children, giving each of them a chance to say goodbye before Mommy's internal organs erupted into her bronchial tubes and she drowned in her own blood.