One week earlier, I was talking to Kelly on the phone. She was calling me to inform me that Jeremy and she couldn’t make it to dinner… For the third time in a week.
“It’s just really bad Con Crud,” she replied when I asked what was going on.
Con Crud, for the uninitiated (and you should thank God that you are) is a type of flu one catches when they attend large conventions. It’s basically a stew of bacterial and/or viral infections, formed by the tens of thousands of walking vectors for disease we call humans walking around, coughing and sweating on each other. It’s basically what’s going to eventually morph into the outbreak that causes the zombie apocalypse (but conventions ARE fun, really. I promise. Don’t let that dissuade you from coming to one. I’ll see you there. Look for me, I’ll be wearing the Akira-themed SARS mask).
Jeremy and Kelly cancelled on plans so rarely, one might as well say it never happened. And this was the third time in a week.
“You guys never cancel this much… I’m getting worried,” I said.
“I AM TOO!” my roommate Meghan said from the other room, loud enough that Kelly could hear her through the phone. It made her chuckle.
“I’ll keep you guys posted,” Kelly replied. I could hear her very practiced calm demeanor shining through. I could see her smiling that lovely Kelly Dale smile that she was so famous for. That one she has when it’s time to back off. Not rude, not mean, not even stern. You just know to respect it.
Kelly and Jeremy were pretty private with Jeremy’s previous health matters. I knew he had asthma, and that it was pretty bad. I knew he grew up in Kokomo, Indiana, which was an industrial town and is famous locally for having an abnormal number of respiratory illnesses per capita. I knew he also didn’t really like people all up in his biz. So I knew not to push.
“Well, let me know if I can do anything at all,” I said.
“ME TOO!” Meghan yelled from the other room.
Another chuckle. “I will,” Kelly answered.
I knew she totally wouldn’t.
Kelly and Jeremy are both famous in the comics world. Together, they are known for being the nicest people you will ever meet. They are known for their honesty, generosity, friendliness and the way they treat each fan like they’re the only people that matter.
Ask any comics creator at any convention if they know the Dales and they won’t just say “yes” — they’ll tell you how they met, how funny they are, how great it is to talk with them… They’ll tell you the date and convention they first met at, and their favorite “Jeremy Moment” whether it be a fast comeback joke or a hilarious photobomb.
Individually, Jeremy is famous in the comics world for his work on G.I. Joe, Popgun and his creator-owned book Skyward. As an artist, his work is celebrated for being very expressive and the exceedingly high quality he achieves in such a very short timeframe.
Kelly is famous in her own right. She’s the manager’s manager. She runs a tight ship. She’s unflappable. She’s able to make just about anything that needs to happen, happen. And she does so in a way that makes you feel like you owe her a favor afterword, because she’s just so damn nice about it.
In the midst of any chaos, there is a rock in the tempest. It has red hair and freckles and answers to Kelly Dale. And this rock called us for help, for the first time in recorded history.
It was that Wednesday, two days after our call. I was at work. The phone rang. It was my roommate Meghan.
Meghan only texts. Meghan never calls.
“We need you,” she said.
Some part of me knew exactly why and what for. But I asked anyway. Kelly had just called. She was crying. Jeremy was unresponsive, and couldn’t even get out of the bed. She didn’t know what to do. Kelly never cries. And Kelly never asks for help.
I dropped everything, stood up, grabbed my keys out of my bag and literally ran out of the door. My boss saw me as I rushed by and gave me a quizzical look. I just waved and left.
I arrived at Jeremy and Kelly’s home to find Jeremy pretty much as described. He was feverish, clammy and unresponsive, except when a direct statement involving his name was said at loud or higher volume. His responses were short and you could hear his attempt to be As Jeremy As Possible, but it was for naught: he was in bad shape.
We tried to help him to the car to take him to the hospital. We made it as far as the living room couch. Jeremy was unable to move his legs. They weren’t just weak. He was paralyzed from the waist down. It wasn’t that he wasn’t strong enough to walk; he literally couldn’t move them.
We called the paramedics, who said “Sounds like the flu. But the legs being paralyzed… We should take him to the hospital to be sure.” So they carried him out and transported him to the hospital.
The doctors took a look at him. They said it was “Likely just a bad flu. But the legs being paralyzed… We better run some tests to be sure.”
So they ran tests. And then, they ran more tests. And then, the sun was going down, and they were still running tests. And then, it was getting close to midnight, and they were STILL running tests.
“He’s going to have to stay here overnight,” they told us.
We went to a 24-hour Pho noodle shop and caught our breath. It had been a long and confusing day. But hey, Jeremy was safe. He was at the hospital now. He would be okay. The doctors think it’s just a bad case of the flu. His legs… Well, that was confusing. But he was in the absolute best place to be.
He was going to be just fine.
That was Wednesday.