I wouldn't say Kelly Fisher and I are the closest of friends. Being in "the business," I've certainly seen and chatted with her on numerous occasions. After all, she's won a pair of women's world championships, and is among the final players standing at virtually any event in which she participates. She's certainly very likeable and gracious.
But I must say the Brit 9-ball star has quickly jumped onto my "Favorite Pool People" list.
As many pool fans know, the 35-year-old Fisher was recently diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, and underwent surgery to repair a hole in her heart. A week or so ahead of her scheduled surgery in Glasgow, Scotland, I traded emails with her about the impending procedure. As always, Kelly was very accommodating and forthright about the issues that led up to the diagnosis, about the upcoming surgery, and about the recovery process.
Of course, I was concerned for her as part of our pool family, but I was also staying in touch so that I could accurately, and in a timely manner, report the information to the readers of Billiards Digest.
Kelly's surgery was scheduled for July 22. Our deadline for sending the August issue to the printer was July 24. Naturally, I hoped the report on her need for surgery could include news that everything, indeed, went fine, and that Fisher was well on her way to recovery.
On July 23, I dropped email messages to a few Women's Professional Billiard Association insiders, and to a few of Kelly's friends. I even posed a question on Facebook, asking if anyone had heard anything about the results of the surgery.
Being a resourceful journalist, I decided to just pick up the phone and call Golden Jubilee National Hospital, where Kelly had undergone surgery. Wasn't trying to pry. Just wanted confirmation that Kelly was in recovery and doing fine.
First off, people are just so danged polite over there! I told the lady at reception that I was from the States, and was just checking on the status of a friend who had undergone a surgical procedure the day before. I gave her Kelly's name.
"Yes, she's here at the hospital," the lady said. "She's in the Intensive Care Unit. Let me get you to the ward nurse."
Before I could respond, I was put on hold. I really didn't want to bother anyone in ICU. But before I knew it, the nurse at the station in Kelly's ICU ward picked up. Again I explained the situation, and that I just wanted confirmation that everything had gone all right.
"Let me give you to Ms. Fisher's nurse," she said.
"Not necessary," I tried to say. Too late.
Then came the kicker. The ward nurse got back on the line and told me that Kelly's nurse had gone down the hall.
"So let me just give you to Ms. Fisher," she said. "I've got a cordless."
Seriously? I started to panic. "No," I blurted. "I don't want you to bother the patient!"
Poor girl had just undergone heart surgery less than 24 hours earlier.
Again, too late. I could hear the ward nurse entering Kelly's room. I could even hear Kelly in the background, saying, "He's a journalist."
The next voice I heard was Kelly's.
"Hi, Mike," she said, sounding very much like someone who had, just hours earlier, undergone major surgery.
"I'm so sorry," I said. "I didn't for a minute want them to bother you."
"It's all right," Kelly said. "Yeah, everything went really well. The doctors are over the moon with the results."
As quickly as I could, I apologized, thanked her for her time and told her to get some rest.
"Yeah, no problem, Mike," Kelly added. "Thanks for calling."
Still a tad stunned, I hung up. I tried to imagine what the response would have been had I been working for Golf Digest, and found my way to Tiger Woods' hospital room hours after his recent back surgery. For some reason, I don't think he would have been as understanding and forgiving as Kelly Fisher.
I quickly put together a news item for the Billiards Digest website, and dashed off the Wing Shots item on page 10 in this issue.
Then I picked up the phone again, and dialed another Glasgow number I'd looked up.
"Yes," I said, "I'd like to send some flowers to Golden Jubilee Hospital."