I swooned recently.
Yep, passed out while sitting in a recliner with my feet up. Given that, in general, I tend to stay conscious, it gave me pause. I immediately did what was sensible and prudent and searched for a diagnosis on the web.
The results of my research indicated that fainting is almost always benign. Except for when it’s not. After weighing how much grief my family would give me if I didn’t report this symptom, I dutifully called my internist’s office. I guess the research took me longer than I thought and I got the “we’re at lunch” recording. Next I called my cardiologist. To be honest I knew that should have been my first phone call…or 911…but I think there is something to be said for the art of understatement.
The conversation went like this:
Me: Hi! I’m a patient of Dr. P’s. I fainted a little while ago and was wondering if I could come in and get checked out.
Nurse: (Sounding somewhat incredulous) No mam! You cannot come to the office! You need to go to the ER! You actually lost consciousness? Has this happened before?
Me: Yes, I actually passed out, and no, it’s never happened before.
Nurse: What were you doing when you passed out?
Me: Sitting in a recliner.
Nurse: Did you get hurt when you fainted?
Me: No, turns out a recliner is a very safe place to faint.
Nurse: Was anyone with you when it happened?
Me: No, I was alone.
Nurse: How long were you out?
Me: Don’t know exactly as I was unconscious…but I was just thinking maybe I could come in and get checked out.
Nurse: No mam, you must go to the hospital!
Me: Really? I live just up the street, can’t I come in and get an EKG or something?
Nurse: (Obviously deciding to ignore my last question) Do you have someone to drive you or will you be calling 911?
Me: (Reluctantly) I’ll call my husband, he can take me.
So I call Frank and ask him how his day is going and what he’s doing. (I like to ease into telling him that I might have a medical emergency.) He tells me that his meeting that morning was a good one and he was heading back to the office, I tell him as nonchalantly as possible that I passed out and the doctor wanted me to go to the hospital. He says he’ll be right home. (He read this before I posted it and wants you to know that it was his idea.)
Now here’s a little aside, Frank agreeing readily to come and get me was not always behavior he exhibited in the face of a medical crisis. I only mention this because I have a very long memory and because the man has provided me with some very good material over the years and I hate to let it go to waste.
Just a few years ago (1986) I was doubled over with stomach pain, went to the doctor, who very promptly said “you’ve got a hot gallbladder, call your husband, you need to see a surgeon right away.” This being before cell phones I had to call from a packed waiting room. This is how the conversation went.
Me: (As quietly as possible) I need you to come get me at Dr. White’s and take me to the surgeons office. It looks like I need to have my gallbladder out.
LONG silence follows. Keyboard tapping in background.
Frank: (Patronizingly, still tapping on keyboard) Who told you that?
Me: What? Who do you think told me that?? Dr. White!
Another LONG silence, more keyboard tapping.
Me: OK, so I guess I’ll just call you from recovery.
Frank: (Reluctantly) No, (long sigh) I’ll come get you.
Let me be clear-he would never do that now. I’m think he’s finally convinced he won’t do better than me after all, so maybe he should help keep me ticking. Maybe he’s scared I’ll expose him in my blog. Whatever the reason, he’s a prince now. Still not sure it’s a great idea to have him take me to the ER. And I’ll tell you why.
He’s a clown!
After they triage me they send me back to the waiting room in a hospital gown! I am not happy. I tell Frank I’m going to really be mad if I see anyone I know. This of course inspires him to say periodically, “Oh look! There’s so and so” which I fall for every time. It didn’t help matters that one of his friends spotted his truck in the parking garage and called to ask him if he was down at the hospital. I told him if Will showed up in the waiting room he was going to die. (Frank not Will)
Finally they call me back , after the nurses hook me up to the heart monitor and leave the room he says “I’ll just sit here and keep an eye on your monitor” and then he thinks it would be SOOOO funny to say loudly, “She’s coding!!!” Trust me if they had heard him and come in there, he would have “coded” next.
All afternoon while they poked me he kept these types of antics up. I fully expected to need to stay overnight due to an unexplained rise in blood pressure. In the end they cleared me to go home, no immediate danger. That was good news, and given that prevention is the best medicine, I’ve made a decision.
I’m going to keep some smelling salts by the recliner.