Don’t know if I can write in this state of mind, but as usual a visit to a fellow writer’s page makes me want to try. No caffeine in my system, as I try to cut back. A scare last night providing the needed impetus, and the miraculous absence of a withdrawal headache providing an unexpected grace.
Yesterday after supper I downed the last little bit of espresso with some soy milk, having already had two strong ones earlier in the day–or was it three? Finished painting a bedroom and a few chores, then went off to bed, expecting to sleep until it was time for a morning swim. Instead I was awakened from deep sleep by the distinct feeling of a small something crawling under my back. Instincts brought me up, trying to roll off the spot to I could brush off the bug. My muscles all loose and my blood pressure low, I crashed over the side of the bed instead, bringing my wrist down hard on the edge of a metal trash can. First thought as I rose onto hands and knees was to get ice on it for the swelling, along with a feeling of wonder that I’d been so out of it to fall out of bed.
My mind was clear enough for what I needed to do, and I remembered that I’d just stowed a wrappable ice pack in the freezer, found it and held it to the back side of my wrist. My feet somehow took me back to bed, but I was becoming more aware of the pain, and curiosity made me take a look–a purple bruise was already forming. My mind, usually calm and collected in cases of blood or trauma, went all soft and my blood pressure started to sink. I knew I had to lie down and get my feet up or else, having had a few similar experiences. I tried to shove some pillows under my feet but they kept getting caught in the bed sheet. My heart was trying to pump as usual but there wasn’t enough volume, and I could feel a sort of sucked-in feeling on some of its contractions, which I’d felt before when my heart would throw in an early followup beat with not enough blood to push along. I’d gone to the doctorabout it and been reassured that it was not usually a problem. But now my heart was doing a lot of that. My thought was, here it is the middle of the night and no one knows, and I don’t know whether I’ll pull out of this awake. My husband was still in the city staying midweek to save a commute. So I picked up bedside phone and after a few fumbles with the unlock code (mental note, put more numbers on emergency dialer), I dialed my son, asleep across the hall, who is a calm person with first aid training. He answered on the second try and came over; I mumbled what was going on, and got me a drink of water and a throw up bucket, and waited with me, resting on the wood floor. I wondered if he’d fall asleep, and then what? Would he check on me in ten minutes and find me unconscious and know what to do? Mental note: go over emergency procedures with the kids. But I slowly pulled away from the edge opf unconsciousness, was able to move and talk normally, and sent him back to bed.
On a trans-continental flight ten years ago a similar thing happened–I almost slipped into unconsciousness due to fatigue, dehydration from breastfeeding, sleeping in a sitting position, and my naturally low blood pressure. Maybe the low after a cup of coffee too. I woke up feeling not right and called the flight attendant, said I needed to get my head down, and she took my one year old son to the back where another of the flight crew kept him happy with Cheerios. I could feel that draining, nauseating feeling and the ragged edges to a black border closing in on my sight. They helped me lie in the aisle and found a medical person, who monitored my pulse and blood pressure as I heard voices and drifted helplessly on the borders of unconsciousness. Someone fed me water with a straw. I slowly returned to full awareness and when I was ready, was helped back into my seat. The person next to me was not the nurturing or talkative type–she looked tense and uncomfortable, as if what I had was catching. I ate, drank, and did stretches to keep the blood flowing for the rest of the flight.
The coolest fainting episode, since I’m sharing this with you in the spirit of late night harrowing tales around the campfire, was after I got stung by a jellyfish. I was up to my waist in the Mediterranean Sea cooling off with my son, my friend Tina, and her three kids. Someone was pointing at the water near us and saying something when I felt a flash of pain across my upper left leg. “Meduse” had been the word, surely Hebrew for jellyfish. There it was, floating away, not even sticking around to to eat me. No big deal, I thought, looking at my leg, where the skin was beginning to redden. Stinging pain which would soon fade, right? But it got worse. The stung area extended eight inches down my leg and five inches across, and angry red tentacle-shaped welts were appearing. I let the wavelets wash over it, but that made it sting even more. I started to have trouble putting weight on the leg, and decided to go sit on my towel on the beach. Still no relief in any position, and the pain was getting worse. I limped up to have the lifeguard spray it with vinegar solution kept on hand for the purpose, but it was no good. Should have gone in the first few minutes, someone said. It was time to go home and see what could be done.
By the time we’d gathered the kids and got everyone to the parking lot, I was anxious, faint, and nauseous, and lay down beside the van while Tina bucked the kids in. She gave me water and hard candy, stayed calm and helped me climb in and get positioned with my feet on the dash. She chatted with me on the half hour drive to keep me alert and out of shock. We arrived home and she and my husband, much concerned, helped me in and put me to bed with an ice pack for my leg, water to drink, and pain medication. The faintness and nausea eased and I slept, a large mixing bowl inverted over the sting to keep anything from touching it. By 8 pm I was able to get up and wolf down a big dinner, and we admired my red, swollen leg, glad the wort was over. I took photos of the sting over the next several weeks as it went through the stages of healing. The jellyfish was Rhopilema nomadica Galil. Did you know that the stinging cells of the Cnidaria phylum have the fastest cellular mechanism in the world?
The day after yesterday’s fainting spell, I slept in instead of swimming. Low energy all day, easily tired by the usual chores. Caffeine withdrawal, or body recovery from the state I was in, I don’t know. But I’m content enough for now to putter around and do simple tasks, having been reminded how tenuous this hold on the conscious life, on life itself, can be.