On Monday morning February 18th at around 3am I woke up in my tent at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park where I was camping with my son and friends. I stoop up from what felt like an unearthly slumber. I had not slept all the well the night before and decided to use some ear plugs to minimize the late night campers, coyotes and I hate to say it, the proximity of my sons snoring.
I got out of my sleeping bag and went out side. I stood there getting ready to urinate. As I looked up to the sky I was surprised to see that it was slightly overcast and hazy, barely a star to be seen. Then I lost the ability to breath. Not for a moment, or for a second, but for many seconds. I tried to gulp air into my lungs, but it was a no go. I felt a severe deepening pain in my chest, a thousand pound buddha was sitting below my chin. I collapsed to my left knee and then had a slow motion experience of falling directly to my face. I had lost the ability to use my arms and legs and knew I could not break my fall. I saw the ground come up to me as if I had welcomed it. I fell straight to my face amongst all the shaley broken rocks, my left eyebrow and cheek finding the perfect resting place amongst sharp objects.
I never lost consciousness.
I was lying face down in the rocks, eyes wide open and I could not move any part of my body, It was an image taken directly from a horror film, immobile, yet very awake. The sewing shut of an eyelid from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly come to mind. I Wondering what was going to happen next?
At some point I started breathing again and regained the ability to move my limbs. I righted my body, spent about two minutes on my knees (for many reasons), got up and went back to the tent.
I spent 45 minutes assessing how I felt and what to do about it. The truth is I felt perfectly fine, well, under the circumstances I felt perfectly fine. I decided to go back to sleep.
A few weeks have passed and I have had the following procedures done:
Full blood work
MRI of the head
24 hour portable ECG
MRI of the Neck
X-Ray of the neck (pictured)
And guess what? Everything is perfectly normal. Of course this is a great relief, but what happened? Well the least suspecting Dr. encounter I had was with my Neurologist and he turns out to be the one with the answers. There is a unusual and discomforting chain of events that can lead to momentary loss of blood to the brain called:
Micturition syncope: The temporary loss of consciousness upon urinating. (Syncope is the temporary loss of consciousness or, in plain English, fainting). The situations that trigger this reaction are diverse and include having blood drawn, straining while urinating (micturition syncope) or defecating or coughing or swallowing). The reaction also can be due to the emotional stress of fear or pain. Situational syncope is caused by a reflex of the involuntary nervous system called the vasovagal reaction. The vasovagal reaction leads the heart to slow down (bradycardia) and, at the same time, it leads the nerves to the blood vessels in the legs to permit those vessels to dilate (widen). The result is that the heart puts out less blood, the blood pressure drops, and what blood is circulating tends to go into the legs rather than to the head. The brain is then deprived of oxygen, and the fainting episode occurs.
So, there you have it. Don’t get up quickly to go pee (really badly) in the middle of the night and raise your head to look at something.
My sister thinks it would be a great name for a band.
(thought it might be a good place to put this info, since of course at some point I thought I might have had some sort of a heart attack or stroke)
Stroke vs Heart Attack. Which is it & what to do:
Is it a Stroke? This might be a lifesaver if we can remember the three questions!
Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster for the stroke victim. A stroke victim may suffer brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke. Now doctors say any bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:
1 . Ask the individual to smile.
2. Ask him or her to raise both arms.
3. Ask the person to speak a simple sentence.
If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 911 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher. After discovering that a group of non-medical volunteers could identify facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems, researchers urged the general public to learn the three questions.
They presented their conclusions at the American Stroke Association’s annual meeting last February. Widespread use of this test could result in prompt diagnosis and treatment of the stroke and prevent brain damage.
Is It A Heart Attack?
Let’s say it’s 6:15 PM. and you’re driving home (alone of course), after an unusually hard day on the job. You’re really tired, upset, and frustrated. Suddenly you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to radiate out into your arm and up into your jaw.
You are only about five miles from the hospital nearest your home. Unfortunately you don’t know if you’ll be able to make it that far. You have been trained in CPR, but the guy that taught the course did not tell you how to perform it on yourself.
HOW TO SURVIVE A HEART ATTACK WHEN ALONE
Since many people are alone when they suffer a heart attack, without help, the person whose heart is beating improperly and who begins to feel faint, has only about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness. However, these victims can help themselves by coughing repeatedly and very vigorously.
A deep breath should be taken before each cough, and the cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest.
A breath and a cough must be repeated about every two seconds without let-up until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again. Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating. The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it regain normal rhythm. In this way, heart attack victims can get to a hospital.