A little background first: I have fainted two times before.
1) 2003, at the doctor’s office, getting blood drawn for a physical. I felt the expected “I’m gonna faint” feeling … but this time, I actually did it. Actually fainted twice in a row, but I’ll count it as once for purposes of this post.
2) In May of this year, at the piercing parlor – not getting pierced, but getting my nose ring jewelry changed. Went dark as she pulled the nose ring out. Turns out the original piercing parlor had not pierced with the correct jewelry, and this caused a bad reaction which led to a lot of pain … and I was a goner.
Tonight, I was nowhere near a needle. I was simply having dinner with family. On the way there, I felt a little weak, but I just assumed I was hungry and/or tired, or possibly reacting to a couple of other minor stresses going on today that I won’t get into.
Jeff and I got to the P.F. Chang’s and my brother-in-law, Gray, and sisters-in-law, Katie and Colleen, were already there, sitting at the bar while waiting for our table.
After about 20 minutes of small talk (I had about 3 sips of a yummy pear mojito), I asked Colleen how her roommate was recovering from some recent surgery she’d had. Colleen started filling me in – talking about stitches and such that her roommate had gotten, then began talking about staples in her head. Katie mentioned she’d had stitches and staples both in her head when she was a child, and I asked her what happened to cause them. She started to tell me, but I hadn’t heard a word – as soon as I asked the question I started feeling the all-too-familiar waves of weakness.
I feel these occasionally – when I don’t look away soon enough during the Grey’s Anatomy surgery scenes, or when I’m holding Colleen’s hand as she gets her ear pierced (not a lobe piercing, but an unusual one), or when I listen to someone talk about something gory. But it always passes. Always.
So tonight, as I started feeling sick, I ignored it at first. Even took another sip of my mojito. The conversation seemed to be getting louder and louder, and I felt I couldn’t drown it out (for the record, likely my imagination – everything seems louder to me right before I fall asleep). I kept hearing the words … stitches, staples, stitches in the back of the head, staples, blood … I turned to Jeff, said, “I can’t hear this conversation anymore.” At least, I thought I did. He says I didn’t. Was it in my mind? Or did I say it so softly he couldn’t hear?
I looked toward the front door, thought ‘I should walk outside.’ Decided I couldn’t make it. Looked for the bathroom, didn’t see it. Asked Jeff where the bathroom was. Gray pointed it out. I looked – much too far. My best chance was to sit down. Colleen and Katie were seated at the bar. I leaned in to Colleen, said, “I need to sit down.” At least, I thought I did. Then I saw it: White light, like a camera flash in a black room. And I don’t remember anything else.
Colleen and Jeff told me later I leaned over as if I was going to say something to her, then I just stopped. Then it looked like I fell asleep. Standing up. My eyes were closed, then open and Colleen saw my them roll into the back in my head. I started to fall, Jeff called out a warning, and Gray caught me. They helped me sink to the floor as gracefully as possible.
I know none of this. All I know is, I was having a wonderful dream (as is always the case when I faint), and then I woke up to faces. Leaning over me.
It always takes me a minute to realize where I am. The first time, in a doctor’s office with Jeff and a nurse. The second time, in a piercing room with Jeff and a piercer. The third time … in a crowded bar with lots, and lots, and lots of people.
The sounds started getting louder as I became more aware. They were all arguing. Arguing about what to do with me. Leave me lying down or sit me up. On the floor of the bar or in the booth. Send me to the hospital or don’t. Put ice on me or not. My first real awareness was that my dress was higher on my legs than it should have been (Jeff and Colleen were keeping me covered, but apparently it was bunched up under me and hard to put all the way down), so I quickly moved it over my legs. A nurse just happened to be at the bar, so he was there. Jeff knows the drill with my fainting (he’s been present each time), so he wasn’t panicked at all. Neither was Gray, the Marine Corps Lieutenant; he’s clearly trained to handle stressful situations.
Finally I was told by the group consensus I could sit up, and Katie got me a much-needed glass of water. The manager escorted me to my table (literally, he had me put my arm through his) and asked if there was any food that would help me at all. I asked for a piece of bread and he brought us a yummy order of spring rolls. He also checked on me multiple times during the evening.
Through all this, I’m freaked out, mildly embarrassed, but mostly scared: What the heck just happened to me? I know fainting runs in my family: my mom, sister and brother have all had these moments. Even I have – but only when needles were involved. Tonight there was no needle … so what happened?
The kicker came a few minutes later, after all the fuss had died down and we were at our table, safely hidden from the bar and all the people who had seen me go out. No one in our section had any idea what was going on, including our waiter who thought it odd we had no menus and wanted to know “how is everyone doing tonight?” Yes, the kicker came when about 6 members of the fire department came in the door, straight to my table, and brought me outside to check my blood pressure and pulse.
Colleen, ever the optimist, pointed out, “Ooh, at least that one firefighter is cute!” Of course I told him she said that as he took my blood pressure. He seemed flattered and then proceeded to knock over a large ashtray, and the other firefighters laughed at him and said, “That’s the one they think is cute!”
So, here we are. All eyes on me. Everyone joked that that was one hell of a way to get seated quickly, get a free appetizer, and have a hot firefighter tending to my needs.
I say it’s one evening I will never forget.