Until this past Friday evening, I'd never seen the underside of my desk, ridden in an ambulance or had an IV in my arm. I would have been perfectly content to live my whole life without those experiences, but thanks to my delicate constitution, I won't have to.
It was about 6:30, and I had packed up to head home from work. I put on my coat and scarf, gathered my briefcase and BlackBerry, and neatened up my desk. I had the beginnings of a headache, so I popped two Advil to stave it off. I took a swallow of soda to wash the pills down. The soda was warm and I slugged it a little too quickly. I got that burning in my chest, as though it had stuck there. I coughed for a second. And then static appeared at the periphery of my vision. I know that static. I've seen it plenty of times before. Nothing good ever comes after the static. I sat down heavily in my chair.
Traffic noise. Voices. Vivid fever dreams. I reached for the duvet, thinking it was too early for the alarm, had to be too early. I hadn't slept long enough. My eyes blinked open. A glaring fluorescent light. Rough carpet. A shadow eclipsing the ceiling. My...desk? Oh. Shit.
My head spun, my face burned. I could feel my body going into Sweat Production Overdrive. I fumbled with my coat, wrenching myself free of its hot embrace. My briefcase lay next to me on the floor. I extracted my BlackBerry. "Having a problem. Just fainted. Come home when I feel better." The phone began to ring a moment later, but I couldn't right myself without passing out again. I sprawled helplessly on the floor.
Then I realized that my left side was going numb. My lips were tingling. My entire arm was dead. Left side numb -- I did a quick mental Google. Heart attack? Stroke? Shit. I'd fainted countless times before, but never the numbness. Numbness could not be good.
I got onto all fours and crawled to the door of my office. One of my coworkers happened to be walking by, and I croaked out, "Help?" She looked around at eye level and then spotted me on the floor. "Um. I fainted?" She rushed into my office and called someone to bring me a soda. She's a fainter too, so she knew getting sugar was the first step to recovery. She called my husband and as she did, I announced that my left side was completely numb and I couldn't feel my face. I started shivering uncontrollably. She hung up and called 911.
A few minutes later, I was surrounded by firefighters (which might have been rather awesome had I not been incapacitated). They had on their firefighter pants and boots, and one of them, I swear, was carrying an axe. They asked me about forty-five thousand questions ("What's your address? Phone number? Age? You work out a lot?" (Huh?)). I stammered out answers as one of them strapped an oxygen mask on my face. I tried to impress upon them that I wouldn't have called them had it not been for the numbness. I said several times that I was really embarrassed.
In addition to the firefighters, there were EMTs. I think there were actually 25 men hovering around me at one point. The EMTs hoisted me up and strapped me onto a metal chair thingy that looked like the contraption they transported Hannibal Lechter on. It was creaky and the suspension could have used some work. My head lolled woozily about, and every time we ca-chunged over a bump or careened around a bend, I thought I was going to hurl.
When we got to the ambulance, they had me crawl onto the gurney. I stared blurrily at the ceiling. I don't remember much about the ride, except that I was ready for it to be over before it started -- and they kept asking me more damn questions -- although I was cheered somewhat when they turned the siren on. (Yes, I am five.) I kept thinking that it must royally suck to be taken in an ambulance after you've broken something or had any appreciable bodily injury, because all the starting and stopping and turning and bouncing, and then the jouncing about as the gurney is lowered to ground level, has to kill. Even with my minor ailment, I got rather violently ill.
They rolled me into the ER, where I answered thirty-seven thousand more questions and signed a bunch of crap (can those contracts really be enforceable? how could I fully read and understand them when I barely knew my own name?) and then they steered me into an empty bay, right next to one where a prisoner was being held, all shackled to the bed and looking not so well. I answered the same questions yet again, they had me take off my shirt and put on a hospital gown, and then an RN took about fifty vials of blood, hooked me up to a heart monitor and put an IV in my arm. (I'd always wondered if you can feel the needle after it's in there for a while. Turns out you can. And it's not comfortable in the least.)
Around that time, my husband arrived. It couldn't have been amusing to see his wife hooked up to all this crap and drained of what little color I have, but he handled it well. He was comforting and sweet and made me laugh and hovered by the doorway to make sure no one forgot about me. It seemed to be a busy Friday night in the ER. Apparently there was a trauma involving a baby that kept everyone occupied for a while, and then we heard one of the RNs yelling, "Where'd my patient go? I can't find him! He got out of the restraints!" I hoped she wasn't referring to the prisoner next door. Luckily, it turned out just to be a drunk guy, who stumbled by screaming for water a few minutes later.
I began to realize that the right side of my head felt like a giant, throbbing tomato. I must have hit it on the desk on the way down. Ow.
Finally, a doctor came in and told me they were waiting for my test results and they might want to do a CAT scan. I told him that I was used to fainting, that it had seemed like the usual vaso-vagal episode, but that the numbness was new and it had scared me. He was unimpressed by the numbness. He said it was a common symptom and nothing to worry about -- at least, I think that's what he said, as English was not his first nor his best language. In general, the doctor seemed ready to get rid of me so he could give my room to someone who needed to be intubated or have a bullet removed from a vital organ. So I chose that moment to puke all over the place. He said I should stay for a while.
After the RN came back and put some kind of anti-nausea thing in my IV, I started to feel way better. Better enough to feel caged in that little bed with all that crap hooked up to me. Plus I was starving. It was after ten and I'd been hungry even before hitting the deck. My husband was about to gnaw his arm off; it was way past his dinner time, too. After a while, the doctor wandered back in, said my blood tests were fine and my EKG normal, and I could go home. Also they needed the room, so if I could go ahead and get dressed, that would be great.
Walking papers in hand, my husband and I swung through the glass doors into the cold night and hailed the first cab we saw. The driver went about 95 mph up the west side. I was certain we were going to die. Somehow, we made it home, and I sank gratefully onto the couch. I watched "Felicity" all weekend.
So. How was your weekend?