Thoughts on Fainting

by - Wednesday, October 03, 2012

At some point, probably around my 11th grade blood drive, I started passing out from time to time. I would like to blame it on needles, but there have been many shots that have turned out just fine. Today, I had yet another one of these lovely little moments, and this is the first time I ever did it in front of the Boy. He was sitting a nurse cubicle away, and when I woke up he was right there with 2 other nurses and another doctorish guy with phlegm in the title (??). It scared him enough that I got a milkshake AND a cookie over it!

Fainting as a process is really odd, because by the time you realize it is happening, it is basically over. At least for me, I start to feel heavy and light-headed at the same time. Then, my hearing starts to get tunnel-y. I think the tunnel thing is the best metaphor, but its a tunnel where you never notice the walls coming in until after it is all over. My thoughts get louder and suddenly I am really really sure I need water. This is my real problem, because it never fails I try to find some and this is when I pass out, usually on hard bathroom or kitchen surfaces.

There is some transition between that part and the actual passing out that i have no consciousness of and never remember. Then I dream something that is really wonderful and pleasant. I never remember these dreams long after I wake up, but I always wake up feeling happy and slightly annoyed I am back. I don't know why, but I find this part of fainting really comforting. The part everyone worries about actually feels like a relief. I kind of imagine that's what death feels like (the Boy HATES when I say that, but it is always on my mind on days like these).

So the fainting part is actually not bad at all, but the waking up part is the worst because everyone fusses over you. Today was especially bad because they kept checking my blood pressure and made me lay on the floor with my legs up in a dress. I at least had the presence of mind to pray no one from the Boy's job came in, or I'd embarrass him. I just feel guilty because all these people are running around fetching me things and checking my skin color (it's really alright people, I am truly always this pale), when they could just keep checking Microsoft employees and getting on with their day. The program is basically the same whether I am alone or not- you lay there until you feel good enough to get up. Then, you hopefully don't puke. Then you lay around the rest of the day, musing on why exactly you do this in the first place, which is about where i am now.

I kind of think I am just squeamish. The doctors today thought I was maybe anemic and the phlegm guy was concerned I was starting a seizure, but he was just pushing it to the limit. Some mix of anemic (since I don't eat nuts or most red meat) and dehydrated/ squeamish sounds like the answer to me. But I promised Dr. Phlegm that I would get a doctor's appointment to actually check it out, so why not?

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  1. Hey! I wrote something about my nurse-y zine about this. If you are fainting when you are in a relaxed environment, you definitely need to get it checked out. If you are fainting during stressful situations or medical procedures, even ones you have done before... that is not at all uncommon. It is called a vasovagal response. Basically, your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems go wonky (yes, that's the medical terminology), momentarily, and your blood pressure plummets. In an effort to get blood back to your head/heart, we put you in something called Trendelenburg position, with your feet above your head. If you read about it you will see it is kind of old fashioned and the literature on its efficacy isn't that strong, but I've used it and seen it work dozens of times. LOTS of people have vasovagal responses, even when they don't feel consciously nervous or anxious. If it happens a lot when you have blood drawn, I recommend that patients let the person drawing their blood know ahead of time and request to be reclined for the procedure if possible.

    Dr. Phlegm is cracking me up. Maybe his title was "phlebotomist"?

    Good luck with all of this!

  2. Errr that should say "i wrote something in my nurse-y zine about this".

  3. Whoa! Thanks Shaylyn- that is the most helpful explanation I have ever gotten. I also have passed out in classes and twice at home, but everything you described about not feeling nervous and then just having a physiological response definitely applies. I will definitely let people know in the future, because I really hate scaring them! They always seem so concerned!

    Yes! I think maybe he was a phlebotomist! Shows how much I was a listening!