Monday, January 07, 2008
Twice now in the past two Februaries, I've had a situation where I had a terrible fainting problem that caused my heart to stop beating. It's known as vasovagal syncope (that's pronounced "sin-cope-ee") and it's actually rather common. About 1 in 200 people have it, but for 90% of them, it simply causes dizziness when they stand up quickly. For a few of them, it will cause outright fainting. And for a very few, it causes our hearts to stop.
On the previous two occurrences, I was very sick with stomach flu and quite dehydrated. This is one of the triggers of vasovagal syncope. So, in a way, it made sense that I had the problem when I did and it seemed like it'd be easy to predict and even prevent. Just don't get dehydrated like that again. However, the most recent occurrence happened just a couple weeks ago and was completely unexpected. I was feeling pretty good, I'd eaten breakfast, and was nearly finished with a fairly tough workout at the YMCA.
I was still sitting in the "preacher curl machine" when I felt the tell-tale tunnel vision, nausea, cold sweats, and lightheadedness that always accompany an attack. I briefly wondered if I could make it over to lay down at the open bench press before I realized that I had lost consciousness and was being revived by Larry from the front desk. Thank God for Larry! He's a full-time EMT and played a hunch that I was having a blood surgar episode. He took it in stride, forced some apple juice down me, and had the ambulance there no time. However, I couldn't keep conscious for more than a minute or two and, despite the juice, he knew something else must be at work.
I spent the next couple hours mostly unconscious and didn't revive at all until Kelly magically appeared. She worked hard to keep me engaged and, after a few other times were I dropped out, managed to keep me conscious. Unfortunately, the episode knocked me for a loop and left me feeling stupid and dizzy. I didn't feel comfortable driving for nearly a week. Thank goodness Dylan was available to get me back and forth for the next few days.
So now I am very concerned about my situation. Normally, syncope does not cause you to pass out when you're otherwise in pretty good condition (though I did hit two of the main triggers that morning). The main triggers are eating a big meal, exercise, and dehydration. This has me worried about driving home after eating at a restaurant or maybe running between gates at the airport. Am I going to lose consciousness at any provocation?
The other thing that has me really worried is that syncope normally has very brief effects. Most people who get if are right back on their feet when they pass out and feel 100%. I, otoh, lose consciousness for hours. And even when I recover consciousness, I'm in nardly any condition to get out of bed, let alone to operate heavy machinery. This worries me - a lot.
Well, enough griping for now. I have an appointment in two days with a neurologist to see what we can do about the situation. There are a couple drugs that help. There is, on the extreme side, a pacemaker. And then there are some homeopathic remedies like increasing the amount of blood/fluid in your system by increasing the amount of salt in your diet.
So I'll post again on the issue after I've talked with my doctor.
Wish me luck,