Fainting is No Fun

11 08 2011

On Monday I fainted…twice! It wasn’t fun. In fact, it was quite embarrassing, as it usually is.  I have a history of vasovegal syncope, also known as fainting spells, which often are coupled with paleness, lightheadedness, tunnel vision, nausea, feeling of warmth and a cold clammy sweat. Some of the triggers for these spells are standing still for too long, the sight of blood or having blood drawn, extreme heat and fear of bodily injury. As long as the fainting spells are not associated with other medical problems (I met with a cardiologist when I was young to rule out any outside medical issues), the biggest concerns are hurting yourself while fainting and not allowing your body to properly recover post fainting spell, which would ultimately lead to more spells. It is important for those who struggle with vasovegal syncope to understand when and why the spells could hit in order to prevent injury from fainting. There are some techniques to prevent fainting, such as lying down on a table, however I have found that if I am going to faint, there is not much that I can do to prevent it.

Chris and I are taking a trip to Brazil in September, and as a result have to get a number of immunizations, including Yellow Fever. We made an appointment earlier this week to go together and have our shots. Given my history of fainting, I should have told the nurse at the doctor’s office about my history and laid down while having the shot, but given that I hadn’t fainted in over 2 years, and the fact that last week I had blood taken for my annual doctor’s appointment and was fine, I chose not to disclose the information. The last time that I fainted was getting cortisone shots in my shoulders due to overuse and injury from swimming in college. I have also fainted at the vets office, while giving blood, after a hard morning practice in the dining hall in college, and in many other public locations.

Of course, since I had assumed that I would be perfectly fine, about 2 minutes after getting my teeny tiny yellow fever shot, my vision started to blur, I started to feel week, and quickly announced out loud to the waiting room that I was about to faint. Luckily Chris was in a nearby chair, so I stumbled into the chair next to him, told him that I was about to faint and passed out. The oddest part about fainting is the deep sleep that you quickly fall into. Every single time that I have ever fainted, I have had extremely vivid dreams, which I then forget about 30 seconds after waking from the spell. Waking from such a deep sleep to realize that you have fainted is probably the worst feeling that I have experienced throughout my life. I woke up surrounded by doctors, sweating like a pig, shaking and feeling as though I was about to puke. It was only a matter of minutes before I started to feel another fainting spell coming on. Apparently I fainted and then Chris and some of the doctors moved me to the floor. After the second spell, which lasted about 30 seconds, I woke up on the floor of the waiting room, with ice under my neck, a wet cloth on my forehead, a blood pressure band on my arm, and still sweating like a pig. I was a site to see… I am sorry that I did not have my camera set up for Chris to take pictures of me while sprawled on the waiting room floor, but he did a great job of documenting my recovery.

This picture was taken about 30 minutes after my second spell. The doctors told me that they wanted to insert an IV into me because they thought that dehydration was playing into my low blood pressure, but the thought of more needles did not exactly float my boat, so I opted for ANY other option. They told me that if I drank a huge bottle of orange juice and could get my blood pressure back to normal, they wouldn’t insert an IV. I definitely got my dose of vitamin C that day!

The trip to the doctors did not exactly turn out as expected, but I was glad that a) Chris was there with me and b) that it happened in a doctors office. Unfortunately the ugly fainting monster comes in and out of my life and there is nothing that I can do to prevent it. It took me an entire day to regain my strength but was pretty much back to myself about 24 hours later. And 48 hours later, I was completely back to my normal routine and finished up my weekly workout challenge on Wednesday night with my second Pilates class of the week!

Question of the day: Have you ever fainted? or do you have a fainting story of someone who you saw faint?