June 19, 2006

Fainting Adventure

Monday, June 19, 2006

On Sunday, the hottest day this year in New York so far, I headed to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jersey for some roller coaster riding. I hadn't been since my 9th grade school trip back when the only big ride there was Batman The Ride.

While standing in the long line for Kingda Ka--the tallest, fastest roller coaster in the world or as a friend said Galaxy--I fainted from the extreme heat combined with lack of sleep and water. And when I write faint, I don't mean those dainty swoons that you see in old movies, I mean my body shuts down and I fall right there and then, with only a 20 second warning. I've once landed on my chin without even bending my knees. The scariest part for those around me is that I go extremely white and my eyes stay open without blinking, thus I look dead.

So this time I wake up on the cement floor to the words, "she's coming back," since my hearing is the first sense to come back to me causing everything to be super loud at first, then my sight, speech, feeling (which hurts the most since it feels like all my nerve endings are being turned back on at once) and then smell and for some reason I always end up smelling the scent of blood. Luckily my terrified friend Raphael was with me since I couldn't even walk over to the medics who were waiting beyond the fence. I don't remember falling just telling him that I was going to faint then waking on the ground to his words and much embarrassment and pain. Some guy in the line apparently gave me his water and another man offered to help carry me, which was all very considerate. Extremely embarrassed I rushed getting up to only get a few steps when I dumped the water over my head in order to snap out of it, but to no avail. I had to slump back down once again as I saw pairs of feet try to step around us on the line. I was then brought to the park's hidden air conditioned medics area, which resembled an army barrack. I was given a "grape flavored Gatorade derivative" (the EMT's words not mine) and ice to put on my temples and behind my neck to cool my body down.

After a little while my strength and color returned with the help of the grape liquid and a salty pretzel. Now I was pissed my day would be ruined and that we had missed the ride, plus also afraid we wouldn't know how to meet up with our other friends since we had all left our cell phones in the car. A water bottle later we headed back to the ride to see our friends just getting off of it. Feeling much better and determined to go on the fastest roller coaster in the galaxy (I'm still thinking there might be something cool on Uranus tho ;) I went to the security guards area to see if we could go back to the head of the line. Maybe not the wisest choice given my health, but that's me. Actually we ended up cutting, since they didn't even notice us go up the ramp to the loading carts area. My faint ended up lasting longer than the ride itself, it was that quick. So some good came out of my humiliation and ickyness, we didn't have to continue to wait on that line in that heat. After that I kept standing on the bridge near the water ride to be soaked by the big wave that results from it.

I've fainted since childhood many times, usually 2 to 3 times a year, due to seeing blood, feeling extreme pain, being dehydrated and now it seems from heat exhaustion as well. It runs in my family on my dad's side. After many many tests in college like an EEG, EKG, MRI, stress test, etc I was finally diagnosed with vasovagal, a.k.a. the classic faint syndrome or neurally-mediated syncope. Meaning I'm a fainter plain and simple and it's my bodies response to pain or my body being off. People with low blood pressure like me are more likely to have it too. "A vasovagal attack happens because blood pressure drops, reducing circulation to the brain and causing loss of consciousness. Typically an attack occurs while standing and is frequently preceded by a sensation of warmth, nausea, lightheartedness and visual grayout." (WebMD).

Luckily I don't pass out from fear or anger which can happen to some cases with vasovagel. The only thing the doctor recommended was that I avoid stressful situations. I was like "yeah, ok I won't live then." I can try preventing my fainting sometimes by drinking a lot of water and eating more salt in my diet. WebMD also writes: "Some types of fainting seem to run in families. While fainting may indicate a particular medical condition, sometimes it may occur in an otherwise healthy individual. As many as half of people faint at least once in their life. Three percent of people develop it repeatedly." Of course I have to be in that 3%!

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