Thursday, November 3, 2011

That old-time swoon incident

As I meekly chugged down Theraflu this morning (after two cups of peppermint tea) I remembered I could be feeling a lot worse. I patted myself on the back for forcing down oatmeal this morning. At least that was on crisis adverted.

You see, I used to have this bad habit of passing out. A lot.

I'm hypoglycemic, which means my blood sugar is like a fun roller coaster of despair, especially in the morning. If I don't eat an actual breakfast (as I learned in high school, Marshmallow Supremes do not count as actual breakfast). But there was a time where I didn't quite put two and two together.

Summer after my junior year of high school, I spent two months at a cool Summer College Program up north. I took college classes! I did kooky things like staying up until 4am and ordering pizza late at night! I was the master of my fate and the captain of my soul!

I also started dating the Dude and eating my weight's worth in chicken ramen then, so not all my decisions were quite so mature and adult.

But at the time, man, I was awesome.

One morning the Dude and my new BFF (we'll call her Chicago, one of the only other three out-of-state students) and I decided to get Dunkin' Donuts before class. We trudged in the sweltering 100 degree heat to the main street. I thought being in "the north" waived me from a hot, muggy and buggy summer. No such luck. By the time we got to Dunkin Donuts, after a long lecture from me about how Krispy Kreme is way better anyway (silly northerners), I was sweating and dehydrated and woozy.

And then there was a long line. So I struck my somewhat typical waiting pose and somehow inadvertently locked my knees. We now have the perfect storm of no food, no water, extreme heat and poor circulation. But of course I didn't know this. I had bigger things to worry about: should I order the CARAMEL double chocolate super espresso coffee milkshake or the MINT CHOCOLATE vanilla hazelnut super espresso coffee milkshake? I know, I know, such hard life decisions for a youth. I had finally decided on -


A wave of overwhelming nausea and dizziness suckerpunched me out of no where. I almost fell over in line. I staggered to the thankfully single-stall bathroom and immediately felt drenched in a cold sweat. I shook. My stomach twisted and tumbled and the floor spun around me. I laid down on the cool tile floor.

Amazingly, a story involving me face down in a groady donut shoppe bathroom does not involve me contracting e.coli.

The waves of nausea slightly subsided, so I decided to tentatively make my way back to the line. But that whole standing and walking and having any control over my faculties just wasn't going to happen. The dizziness and heat and sickness because unbearable. I called out to Chicago that I was really sick and something was wrong and to get help. I then slid down the wall and fell into a semi-conscious haze.

Cue two kitchen workers FREAKING OUT and running into the hallway, the now hysterically upset Chicago, and a very irritated Dude. Because having your girlfriend pass out in public is SO LAME GOSH. The kitchen workers start yelling at Chicago to get me out of there, calling me unsanitary (rude), shrieking profanities in a different language and generally causing a scene. Chicago calls the program director, hyperventilating, telling him I need to get to a hospital NOW. Dude is hiding somewhere on the other side of the shoppe, not buying weed this time but yet again pretending he didn't know me.

Meanwhile, I'm lolling in some half-awake fog. Still on the floor.

The program director arrives and tells Chicago to go on to class. This provokes complete sobs and shaking, as she can't leave her poor, scrawny (oh the days of being a runner!) defenseless DYING friend. The program director calms her down, sends her and a very compliant dude on their way, talks down the panicking donut workers, and helps me walk outside to what I expected would be just a regular car to take me to the hospital.

Instead, I saw a police cruiser.

Apparently in all the fine print I'd agreed to at the beginning of the program, I'd signed away the ability to ride in a car with anyone who was not my direct legal guardian. Damn you, terms and conditions. The only way to get around this and get me to the hospital was to get me a private police escort. Another thing about police cars - a layperson can't ride shotgun.

I was being taken to the hospital in the back of a police cruiser. Like a criminal on the way to a psych evaluation. All this happening in broad daylight on the busiest street in Delaware.

Such a good personal ambassador from the great state North Carolina.

As we (the program director and I, the policeman leaving after thanking me for not vomiting in his cruiser) waited in the urgent care lobby, the program director decided to call Lady Mum, who was on the drive up from NC to pick me up after the commencement party two days later.

From this I learned how important it is to order news correctly.

"Hello Mrs. W, I'm at Urgent Care with your daughter R. Grace right now... we picked her up when she was unconscious at a Dunkin Donuts... she can't speak to you right now... oh, but she'll be totally okay."

Lady Mum told me she almost swerved off the road at the first sentence.

They took me back and poked, prodded, and tested me for a bit while I was still floating in a stupor. I was too weird-sick-high to even watch them draw my vial of blood, which is usually my favorite part and usually freaks out the nurses. (Dr. Dad taught me well!) Fifteen minutes later, they bring me my treatment.

A cup of orange juice.

"Your blood sugar was really low. And you're anemic. Drink this and don't walk around in the heat without food." Grunt, glare. I was the medical equivalent of slut-shamed. I was a doctor's kid. I should know better. So embarrassed.

All that panic because I couldn't be bothered with an early-morning bagel. Eesh.

And proceeded to have two more increasingly dramatic fainting issues within the next two years. I don't ever learn the easy way. However, I now know I will never be tempted to take heroin. I can get the same floaty exhausted high and brink-of-death feeling if I just skip a couple meals.