Thursday, June 14, 2012

No sympathy for syncope

I’ve come to the necessary realization that I’m not in control of things in quite the way I thought I was. I was reminded yesterday in unmistakable fashion that I’m not even in control of my consciousness. In a first for me, I totally blacked out while out on a training run. One moment I was moving along in my usual mental space, feeling good, and the next I was lunging towards a face-plant on the sidewalk. My upper lip is split and swollen and I have raspberry-colored abrasions on my nose and chin. I’m fortunate to have injured my pride more than my face.

I’m not sure what caused this syncope, which is medicalese for the transient loss of consciousness. I wasn’t running harder than usual, the weather was cool and dry, I was well hydrated and I’d eaten the same breakfast I usually do before a run. My cardiac status is first-rate. I cannot identify an obvious indicator to account for what happened. All I can remember before the lights went out was a brief euphoric sensation, which tells me my brain was already hypoxic. I had just enough time to slow down and to put out a hand to break my fall. It was as if someone flipped a switch and I hit the deck.

I must have been out for several seconds. By the time I came to, people who had seen me fall had already called 911 and gotten out of their cars to see how badly I needed the ambulance they told me was on the way. That got my attention, so I sat up and said “I don’t need that. Please tell them not to come. I’m fine.” And so I was, although not fine enough to continue my run, which was my first impulse. I ended up accepting a two-mile ride home with a kind retired couple who didn’t seem concerned about my getting blood on their leather upholstery. They were angels of mercy.
So if this was God’s way of getting my attention, it certainly worked. I have a hunch it was, for reasons I’m still sorting through. He literally took the blood from my brain for a moment and left me in darkness. It’s rare for me to feel so vulnerable and helpless—a victim in need of a hand from strangers. I was bloodied, confused and a little frightened. The total unexpectedness of this episode makes me cautious about running again on hard surfaces. I’ll wait a few days to see how things play out.

It’s possible this was a random physiological aberration. Perhaps my blood sugar was too low or I had a bad reaction to the allergy pill I’d taken. The fact that this happened within the larger drama of a serious, on-going health threat is hard to ignore, but I see no obvious connection. People black out for all sorts of weird reasons; we’ve all got stories to tell. The only other time I fainted was the first time I tried to pee after my vasectomy. I’ll spare you the details other than to say it was a very strange sensation. I was equally shocked on that occasion that such a disorienting thing could happen to me.

An incident like this shatters the illusion I maintain that I'm in full control of my faculties. You'd think given my medical history that I'd have figured that out long ago, but this fainting spell is a good reminder. Running may help to build immunity (see below) but it doesn't make me Superman. The mechanics of putting one foot in front of another and moving through space is once again the wonderment it hasn't been for a long time. I'm grateful that something as relatively harmless as a black-out can bring me back to appreciating the beauty of grace and the grace of beauty. I'll leave it at that for now.


Anonymous said...

Will you follow up with a Dr. for this? Syncope happens because something's going on.

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