Friday, January 22, 2016

Loss of Consciousness

I am choosing to write the following more for myself than anything else.
I don't care if you read it too.
Some inquiring minds may want to know, but really I need to sort it out and document it for medical sake. Why not here?

Yesterday was normal enough. School. Tutoring. Home. The water was heating up on the stove, not yet a boil. I went to the bathroom. As I was leaving the bathroom, I paused and really looked at myself in the mirror. My lips were dry; cracking. I noted that I was probably dehydrated so I picked up the water bottle that was setting on the counter. There was only a couple of ounces left but it sounded like a good idea to finish it off. So I guzzled it down. Mistake number one, instantly I felt this pain in my stomach, it was weird like nothing I have ever felt before. A legitimate pain, for what, from what? From drinking water? It all happened rather quickly as the world blurred and I remember I needed to just brace myself and get through the pain. Kinda like a brain freeze when your drinking a slurpee too fast. The pain hits but it quickly passes. So I braced myself and tried to breathe through it but I felt really dizzy. I must have thought it would be a good idea to go sit down because I took a step, mistake number two.
The next thing I knew I was struggling to open my eyes. My kids were hunched down over me, calling my name. "Mom! Mom!" I caught a glimpse of their faces. "Mom, how many fingers am I holding up?" It was my son and I desperately wanted to respond, but I couldn't put my thoughts together. I would glance but was unable to put together a response. "Mom, how many fingers am I holding up?" I tried to concentrate. I tried to bring the light back into focus. I tried to answer the question. I took a breath and tried to put the pieces together. A few times I tried to say how many fingers there were but it didn't make sense. Why was I on the floor? Oh, yeah the water. The pain in my stomach. "Mom, how many fingers am I holding up?"
Things started clearing up a little. My mind regaining it's senses. "Three." I mumbled.
Relief on their faces. Words expressed I don't remember. I remember feeling like I needed to get up off the floor. To take a look at myself. The desire to put the pieces together. I stood up and stood in front of the mirror. Something was off. What was it? I put my hand to my face and instantly felt the pain. My nose,  ^&*t I must have hit my face as I fell. Then came the blood. Surprisingly, not pouring out of my nose. No not even a dribble. Yet, there it was collecting in the back of my throat. I coughed and spit into the toilet. The brightest red blood. Not good.
I wanted to lie down. I needed to lie down. The kids came and checked on me. What was it? What caused it? Was I hungry? The water was now boiling on the stove, so my daughter said she would make some pasta.
Things seemed so fuzzy. Confusing.
I called my husband, ER would say this was mistake number three as I should have called an ambulance. But in my defense I wasn't really thinking clearly. I remember sounding quiet and weak. He had just arrived back to his warehouse over an hour away after being gone on business for over two weeks. He assured me he was on his way home and asked me to call my mom or dad to have them check on me.
So I called. Dad answered and I tried my best to relay what happened and asked if one of them could come over to check on me because I wasn't sure if I was ok or not. He was sending my mom over. Thankfully they only live a couple miles away.
While I waited for her to arrive I tried to bring things into focus. My bedroom looked blurred around the edges. Like I could focus on one thing but everything around it was gray and black. Not great, I thought. My son has a sign on his door across the hall and I could see it. Even better I could read it. Well, that's good.
More blood. Then I noticed the shaking. Whole body tremors. Was I cold? Not really.
I laid there trying to relax. My daughter brought me a bowl of mac-n-cheese; gluten free. I love that girl. I ate. I winced. The chewing motion made my nose throb. But since I wasn't sure what caused the black out I forced myself to eat. If it was because the water hit my empty stomach then I better get something in my stomach. And my daughter made it. Mom arrived as I ate.
"How are you?" "What happened?" I told her I though I hit my face on the vanity when I passed out. I could see the concern on her face as she tried to figure out what to do. I told her I thought I should maybe get it checked out in case it was a concussion. Out came her phone and my daughters iPod as they google searched concussion. Hit your head. CHECK Do you feel: dizzy, confused, unable to focus? CHECK Any nausea? no Headache? CHECK Then my daughter read a line, if you hit your head and lose consciousness go to the ER immediately to get checked out. Loss of consciousness. CHECK. So it was decided to get checked out.
My daughter not wanting to get left behind, quickly changed. I took the last bit of my mac-n-cheese and prepared myself to stand up.
I still felt a little light headed. Not real steady but steady enough to walk on my own. I asked for my tennis shoes because I did not want to wrestle with the laces on my boots.
As we pulled out the driveway the discussion turned to where they should take me. Urgent Care is only 2 minutes from the house. Could they handle concussion? We decided to send my daughter in with the following statement, which I remember repeating it many times as she wanted to get it just right. "My mom passed out and hit her head. Can she be seen here at Urgent Care or should we take her to the ER?" She barely got it out as the lady quickly insisted I needed to go to the ER. So hospital it was.
By now the head ache was definitely present. It was more evident with each passing pothole.
The ER was empty. My admittance immediate. In the triage, my vitals quickly taken. She asked me a series of questions. Except when she asked for my height, I told her my birth date.  Oops. I know the difference. I was gently chastised for not calling an ambulance.  I remember thinking, hey, at least I didn't drive myself this time. Then the calls came over head, "Neuro to ER. Head trauma." As she took my vitals she explained things were going to happen pretty quick. That I was going to have a cat scan. Then a few other tests. As soon as she got the words out of her mouth, the tech arrived with the wheelchair and I was whisked away.
The CAT scan was pretty uneventful. The took a look in my brain to make sure there was no bleeding on the brain. As for my nose, no scan of that, but maybe I would came back later for one if the doctor or I thought it was necessary.
Wheeled back to ER and I had a bed all ready for me, with my mom and daughter waiting in it.
Then there was the EKG. More vitals.
The gown. The trip to the bathroom to pee in a couple. Except when I got there the seat was covered with blood and I refused to go in it. I was redirected down the hall. I walked. Alone. Slowly but steady. All to pee in a cup. I had my gown and my cords, yet I was still fully dressed from the waist down. It was all rather awkward. The fumbling. The peeing. The washing of my hands. Awkward. Yet there was the reassurance of the pull cord should I need assistance. Thankfully, I did not need assistance.
Back to the bed. More vitals. A visit from the doctor. A full recount of what happened. Apparently, my story jived with a certain medical condition in which the vagus nerve decides to freak out. Sending messages to your brain that causes it to go AWOL. Hence, the loss of consciousness. Most likely caused by dehydration. Then he checked my nose, deciding it wasn't broke because I did not scream in utter agony nor did I punch him in the face when he prodded it asking where the pain was. Instead, I winced and said, there, when he hit the spot. Of course there was a chance I had a small fracture that could be detected by CAT scan if I so chose to go that route. But it did not look serious to him so it was completely my choice on whether or not to proceed with that. Even though honestly, there is not much that would be done, except let time heal it. Hmmm..let me think. Nope. Don't think I want another scan then. The verdict: I am a low risk person, so he did not think it was going to be anything serious. Get rehydrated by IV with a liter of fluids and take a Tylenol.
Tylenol, God bless the Tylenol. They offered something stronger if I thought I would need it but by this point, my mind was functioning again so I kept with the Tylenol.
It felt good to be returning to normal. The blurry vision was gone. The head ache significantly dulled. The nose? Still ouchy but not uncomfortably so.
I took a picture and posted to facebook.
Hubby arrived. WELCOME HOME HUBBY! Not really what I had planned for his homecoming.
Mom and daughter went home.
And we settled in to hurry up and wait.
It took a long time until someone came in to do the IV. When they finally did, my veins were showing signs of the dehydration as they were having a hard time finding a vein. Attempt number one was a fail. Darn it! So my nurse came in and she put the tourniquet on. Why do they have to be so pinchy? She didn't find a vein she felt confident about. Time to call in the vein whisperer. He came in and whispered to my veins, really he did. At first he did not see anything he liked so he switched to the other arm, as the previous ladies had done. He thumped and pumped and finally found one he thought he could work with. He got it! (You should totally read that in the same voice as the announcer for MSU basketball.) Woo hoo! Drip drip drip.
The CAT scan came back good. The blood work came back good. Besides my nose, all was good.
40 minutes later, we were on our way.

When I got home I checked in with my boy. He had been a little shaken by the event and he helped me piece together a few missing pieces. When I did a reenactment for my hubby, my son stopped me. "No! That is not what happened. We heard the huge thump and ran out. You were lying face down!" I had thought I hit my head on the counter and rolled off it to land on my back as my first recollection was face up.  As it turns out I probably did a full frontal face plant. OUCH! No wonder my nose hurts.

 This morning I woke up with lesson plans on my mind. I was having an internal war with myself. Go to work? You probably shouldn't. But I don't want to let my kids down. Your kids deserve the best you, not a tired, confused you. Even though I do feel much better I know my head is still recovering. Do I call in? I probably should. What about....? Ah, the torment. Yet I knew that a day of rest and hydration is really what I needed.
So a day of rest is what I chose. It was the best choice. For me and my students.
I sent off a quick lesson plan for my sub. Checked in with my boss, who was relieved I was staying home to rest. She thought I may try to be stubborn and come in anyways. ME!??

Destined to a day of rest I checked in on facebook and received the well wishes of my friends and loved ones. Thank you everyone for the support!  While the boys slept, I decided to watch The Fault in Our Stars. When I told my girlfriend my plan, she said, "I'm not sure crying will help with the dehydration." Muwahaha. I must still be a little dehydrated because while I cried, I did not have the overwhelming flood one might expect. Time to drink another Gatorade. 

As it stands now, I have a minor black eye.

I have some swelling and a dull head ache. I also have an afternoon appointment with the chiropractor. I felt it was best to get checked out to make sure all was well. I did fall on my face and experience some head trauma after all.

Now, I think it's time for a nap. May sleep be the only loss of consciousness I experience from this day forward.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Warning: the following is one big conglomerate of thoughts, read on if you dare.

It started with the Power Ball. Good Lord that is a lot of money! I didn't even buy a ticket but that did not stop my mind from playing what if games. You know what I am talking about, what if I won the lottery and was suddenly a millionaire/ billionaire, what would I do? First, I would pay off all existing debt. Probably buy a new car. Then I would start donating by the thousands and millions to the various charities and people I hold dear to my heart. My church, my kids children's theater, my school, the garden project, the food bank, the Homeless Angels ( I would totally buy the Magnusson hotel for Mike Karl and a few other while we are at it,) I would bless as many people as humanly possible and then I would still show up at work the next day because I love my job. I really do. And I really would do all of those things and more.
Yet I didn't buy a ticket. No millions of dollars in my bank roll. :( Yet also :)
Why the smiley face? All this dreaming led me to a pretty amazing thought. I don't need millions of dollars to make a difference. I can make a difference right now! Whatever I hold dear, I can influence now. I can give my time. I can give my resources. I can use my gifts and talents to bless others. To help organizations. I can use my network. And sure I can throw some cash on some causes.
I am extremely blessed to be following in the footsteps of family members with a heart for community service. My mother is a champion volunteer!  I remember as a toddler running the hallways at school long before I ever attended. Why? Because my mom is awesome and she volunteered. I can remember charity benefits with my mom at the helm, raising money for friends who lost their home to a fire and another friend who lost her dad to cancer. Mom has a way of seeing needs and doing what she can. I get this from her. We do what we can, when we can, for whomever we can. Because we can and someone should, so why not us?
Mom and I have had many volunteering adventures together. The garden being one of my favorites. This weekend we opened a new door. We stepped foot into the Magnusson Hotel and were introduced to the Homeless Angels. Mom felt led to go and just see what they needed. She showed up ahead of me and did what she does best, dove right in. This weekend they were gearing up for what they call their Street Store. Over the last three weeks, donations have been pouring in. All these donations needed to be sorted and set up. I have had a few bags sitting idle in the closet for a couple months. I sorted them out and took them on over. Once I was through the doors, I too dove right in. Sort sort sort, all day long, sort sort sort while I sing this song. Clothes, shoes, linens, hats and scarves. The generosity of the community was amazing to see. This organization is also amazing! They are a non-profit with no one on a bank roll. 100% of donations go to help the homeless in our community. While there we met a few of the guys. People I am sure I have seen on the streets. Some of them asking for money on corners. Another walking around with a box on his head, a voice for the homeless, the happiest homeless guy you will ever meet. This weekend homelessness in my world gained a name.
A name. Isn't it true that we can ignore many things until they become personal? When do they become personal? When we can attach a name to it. There are many things in my world that have names attached to them. To protect the identity of those I hold dear, I will refrain from sharing their names publicly but know that with each of these things there is a name attached. A story. A life. A mark on my life. Childhood Leukemia. Breast Cancer. Adoption. Abortion. Gay. Lesbian. Transgender. Gay Marriage. Divorce. Abandoned. Advocate. Athlete. Refugee. Survivor. Deaf, Blind. Bi-polar. Depressed. Those who have taken their own lives. Others whose lives were taken....
Oh how I could go on. Each of these people have shaped my world. I realize that not everyone thinks the same as I do but it is each of these people, each of their stories that form my world view. My beliefs. My desire to respond to the world with love rather than hatred.
This last week, a dear, sweet teenager that I had the privilege of meeting, took her life. She was the same age as my son and served alongside him at Fenner Nature Center. She had an infectious smile. She was a lover of people. Always inclusive. She had hugs for any and all that wanted one. She was an AMAZING artist! A fantastic poet. She was a life full of promise. Yet the burdens of this world weighed her down and for reasons people can only speculate, she felt this life was no longer worth living.
Which sets my mind down a whole different path. Friends, your lives are worth living! You have so much to give. You are loved far more than you will ever realize. I know Sydney was. At her funeral today, the church was overflowing. I would venture to guess over 500 people came to remember  her and celebrate her life. She was loved. Yet she may not have realized just how true this was. She changed lives for the better. She smiled at people when they themselves felt the darkness, she was a light to champion them on another day.
There is now a hole. A candle on her desk at school. A remembrance of someone brilliant, gone far too soon.
Following the funeral, the girls and I headed over to the Street Store to volunteer. People were lived up at the door when we arrived. The doors had opened early to get people out of the cold. Throughout the afternoon we folded, handed out, sorted some more, put more things out, we smiled, I held a sweet baby girl that was screaming her head off until I put her on my lap and started talking to her. She calmed right down. Relief for some weary parents. I ended up holding her for nearly an hour as mom was trying to retrieve her keys from inside their locked car. I rocked and sang, she melted into my arms and fell asleep for a bit. I saw the homeless today. Some rode the bus. Others walked. All had need. All were blessed. They had a gentlemen giving haircuts. Ladies painting nails. They had food. They took what they needed, free of charge. Others from the community came as well, some on the brink of homelessness themselves. The poverty was obvious. Needs were met. The Homeless Angels and their slew of volunteers pulled off a pretty spectacular event.
I got to be a part of it. Their story and my story collided and I won't be the same because of it.
Not every person on a street corner is a con artist or scammer. Some of them are truly homeless. All of them have names.
What we do matters my friends! Don't cry over losing lottery tickets. Take the resources and talents you have and do something with them. Get out in our community and make it better. Smile at people. Hug people. Tell others they matter. Tell your loved ones you love them. Ask yourself what you would have done if you won the lottery and do it anyways.

Oh and if you have clothes you no longer need, consider donating them to the Homeless Angels Street Store because rumor has it that they will be doing it again real SOON!

I love you!

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Of iPhones, Books, and a Walk on a Drizzly Day

It has been 201 days since I got my iPhone.
When I purchased the smart phone, I wondered how the device would change me, if it would change me. I had held off for years on joining the club of smart phone users. I was content with my old Jurassic cell phone, with its limited abilities. But as the phone deteriorated, my curiosity peaked. If I was going to have to get a new phone, why not invest in an iPhone?
I had a lot of lost time to make up for. Apps to download. Games to play. Music to reconnect with. Out of the gate it consumed me. My eyes constantly on the 4.7-inch screen. My hands bearing the 4.55 ounces.
I stopped reading. It is by no coincidence that according to my Good Reads account the last book I read was submitted June 29th, the same week I got my iPhone. I had spent the previous year on a quest to consume books and then it stopped, abruptly, with the purchase of a phone. I had successfully read 122 books in a year and then, zip zero zilch. For 195 days I did not read a single book, unless you count the Math Expressions Curriculum and a spattering of early education math books. Sure I read. I read newspaper articles and opinions, magazines, blogs, memes, and facebook posts. But a true book? Nope, not a one.
In September, I started work. More on that in another post. But for the record, I love my job! With the start of my new job, my schedule drastically changed. Gone are the days of staying in my jammies all day. Gone are the days of scheduling appointments while the rest of the free would worked.
In the fall my daughter accepted the lead role in the production of Through the Looking Glass. My days soon were a whirlwind of work and then driving Alice to theater. Throw in a orthodontic appointments as both of the kids are now in braces. Top it off with just enough cooking and cleaning to maintain the house. This was my new life. To decompress I turned my eyes to the screen. I cranked my music. I played countless hours of Farm Hero. Sigh.
Now that Through the Looking Glass is over and I have a few months of working under my belt, I finally feel like I have a hang of this new world of mine.
Last week, the annual Good Reads Reading Challenge came across my inbox. I began to think about the last time I read. I began to think about how much time I spend on my phone. I decided to take the challenge and decided on 52 books as my reading goal for 2016. One book a week. It seems a reasonable goal especially if I can manage to turn off the phone for a few hours a week.
My first book of 2016 has been sitting on my end table since my girlfriend gave it to me sometime last summer. It has been silently beckoning me to pick it up.  On Monday with my Reading goals firmly established, I did just that. I picked it up. On Tuesday, I was so captivated I could not put it down. The book? Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan. An utterly fascinating memoir of her month of madness followed by her remarkable recovery. The first book of the year, read, recorded and reviewed. Boom!
It felt great to be back in the realm of words on paper. So I picked up another book this friend of mine had lent me. This one had slid off the end table and found its way under my bed. I dusted it off, opened it up, and began a journey into the great outdoors. The read? Bill Byson's, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. Oh, the humor! The delightful retelling of his adventure hiking the Appalachian Trail. I am only 175 pages in but I can tell you this, it has awakened my soul.
For those of you that know me in real life, you most likely know that I am a lover of nature. I am often happiest when surrounded with dirt. A sighting of a bird flitting about brings me true and immense joy. As I read over the last couple of days, I became acutely aware that recently, my time with the green earth has been non-existent. I have stopped to gaze at the night sky while walking into my house. I have appreciated animals in the field as I drove from point A to point B. But the last time I went on a hike, I could not tell you. Probably 200 days ago give or take a few. Damn iPhone!
Needless to say, the more I read the more I longed to get outdoors. Today I couldn't take it any longer, I HAD TO GET OUTSIDE. I had to go for a hike, a walk; it did not matter where, all I knew was that I had to get out and get out NOW! So I did. At first I hemmed and hawed, the weather was overcast. No, I was going, even if it ended up being only to the end of the road and back. I was walking somewhere.
As I walked, I breathed in the fresh, cold air. I appreciated the mist failing ever so lightly. I listened to the birds tweet and twitter. I pondered. I processed. I moved. I resolved. I reflected. I made my way along the South Lansing Pathway all the way to Summerplace. Also, known as my happy place, as some of my favorite people live there. I visited with friends over tea. I relished the moment of face to face conversation, made even better because I had exerted myself to get there.
On the way home, a ribbon of black birds threaded the sky as they flew from who knows where back to their nightly roost, most likely somewhere by Hawk Island or Crego Park. They cawed and called. At this point I recalled the birds I had seen while out walking: chickadees, a cardinal, a nuthatch, some starlings, and the too numerous to count ribbon of black birds. Yet the only mammals I had seen was a schnauzer and its human. It seemed odd to me that I had not seen anyone or anything else. A little ways up the path I rounded the curve to see a single buck. He shied into the woods as I approached. 20 feet off the path, protected behind a few trees, he watched me intently. I smiled. I took a picture. I was thankful down to the depths of my inner most being. I ended up walking 4 miles round trip and it felt GLORIOUS!
One of the thoughts that I pondered on the most during my hike was my desire to do more hiking. 16 years ago, a girlfriend and I planned out a trip to hike Isle Royale National Park. I purchased my tent, my pack. and pack stove. We did a trial run at Yankee Springs with packs on, where we hiked for the day. I was so excited, I could hardly wait for our trip. Then I found out I was pregnant. Morning sickness came and the trip was cancelled. Since that summer I have secretly, okay maybe not secretly, longed to hike somewhere, anywhere. The year my son was in Boy Scouts I got to go on an weekend outing, hiking the North Country Trail. I loved it! I will NEVER forget when we happened upon a porcupine. It was the highlight of the trip. As I am reading Bill's adventure my mind keeps going back to that moment. His inquisitive stare, his cautious assent up the tree. My mind goes to trips I have not yet taken, woods not yet explored, hikes not yet fulfilled. Isle Royale.  Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Maybe the Appalachain Trail. More of the North Country. Perhaps somewhere out west.
I know the first step in fulfilling those dreams started today.
Today, I have a new resolve. Put down the phone. Pick up more books. Get outdoors. Plan an amazing summer adventure off the beaten path. Find a hiking partner.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
John Muir, The Mountains of California