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November 20, 2006
Fainting seemed romantic to me when I was little -- movie heroines did it so prettily,sinking back into the willing arms of their heroes,or into the dread embrace of their villains, who could then sling them around like sacks of flour. The girls stayed out for ages, as I recall,and then they awoke, turning their pretty heads from side to side. "Where am I?" they would inquire weakly, and their heroes would hasten to assure them that the danger was past. They had slept through it all.

You don't actually stay out for ages. You awaken almost as soon as you hit the ground, since the phenomenon of syncope is designed to do just that: to get you off your feet and horizontal, so some blood can find its way back up to your head where it can do you some good. Fainting is a little like blowing a fuse: it's intended to shut you down before you get yourself into real trouble. I find that I know it's coming and can usually get down onto the ground myself, at least part way, so I don't have to fall.

Syncope (SIN-co-pay) is the technical term for fainting: literally, to cut short. And that's exactly what it does: whatever you were doing, no matter how important it was and no matter how much you thought you needed to keep doing it, you're done. Mind over matter doesn't work with syncope. You can't put it off. You can't wait and faint at a more appropriate time or place.

Yesterday was a normal day, a wonderful day. Church in the morning, an easy journey back home in Corinna's newest family member, Gonzo the RV. But, as we neared home, something was not right-- an unpleasant feeling under my diaphragm. Indigestion? Panic attack? Heart patients never take such twinges slightly, so I popped a nitroglycerin tablet under my tongue like a good girl and waited to see what would happen. Not much: I was weak and felt suddenly too warm, suddenly too weary even to speak. And when we arrived and I got out of the RV, the ground reached up for me.

So I didn't bake bread and pick Q up from the train and do the 6pm Bible study and go to dinner with friends, as I had planned. I went to the hospital instead, where,after some hours, it was revealed that I was okay. The moral: don't stand up after you've popped a nitro.

I knew that. I thought enough time had elapsed. I thought I could just go home and rest a bit: No, the EMT said sternly, your heart is racing and your pressure's in the basement. . Of course, it turned out I could have just gone inside and rested and all woud have been well. I could have handled it all myself.

And yet I am afraid to do so. I hate the hours I known I will spend in a crowded ER every time this happens. Hate scaring my family. Hate messing up other people's plans and schedules, to say nothing of my own. But the professionals say go, and I go.

Someday, I won't. I'll refuse transport and stumble my way into my living room, where I will sink onto a couch in a white lace dress gown with ruffles in front and a blue satin sash, with my golden curls streaming across a silken pillow that just happens to be there. Where am I? I'll ask weakly, turning my head from side to side, when -- after an hour or so -- I wake up.
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