Fainting

by bart

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My friend Dave almost fainted at my house when we were in high school. We were changing Gabe’s high school-inspired sock and duct tape bandage when his shin started shooting blood like a sprinkler all over our island counter. We grabbed the gauze, grabbed the medical tape, and stopped the bleeding. Dave’s face and lips were porcelain white, eyes wide, and my dad told him to sit down and put his head between his knees. That’s all I know about fainting — knees stop fainting.

The first time I saw a guy actually faint was in Thailand. It was at a university food court in the middle of the day, and I remember it vividly because I was eating a really good fried chicken dish, and I thought, even this bro throwing up and fainting doesn’t affect my enjoyment of this food. It was hot, it was humid, the guy threw up, and knocked over a bunch of food at the table with his face. People went right into action doing the things that you need to do when people faint: scream. People started yelling, and they swarmed him, which is helpful, fanning him and doing whatever else people do in emergencies. “Everybody! …Panic!” He got up a few seconds later, clearly out of it.

There’s that moment when someone gets injured, where you’re thinking, “I should do something!” But this guy already had enough people yelling and not knowing what to do, so adding a white dude shouting in a different language, also not knowing what to do, probably wouldn’t help the situation. “He’s down! Quick! Get his head between his knees! Get. His. Head. Between. His. Knees. Head! Knees!”

Fainting sure didn’t look fun. You have to lose consciousness, you fall somewhere, and you have no control over when it happens. (Which is strange, because of the whole, “if you feel yourself starting to faint, put your head between your knees”, thing. My advice would be, “if you feel yourself starting to faint, freaking get to a quiet space away from people who will see you! And find a pillow! And lie down!”

***

I had some sort of virus when I was a sophomore in college — the kind where you throw up and poop and you get freezing cold and steaming hot all at the same time. I was laying in my dorm bed, shivering, cocooned in the following:

  1. two pairs of wool socks
  2. two pairs of sweatpants
  3. a t-shirt
  4. a long-sleeve shirt
  5. another long sleeve shirt
  6. a sweatshirt with hood on
  7. sheets
  8. two fleece blankets
  9. an electric blanket turned to 10 out of a possible 10
  10. a blanket

I had been trying to sleep when I decided that I needed to pee.

My room was not set up for easy access to anything: there was a couch, and behind the couch was a tiny study nook. Above the study space, on top of dressers, was the bottom bunk at eye level (five ft.) On top of the bottom bunk bed was my bed (24 ft.) If I turned too suddenly I risked scraping my nose on the ceiling. I could have been dead up there for days and no one would have known.

I started the descent by yelling out, “belay on”, and I answer myself, “climb on!” I climb down, careful to use my core as well as my legs and arms. (I was doing like a 5.12 here. Real technical stuff. I was bouldering. Shredding the gnar. Hot drinks.) I make it to the bathroom, and I think, I better throw up while I’m down here. I kneel next to the toilet to throw up and nothing happens. What a let down. I stand up, and the last thing I remember is my back slamming into our suitemates door that leads to our shared bathroom. I woke up with pain in my butt cheeks, sitting on the ground, with sweat dripping down my face and chest. I frantically took off my shirts and my outer layer of pants and looked at myself in the mirror. Then I turned and saw my roommate Ben and the resident director looking at me.

“Are you okay?”

“I think so.”

We walked down to the nurse and she gave me some crazy new medicine called ibuprofen and told me to call her when I had died, and that maybe I should stop being so soft. She was actually very sweet, and I wanted her to tell me that I had something serious so that people would feel bad for me, but she just said, “It’s probably just a weird virus — you should drink a lot of water”. Nothing sexy about dehydration.

Ben later told me that he came into the bathroom and saw me sitting on the floor with my eyes open. He was talking to me, asking me if I was okay, and I wasn’t responding to anything, or looking at him. “You were just staring off.” He said that he shook me, and I didn’t do anything.

As I’m writing this, I can’t help but think that if you walk into a bathroom where your roommate has turned into an unresponsive lump of human, you might call 911! Or someone with medical experience! Other than the residence director, whose master’s degree in sociology probably wouldn’t be of much use in this situation! 😉 Love ya, Ben. Thanks for being my roommate. Next time, just grab my knees and throw them over my head.

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