Monday, April 25, 2005


I have a fainting disorder. Doesn't that sound Victorian and, well, swoony? The technical name for it is "vaso-vagal syncope," which simply means that my system is delicately balanced enough that it misinterprets some minor thing (in my case, gastro-intestinal distress is the usual culprit), decides that Something Is Really Wrong, attempts to preserve blood flow to the core systems, and closes up the vagal artery. No blood=swoon. This happened about once a year when I was in my twenties, and less frequently after that (although there was the spectacular time when I pitched face forward in the bathroom one morning, landed on the tile all unconscious and snapped off a tooth!); these days it happens very rarely, and if I start to feel dizzy I know to get down low so that I don't fall over, and take it easy for a couple of hours afterward. Sarcasm Girl has the same fainting disorder--ain't genetics a wonderful thing? and has known since she was four that if she felt swoony she was to get down on the ground fast.

The defining test for vaso-vagal syncope is called a "tilt table test:" you are strapped to a table which is stood almost upright; then they put an IV into each arm--into one, they pipe adenosine (I think) which slows the heart down. It's metabolized almost immediately, but for the maybe two minutes the stuff is in you, you feel rotten. Just rotten, not in pain or sick, just...well, you get the idea. If that doesn't make you faint (and making you faint is the objective of the test) they pipe something else into the other arm, which speeds your heart way up. If you don't faint within 25 minutes you passed the test, you don't have vaso-vagal syncope, and they then have to do more tests to figure out what other problems you might have. I, fortunately, fainted. However, I didn't faint until 22 minutes into the second IV. It was a little weird, like suddenly finding yourself a prop in an old Frankenstein movie. At the end they said, "Congratulations, you failed!" and sent me home. After all that, the medical advice is: don't stress, stay low, don't worry.

All of which explains why I didn't get any work done this morning. I went out, full of ambition, got swoony, waited to recover enough to drive home, and did so. Not stressing, and I did stay low. I am feeling much better now, and will shortly go fetch YG from school.


Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

"La, Miss Madeleine's got the vapors again."

"Well, pull her out of the fountain before her ostrich feeathers get saturated."

3:56 AM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

That'll teach me not to go out without my sal volatile, won't it, Rhett?

8:20 AM  

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