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Perhaps I’m a Bit More Delicate Than I’d Like to Admit

My husband calls me his delicate desert flower. My boss calls me Jasmine because it’s the most delicate of all flowers. They say these things to tease me because I’m the opposite of the stereotypical girly-girl. I like to think I’m tough as nails, but sometimes I am more physically delicate than I would like to admit.

I have a few health conditions. I won’t bore you with all the details, but one of the things that has plagued me off and on since high school is my propensity for having vasovagal reactions.

I’ll never forget the first time it happened. I was a sophomore in high school. I was in gym, my last class of the day, waiting by the door for the bell to release us into the world. We’d had a written test followed by a free period. I believe I’d shot some baskets with my friends, but I certainly hadn’t done anything strenuous.

I was leaning against the open locker room door chatting with a couple of other girls when I had the strangest sensation in my stomach. The next thing I remember, I was being dragged through the locker room. One girl dragged me away from the door, another moved by belongings near me, and a third ran into the shower area to get the coach.

That coach came running out of the shower, wrapped in a towel. She was all business, immediately taking charge. She had people rushing around bringing her this and that, making her probably the very best person to be in charge during an episode like I had. Before I even knew my own name, she had an icy can of Coke in my hand, telling me to sip it slowly.

The Coke was a great idea and brought me around probably better than anything else would have. She helped me to her office, called my dad who was off work that day, and made sure I was okay before she got dressed. She was dressed in record time and right back in the office with me. She peppered me with questions, probably to keep me talking, while we waited on Dad to come and get me.

“Did you eat a good lunch? Have you been sick? Did you take any medicine today? Has this ever happened before? How many brothers and sisters do you have? What do you want to do after high school?”

Dad picked me up from school and took me directly to the clinic we always used. The doctor there was the one who had delivered my sister, so he’d been our family doctor for years. His words upon hearing what had happened shocked me to the bone and sent my dad’s blood pressure to near stroke level. Keep in mind, I was fourteen years old.

He listened to what I told him rather impatiently. Then he said, “We’ll do some bloodwork and a pregnancy test.”

Um, pregnancy test? No. Just no. I argued, but it did no good. The old doctor did not diagnose the problem that day. He’d just been sure I was pregnant. I knew I wasn’t pregnant, and I was pretty darned insulted by assumption and the fact he wouldn’t listen to me. His answer, after all of the tests came back, was I needed to eat more.

My answers finally came a few years later when I found myself in the emergency room of a local hospital after fainting in the bathtub. The doctor on duty explained vasovagal reactions and assured me that’s what I had. He explained they’re common, and I probably had nothing to worry about.

I’ve continued to have those reactions from time to time. I had one last Saturday. As frightening as the sudden weakness, profuse sweating, and loss of consciousness are for me, I think they were more so for my poor husband.

This is the first time he’s ever witnessed me having what Mom has always referred to as one of my “spells” in person. Since he works nights, I only see him for a few hours three days a week. I’m usually home alone when these episodes hit and have to ride them out on the bathroom floor. This time, he saw it all.

I hadn’t felt well all day. I had a pressure in my stomach and had been queasy. I was also feeling rather weak and just not quite right. I couldn’t tolerate any pressure on my stomach at all. Not even the weight of my cat. Sitting even put too much pressure on me.

I was lying on the couch, talking to my husband who had tried to feed me some soup when it hit. I’d taken three bites and knew I was either going to vomit or faint. I hurried into the bathroom because I honestly didn’t know which way it was going to go, and that’s where my husband proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he loves me.

We’ve been through a lot during our twenty-one year marriage, but he has never seen me completely helpless and looking like I’m knocking on death’s door before. While he wanted to take me to the emergency room, I knew exactly what had happened. Getting better would just take time. No medicine would help.

The profound weakness that comes after one of those episodes is nearly as scary as fainting itself. My husband had to do everything for me that night. With a cool cloth on my neck and another one on my forehead, I spent the rest of the evening lying on the couch, sipping Sprite, and nibbling on saltines. He even had to help me get off the couch and into the bedroom. I just couldn’t do it on my own.

I’ve never been able to find a common trigger to my vasovagal reactions. They seem to have no rhyme or reason. They happen at different times of the day, whether I’ve eaten or not, during periods of high stress and relaxation, and even during my morning shower a couple of times. I can go years without one and then have two fairly close together.

I hate the idea of needing to be rescued. I don’t do the damsel in distress thing very well. I do a good job of taking care of myself. However, once in a while, I may be more delicate than I’d like to believe and need a rescue.

I’m really glad my husband was home on Saturday to be my hero.

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