the boys

the boys

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fancy Fainting Part 1

Twelve years ago today I had what I found out later would lead to a life changing event.  For the 6th time in my life, and 2nd time in church, I fainted.  In true Gwen fashion I didn't just faint.  I made a whole production out of it. 

It was Sunday of Memorial weekend and our tiny Mary Immaculate Catholic Church was overfull.  The church that seats a max of about 80 probably had close to 100 people crammed inside.  People were lined up along all of the walls and squishing as many people as possible into each pew.  This, my friends, should have been my first clue.  But as usual I was completely oblivious to my "condition."  After a 13-year gymnastics career had ended just 4 weeks earlier no one would have suspected that I had a serious medical issue.  Even though as my senior season came to a close my body was screaming at me that something was wrong.  I didn't listen and none of us noticed.  Nevermind that I was violently ill after every competition for about the last 2 months of the seasono.  Nevermind that I had lost that now famous (to a few) 5 pounds in just one week of the past Christmas vacation....something that had NOT happend in the three previous Christmas breaks!  Nope, we just all assumed I had the flu....every single weekend!

So my body had been trying to tell me, but I wasn't listening.  Fast forward to Memorial weekend 1999.  Crowded and hot church.  Allison was serving at Mass and just before Communinion...BAM....she hits the floor.  Yup, she fainted.  I swear my dad was halfway up the center aisle before she hit the floor.  He knows to keep an eye on his daughters in a hot stuffy church.  So Allison is led to the fresh air. 

Then I start thinking.  And that's where it all went wrong.  I know now that my condition is actually related to the nerve that leads from my brain to my heart so THINKING about passing out is most surely going to lead to passing out.  All of these years that I had ignored those pre-fainting feelings had actually served me very well.  Had I known what was going on in my body I probably would have fainted daily.  Ignorance was bliss, as they say.

So I started thinking, and thinking, and thinking.  And the more I thought, the weaker I got.  And I'm thinking to myself "I might pass out.  No, I won't pass out.  I might.  I will just sit down.  No I think I can stand.  NO better sit down.  No.  I'm ok.  I'm ok...I'm ok, I'm ok, I'm ok." 

And the next thing I know the paramedics are standing over me with that damn smelly stuff trying to get me to come to.  What I know now is that my poor older sister had suffered the brunt of my fainting once again.  This was the 3rd time I had passed out next to her.  She knew the drill.  Try to catch me and lay me down.  She and I together had tried to make it to the back door for fresh air but I hit the ground before we made it out.  But I think, if I know the story straight, that my dad actually ordered her to sit down before she passed out too.  We had 2 out of 3 Spidle girls down on that day. No need to push the envelope here.

Like I said before, I don't just pass out.  I get fancy with it.  I seizured, stopped breathing, required CPR from the respitory therapist that I know God placed in our church that morning just for my benefit.  I was splashed with Holy Water, because it was the only thing available in our tiny church.  I guess if I was going to do it, that was as good a place as any. So there I went, headed 50 minutes away to Liberty Hospital by ambulance with the lights and sirens going.  Not that I remember, I was still out of it. 

In retrospect that should have been another major red flag that no one picked up on.  It took me a good hour or so to really come around and know what was going on.  Then another several hours before I really could get up and walk around or resume any normal activity.  But by the time I got to the hospital and was hooked up to all of the monitors, the doctors couldn't see anything obvious going on.  I had been through this before.  Once in that very hospital, once in a Las Vegas Emergency Room, and once in a surgery prep room in Tuscaloosa before one of my ankle surgeries.  The other two times I am pretty sure happened during the middle of the night and I miraculously recovered on my own without CPR.  One of my doctors later told me that it was "likely" that I would always come around on my own without the help of CPR, but honestly why chance it.  Is that something I want to worry about every day?  Ummm, NO.

There I was at Liberty Hospital ER.  They couldn't really put their finger on what had happend and I had been through this before.  I begged for them to discharge me so that I could return to Alabama to see all of my team physicians at the University of Alabama who I really felt would take a closer look at the whole picture.  And so they did.  I discharged to my parents, slept all the way home and for a few more hours on their couch, and then resumed normal life.  Normal life was about to change drastically, but that blog is still in the making....

I don't think a Sunday goes by, especially at Mary Immaculate, that I don't think of that day.  Especially on today.  My what a difference 12 years makes!!

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