Saturday, February 23, 2013


The second time I fainted I was in my sister's dorm my Freshman year of college at BYU. I had to have blood drawn for a life insurance application. I warned the visiting nurse that I get a little faint with blood draws. She drew one vial as I sat with her at the table. I was relieved when she finished as I was just starting to feel dizzy. Then she pulled out the next vial to fill and BAM. Next thing I remember, I was on the ground with my feet all caught under the chairs. Luckily this time I didn't hit my head or lose my bladder! I am a little surprised she didn't take more precautions, like have me sit on the soft couch instead of on hard chairs next to a hard table, but luckily I wasn't hurt.

Maybe you've caught on that my fainting incidences tend revolve around blood, particularly my own. During dental school I was in a pre-dental class. An oral surgeon was showing us pictures of the cool things he has done. I was amazed at the gunshot wound repairs (pretty gory pictures) and some of the other surgeries he had performed without any signs of squeamishness. But when he turned out the lights and started showing a video of wisdom tooth extractions I began to feel very sick (ironic, I's embarrassing to admit this). All I could think of was, "I can't believe they did that to ME!" Of course, I ran to the bathroom just outside our classroom after debating with myself what to do. I sat on the bathroom floor against the wall in the entry way, hoping this would prevent me from passing out.

Too bad that didn't work! Next thing I knew, I was waking up from a very deep sleep, unsure where I was, only to find that I was lying in the bathroom of the MARB at BYU (a busy classroom building) with a girl holding my feet straight up in the air (treating me for shock, I guess) and a bunch of girls huddled around me.

This time, I knew immediately what had happened. I said to myself, "Not again!" I felt very exhausted and hot and tired. And the big tip off was I had again relieved my bladder all over my pants. Someone called the ambulance. I told them I really didn't want to go by ambulance, I had just fainted and this had happened before. But I had hit my head (evidently as I fainted, I fell forward and bonked my forehead so loud it brought the other girls in the room running) and there was some questionable seizure activity again. I wasn't conscious enough to request someone just call my roommates or sister or friend (all who ended up being very close by, even one trying to come into the bathroom but not being able to due to the commotion and not knowing it was me and another waiting by the ambulance to see what was going on) to take me to the ER. I cried as they wheeled me into the ambulance as I was super embarrassed (almost all of my biology major friends were on their way there at that time for a class) and unhappy this had happened again.

Unfortunately, this time they were more worried about a seizure. I was placed on dilantin (anti-seizure medication) and given seizure restrictions like not driving. This was very tricky as I had to find people to drive me to work, hospital appointments, etc. I started taking the bus more often, bummed rides off of friends of friends for things like hospital tests, and felt very unlike myself. It was like I was walking around in a haze, I had daily headaches, and the medication made me very emotional.

I had to undergo EEG brainwave testing. After staying up all night except a few hours, I would report early the next morning. The first time a friend stayed up all night with me to keep me company, only for me to miss my alarm when I went to bed the few hours I was allowed. Oops!

When I finally made it to my test after rescheduling, they hooked me up to a bunch of electrodes on my head (I looked a little like Medusa), put me in a bed, and told me to sleep. You aren't supposed to move during the test unless you are actually sleeping and of course I was unable to fall asleep. Instead, I seemed to itch everywhere! When I would give in and try to scratch they would kindly remind me, "Try not to move Erin!" When it was all done, they gave me a brush and wished me luck getting all the sticky stuff out of my hair.

Luckily after a few weeks I was able to go off the medication and get back to my regular activities. But this experience really shook me. I was worried I wouldn't be able to become a dentist if I was such a fainter. It also left me with a $1000 ambulance bill (for a 2 block ride) that ruined my credit for years when it was inadvertently not paid immediately in full -- my bills got lost in the mail when I moved and I was unaware they were unpaid by my insurance.

It did help me learn to swallow my pride and ask for help when I needed it. And it made me grateful for my mind and my ability to be independent and quick witted. It was really disconcerting to feel like I wasn't able to think clearly, go places alone without being worried something would happen to me, or be able to do simple tasks like walk to school or go to work without needing someone else's help. And I decided to not worry about it and continue my applications to dental school.

1 comment:

Camber said...

Isaac's grandpa (a doctor) had a friend in medical school that once fainted into a dog's gore during dissecting--and ended up becoming a surgeon. I myself used to be super grossed out by blood but wanted to be a doctor--so I decided to become a "non-blood" doctor. Those exist, but there's no avoiding blood in medical school! Good for you for sticking it out and still having the guts to go forward with dental school. It's amazing what you can get used to, I guess.