syncope

The way calculus presents

Dr. Foreman: The kid was just taking his calculus exam when all of a sudden he got nauseous and disoriented.

Dr. House: That’s the way calculus presents.

Passed out for the first time (anniversary)

Today (February 19th) is an anniversary of sorts for me. After knowing “something” was wrong for a long time — I used to tell doctors it felt like I had been poisoned or was experiencing the symptoms of anaphylaxis or sepsis — I went unconscious for the first time on this date in 2014.

While that in many ways was a horrible event — if I had fallen to the right instead of the left when I blacked out I probably would have cracked my head on the bathtub and died right then — in the end it was necessary for doctors (and I) to take things more seriously, which resulted in seeing a total of 26 doctors to learn that I have MCAS, a rare but treatable non-contagious blood disease (something I was born with).

What joy is there in this moment?

The mast cell disease has been kicking my butt the last few weeks, and I’ve come close to losing consciousness several times. Had this been eighteen months ago when I didn’t know what was going on I surely would have lost consciousness, but these days I at least know that I can try to rapidly load up on the meds and do some other things to stay conscious.

One thought I’ve had during these times is, “What joy is there in this moment?” I don’t mean that in a negative thing; in fact, I mean it as the exact opposite. For example, when the syncope started last Thursday at 2:15am and I ran outside to sit with my head between my legs in the icy cold weather on the porch, I asked myself this question. My first answer was that the cold felt good. After a little while I noticed the faint sounds of an owl making “Who ... who” calls somewhere in the distance, and combined with the cold dark silence, that was very pretty.

Frankly, my main thought was that if I was going to go unconscious again – something you never know if you’re going to come back from – I wanted my last thoughts to be of something joyful, and that’s when I started thinking to ask myself, “What joy is there in this moment?” If you’re having a bad day or a bad moment, I encourage you to ask yourself that question. For me it’s been a way of finding some gratitude in my most difficult moments.

MCAS treatment

A few notes from the article I linked to:

This post discusses medications used to treat MCAS. Doses listed are taken directly from “Presentation, diagnosis and management of mast cell activation syndrome” by Lawrence B. Afrin. These doses are general recommendations. Medication should always be taken under the direction of a provider who knows you and your case personally.

Trying not to go unconscious at 2:15am

I woke up Thursday morning at 2:15 am and quickly knew something was wrong; if I didn’t act fast I was going to go unconscious for the eighth time. I threw down some Zyrtec and Benadryl, put some ice in a towel, went outside, and sat down with my head between my knees. (When I get close to passing out I feel extremely warm, like some form of hyperthermia, so I try to cool down as fast as possible.) I don’t even know what I did wrong this time, but that’s how life with MCAS rolls.

Struggling to say things pleasant or unpleasant (or not)

Many people seem to struggle to say things that are either pleasant or unpleasant. I can’t speak for anyone else, but having gone through the process of not knowing if I was going to live through many days in 2016, I find it easier to say pretty much anything now. It’s like you really know your time is limited. If I had died one of those times instead of just getting sick and going unconscious I wouldn’t be here now, so it’s like I got some free tickets to have fun at the circus for a little while longer.

(I suppose that sometimes when you’re dealing with the opposite sex you have to be a little careful. Today I told a woman that I liked her hair (it was tinted red-ish), but then when I got “that look” I clarified it by adding that I didn’t say that because I wanted her to come over tonight to bake some cookies, I just liked what she had done with her hair.)

The correct mental state for Zen and mindfulness meditation alvin January 7, 2018 - 11:56am

There’s a scene in the movie, The Family Man, where Nicolas Cage is sitting in a chair and trying to stay awake, because he knows that when he falls asleep his “glimpse” will be over.

The moments just before passing out are like that. Assuming that you’re not panicking, you’re vibrantly aware of everything around you — colors, smells, etc., because you don’t know if you’re just passing out or this is Game Over.

The end of a lucid dream can also be like that. You can be in the dream, know that you’re dreaming, and then know that you’re starting to wake up. You don’t want to leave, but you don’t have a choice, so you pay great attention to the environment because you know that you may never see it again.

To the best of my knowledge, all of those are also the correct mental state for Zen and mindfulness meditation. As Shunryu Suzuki says, “The true practice of meditation is to sit as if you are drinking water when you are thirsty.”

(Namaste)

Good news (finishing book), bad news (syncope)

March 4, 2017: I’m glad to say that I’ve found a good way to write the end of my book on Scala and functional programming, and I’m writing as fast as I can to get that completed. Unfortunately the bad news is that I started getting sick again this week (pre-syncope and syncope (passing out)), and it’s been slow going because of that. But if I can stay alive, I’m finally happy with how this book is working out.

Back to life and yoga

February 19, 2014: I passed out for the first time. Before then I knew I was sick, but that was the first day I went down.

*three years of hospital visits and dozens of doctors*

February 19, 2017: For the first time in many years I’ve been able to practice yoga on a daily basis. As usual, during the first several weeks it was difficult and I was sore, but these days all is well. Soon this body will be rock hard and incredibly limber. :)

Here comes the OFF switch

In a way I feel fortunate to have passed out quite a few times now. It’s like it’s my body’s way of saying, “Look at you, taking life for granted again — here comes the OFF switch!”

(Fortunately it has just been a Pause switch so far.)