Sunday, I was about to fly back to Stockholm. I hadn’t been feeling too great, but then I generally haven’t been feeling great lately. My blood pressure has been at the lower end of healthy since I was a teenager. It runs in the family. People like to tell me low blood pressure is good. I usually ask them to try to go to work when you can hardly stand upright, let alone speak.
I would have classically fainted and dropped to the floor, except that the moment my circulatory system decided to shut down all non-essential functions I was on board of an airbus, seatbelt fastened, tray table securely stored. In fact, we were headed for the runway already. So there was no dropping. When I could see again through the black clouds, I was lying on several seats. Somebody was pushing an oxygen mask on my face, somebody else was taking blood pressure. They later told me it read 70 to 30. 150 people had to wait while I was carried back out of the plane. An ambulance brought me to the airport hospital.
Several people poked holes into my arms before they found a vein to put me on an IV drip. They measured blood sugar; it came out to be low but still normal. Blood pressure went up some twenty points or so. I was told they’d keep me there for some hours and pump half a liter isotonic fluid into my blood stream, confident I’d be labeled “fit to fly” after this and be able to take the next flight to Stockholm. What happened instead was that my blood pressure hit bottom again. They put me on a glucose drip, back into the ambulance and brought me to the next hospital, suspecting inner bleeding or pulmonary embolism. I had hold onto my hand baggage, but my checked-in bag was meanwhile on the way to Stockholm.
In the hospital, I was handed over to a doctor who took me off the glucose drip and did a few exams. She found nothing of concern, then poked more holes into my arms trying to take blood. Eventually she used a butterfly-needle (a tiny needle commonly used for children) and managed to extract some drops. Having done that, she went to get some forms to note down my medical history. The second she left the room, I got sick and my blood pressure plummeted again. They hastily put me back onto the drip, blood pressure down to 62 to 35, body temperature plummeted to 34C (93 F). “Centralized,” somebody mumbled, schemes in white coats around my bed. An internist pushed electrodes on my chest to take an EKG. They gave me some injection which remarkably enough raised the blood pressure within a matter of a minute back to 100 to 70. The EKG turned out to be normal.
I had to stay for the night with blood pressure being monitored, not even allowed to go to the restroom without a nurse because they were afraid I might faint. Blood pressure finally stabilized around 90 to 50something. The blood picture came out with some minor aberrations; I was prescribed a stack of mineral pills. They asked me a lot of questions: Has this happened before? Did I not drink enough during the day? Maybe eaten something funny? Ever had problems with the thyroid glands? Afraid of flying? No to all of the above.
I am still in the hospital. The last days, they’ve done numerous tests and collected a seemingly endless amount of numbers, notes and graphs in a large folder with my name on it. They checked my heart and lungs and found nothing of concern. I am sharing the room with a women who is here for hypertension – her blood pressure is more than twice as high as mine.
After 3 days, I asked the nurse if there’s any internet connection available in the building. She stared at me in disbelieve. “Internet?” she asked, as if nobody had ever dared before to have such an outlandish question. Luckily I have my BlackBerry with me. Stefan, who came to bring me clothes and sweets, told me the main entrance is cluttered with signs prohibiting cell phone use. Well, I said, I didn’t come in through the main entrance and nobody told me. After 4 days I sneaked out of the hospital with an IV needle on my arm and a device on my chest recording the heart rate, and bought an USB internet stick. (Thanks to Phil for the suggestion!) So here I am again, hitting “mark all as read” on my Google reader which announced 1000+ unread items.
Reason I’m telling you this is that last night, listening to my roommate snoring, I decided I’ll put this blog on a break. I feel like I need some time to find equilibrium. As you probably know, I live alone in Stockholm and of course I’m wondering what might have happened had I not been around people. While it’s a relieve the docs didn’t find a serious problem, not knowing why it happened means to me it can happen again. Comments on this blog will remain open, and I encourage you to have a look at our archives, but you might not hear much from me for a while. I hope you understand. I’ll be back.
If the result of yesterday’s test comes out okay the docs say I can go this afternoon. I hope I’ll be able to make it back to Stockholm and find my bag. And that the health insurance will cover…