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A Trip to the ER Prompts Some Serious Soul-Searching

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13)

First of all, I have to say that anyone who is still in denial about climate change in the face of this present heatwave, needs to have their head examined. It no longer matters the why it is happening; it IS happening. Period. If we can, we need to slow it down because temps of this magnitude are killing people and animals and the earth. If you have children and/or grandchildren, this should matter to you. Because they are the ones who will suffer the consequences of our inaction to address this issue…

I do not handle heat well. I jokingly tell everyone that my dream home is in Alaska. That is partly true. “Partly” because my stereotypical vision of Alaska is of snow and ice and cooler temps; I’m a fall through spring kind of gal. Give me crisp, fall temperatures and I am unstoppable. Three feet of snow outside? As long as the woodstove is going, the animals safe and snug in their barn, and I’ve got a good book, a cuppa tea and a couple of felines to cozy up to and it’s the ultimate. But I don’t fly–at least if I can avoid it–so such a move would mean an almost total separation from me and the many people I care about. That’s the part of the statement that would be untrue; I would not like to be that far away from those that matter most. I have enough family and friends scattered about the world that I seldom, if ever, get to see. While I might consider relocation from time to time, Alaska would be a bit extreme. We’ll save it for the bucket list of places to visit in the future; I’m not sure I would want to live there. (wink)

But that’s neither here nor there and getting a little off topic: the ER (Emergency Room)…

I do not handle heat well. I never knew how accurate that statement was until two weeks’ ago.

What has become an ordinary day for me started with the usual protest as the alarm went off. I don’t remember if it was a good night of close to 7 hours of sleep, or the more common 6 hour squeak. My body craved more, but I finally dragged my butt out of bed, wincing as the plantars fasciitis worked itself out along the hobble down the hall. Meditation, blogging, some early morning gardening have all gone the way of the Conestoga lately; yoga only sporadically entering into my morning routine. I may have done some yoga that morning; it’s a bit hazy right now…and probably always will be. I do remember running–literally–through the morning feeding/watering routine, yelling at chickens, ducks, goats, etc. to get out from underfoot because I’m running late as usual…and then the now-routine guilt trip that ensued, making me pause at least long enough to scratch a few heads and apologize for my mad-dash through life. The usual hour-long drive into work and also now-routine soaked-to-the-gills-standing-before-the-fire-cooking-in-three-layers-of-period-clothing-in-90+ temperatures followed. Only this time, I kept catching myself as the room spun a little before my eyes. My co-worker, a lovely volunteer named Diane, kept suggesting maybe I should sit down for a minute, drink some water. I did. Frequently. But more visitors would come and I’d be up again. This was the fabric of my day. And has been since this heatwave started. When the day finally ended, though I had been careful to keep drinking water throughout the day, I could definitely feel the effects of heat exhaustion. Another co-worker–this one a junior intern (high school student working at the museum for the summer) hailed me as I walked to the parking lot. I turned to greet this young lady and nearly toppled over; I barely caught myself in time. When I got home, it was blessed relief to feel the AC running. I took my time with evening chores, getting an early jump on feeding so I could get to bed a little earlier. My body needed rest. And I knew it. I’d be okay with a good night’s rest. Really, I would.

After 9 hours of sleep–a luxury for me and usually unheard of–I awoke to the alarm and sat up in bed to shut it off. The room spun completely out of focus. That’s not good. Carefully, I reached over to grab my cellphone and turn off the ever-increasing volume of a mechanical rooster crowing. I sat for a moment to get my bearings, head pounding. Then, hobbling down the hallway again, I found myself holding close to the wall to keep my balance. The stairs were a nightmare; I clutched the banister tightly and went down one step at a time, stopping to be sure my foot was firmly planted with each step. I considered calling into work. Then, stubborn, I persisted in getting ready for the day; I can’t afford another day out. I ate breakfast. The room kept spinning even while I sat to eat. I clutched counters, tables, chairs, whatever was in reach as I fed cats, rabbits and Smoky the Cockatiel. I zigzagged across the barnyard with buckets of water and feed, a different sort of panic entering the surprisingly gentler requests not to get underfoot this morning. I clutched the rooster tractors for support as I fed them. And finally made up my mind that maybe I’d better go to the ER because this dizziness was not going away and this was a bit more than mere heat exhaustion.

When I got back into the house, a whole half hour had passed in what would normally be a 10-15 minute job and I wasn’t even dressed yet. Running late? That would be an understatement. I made the call, pulled a skirt on over the cut-off leggings I wore to bed and got in the car.

Yes, you read that right…

Probably not the brightest decision I’ve ever made…

Don’t try this at home, kids…

When everything spun out of focus at the foot of my driveway while I was looking back and forth to make sure no traffic was coming, I probably should’ve pulled back in and called someone to drive me (an ambulance??). Again, do NOT try this at home, kids. Amazingly, and only by the grace of God, I managed to drive to Day Kimball Hospital all in one piece…and without injury to anyone else. Their parking lot became a bit of a challenge though. I found a space right next to the staircase leading up to the ER doors. Again, I clutched tightly to the banister, this time with two hands and pulled myself up each step. Like the barnyard, I zigzagged across the road that runs between those stairs and the sliding doors of the ER, and hugged the walls to the check-in desk.

Day Kimball Hospital has never moved so fast. There was a wheelchair behind me before I’d even finished telling them I thought I had heat exhaustion. I can also tell you that allowing orderlies to run you down to triage when all the world is spinning crazily before your eyes is a little like when Captain Kirk orders, “Warp speed, Scotty!” Just this blur of lights flashing by and before you. I’m not sure how I managed not to toss my cookies. They hooked me up to an IV and then another when that one finished. In between, they did a CAT scan to make sure I wasn’t having a stroke. At some point they fed me juice and graham crackers. I slept most of the day. I did a lot of praying, too. When I wasn’t sleeping, or praying, I was answering texts from my supervisor, who had messaged me as soon as she got the message I’d left on the call-in line, saying that I was heading to the ER for heat exhaustion. I was also doing a lot of thinking…as much as anyone can when their butt is burning from reclining on one of those wonderful gurneys for 7 hours’ straight (chuckle).

But it’s no laughing matter.

I am lucky.

I am lucky it wasn’t a stroke. I am lucky not to have passed out coming downstairs, feeding livestock, behind the wheel. I am lucky not to have hurt anyone in my travels. I am lucky to be alive.

I lost all of my electrolytes. Though I drank plenty of water, I did not replenish things like potassium and zinc; instead, they were getting flushed and sweated out. A sports’ drink, or Pedialyte, or even some orange juice from time to time would’ve helped. Not having incurred an incredible amount of sleep-deficit and stress would’ve also helped.

Those 7 hours, plus the 5 days’ enforced convalesce that followed, gave me a lot of time to reflect and think…as well as bear the brunt of family and friends’ fury that I didn’t wake, or call, someone to help me. Asking for help from time to time is not a sin passed bearing. It does not make me weak. Or a failure. Or any of the other insults the Adversary whispers through my brain. In those 5 days, and all of the days that have followed, as my body has rested and my equilibrium slowly restored (almost), inside, has been another sort of re-calibration.

“Those that matter most,” climate change and the environment, my homestead and all of the creatures who share it with me, this blog and my writing, herbs and natural health, my faith–these are the denizens of my attention and care. This is what matters most. This is what makes me, me. This is what brings me joy in this life. And I’ve been neglecting all of them…while also being a bear when dealing with all of them, human or humane. This infernal heat has only excerbated the bear-like personality; stress, sleep-deprivation, and living life like an out-of-control robot created this grizzly. Adding to the stress has been the incredible guilt that my reaction to even the simplest pleas for my time and attention has elicited. Changes need to be made. Better care taken of myself so that I can be here to share this life with family, friends, and pets, so I can write those stories, paint those pictures, work this homestead and worship the God of my heart is what needs to be changed. I can no longer keep this breakneck pace–especially in this heat–without serious consequences.

So I am slowly, painstakingly, removing the stress-causing entities in my life while my body still struggles to find that balance again. What matters most? My therapist and I have been working closely on this ever since. I’m learning to say, “no!” to some of the demands on my time that are not necessary. I’m learning that it’s okay if I finish that homework assignment a little late. I’m learning to even say, “no!” to that serpent-like voice that pushes me beyond endurance to be the perfectionist with everything…and snickers more guilt into my consciousness for a day off spent relaxing with a book, or watching a few videos, instead of working outside in the heat. My health is more important. And filling my time with those I love, and doing what I love, will go a long way towards improving that health and well-being.

This “salt” lost her flavor in more ways than one. Though my faith cautions against selfish behavior, in this case, selfishness, in the form of doing what it takes to be healthy again, is necessary.

May God bless you & keep you!

7 thoughts on “A Trip to the ER Prompts Some Serious Soul-Searching”

  1. Thank you for sharing this Lisa, I’m so glad you are doing well now. Beautiful writing. Please take care of yourself, you are needed and do a lot of good.

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