My Fainting Fit: One Writer’s Experience in Losing Consciousness

A few weeks ago, I fainted.

Truly.

I have this weird problem with my esophagus where occasionally—once every 5 years or so—something gets out of sync when I swallow cold liquid and my esophagus spasms. Painfully. On the pain scale, this is way up there. I’m just sitting there, unable to do anything, waiting for the pain to pass. And sometimes, I faint. Don’t worry–I went to the hospital the first time it happened, and they diagnosed it as “near syncope”. Which means a partial loss of consciousness. It’s harmless unless I hit my head on the way down.

What I’m going to do for you today is write a Deep Third account of my fainting fit, in present tense. I am also going to have occasional authorial intrusion, because this is not a work of fiction, and therefore, I’m allowed to be me. I wrote this the day after it happened, when it was all fresh in my mind.

~*~

So there I am, with this horrible pain making its way down my esophagus. The water has already hit my stomach, but the spasm is taking own sweet time to get there. I lean against the bed and wonder if I’m going to faint this time. I groan.

The next thing I’m aware of is movement as I realize I am sliding down the bed. I’m not aware of anything else. I’m not aware of any vision. This is not the same as not being able to see. The body can’t miss what it isn’t aware of.

To illustrate, I have a sound test for you. Pop over to this site and take the hearing tests until you reach the frequency where you can no longer hear:

http://www.noiseaddicts.com/2009/03/can-you-hear-this-hearing-test/

It’s kinda weird to play a sound that you know is there, but you can’t hear it, isn’t it? You have no perception of it. As far as you’re concerned, it isn’t there.

Well at that point, my vision wasn’t there.

I’m not aware of any sound, either. And I’m not aware of any pain in my esophagus, but I’m also not aware that anything should be wrong. I have no memory of why I am sliding down the bed, nor am I aware of any loss of memory. I am really only in the now. My legs aren’t involved. I scrabble with my arms to keep on the bed, but it ain’t working. My knees hit the floor.

And then I feel some mild alarm. It’s like I thought (but I didn’t, really), Wow. (Note the lack of exclamation point.) I’m on the floor. Why?

I’m not aware of the fact that my husband has entered the room, but I say, “I don’t know what happened.”

At this point, my hands are on the floor, too. I have no memory of how they got there. My eyes are working again, and apparently, my ears as well. I reach up to the bed and lean against it with my forehead on the mattress.

My husband says something. I don’t recall what.

Blip!

And then I say, “Yes, I do.”

~*~

That little blip? It was all my awareness flipping back on, along with my memory. I realize that my esophagus no longer hurts, and that I must have lost a second or two while the pain ebbed. During those seconds, my legs stopped working and I started sliding down the mattress. I have no idea if I went fully unconscious—I’m not sure what the requirements are for that—but I do know that as far as I was concerned, one moment there was this awful pain, and the next moment, I was sliding down the mattress with the pain gone.

Here are some important distinctions between some assumptions fiction writers (including me!) often make about fainting, and my experience of the actual thing. I”m not saying this is THE WAY IT IS, I’m just comparing my misconceptions to my own experience.

“She fought to remain conscious.”

There wasn’t any fight to it. Once my brain decided I needed to lose consciousness, it did so without any regard whatsoever to my will. I wasn’t even aware that I was going to lose consciousness until it already happened. This has happened to me twice so far, and it was the same both times.

Not only did I not know I was going to faint until I had already come to, but half of my senses shut down during the experience, and my arms and legs were noodles. I have no idea if this is something you get better at with experience. So far, no.

“Everything got hazy.”

Nope, no haze. One moment I was standing there, the next moment I was sliding down the bed. If I had not leaned against the bed, I would have fallen. I was lucky–the night table was right next to me.

I wouldn’t even describe the lack of vision as haze. It simply wasn’t there. Not only was my body not using my eyes, but I didn’t even miss it. I didn’t know my vision wasn’t working until it came back.

“She felt faint.”

I suppose this means lightheaded. I’ve felt lightheaded many times without losing consciousness, so I can’t really address this. Experiences, anyone?

One key difference between the two fainting episodes: the first time I had a buzzing sensation in my head when I came to and was kind of queezy the rest of the day. This time, I felt fine. Also, the first time, I was sitting down the whole time, and remained safe in my chair. The only thing that happened was my head fell back, and when I came to, my neck hurt. I wonder if the buzzing sensation was due to my head falling back, rather than to the faint itself.

Excuse me, the near syncope.

Have you ever lost consciousness? Share in the comments for the elucidation of all!

30 thoughts on “My Fainting Fit: One Writer’s Experience in Losing Consciousness

  1. Hi Tia :)
    I haven’t lost consciousness and I feel bad that you did, although I’m glad you wrote down what it was like. It cleared up some misconceptions I had about it – namely the ones you wrote about after your description of The Event.
    Thank you for sharing,
    Rob

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  2. Cool! –in a writerly kind of way. :grin:

    I’ve fainted twice. Once from lack of oxygen. (I was on a mountain.) And the second time was a side effect from a virus.

    With the lack of oxygen, I KNEW I was going to faint and tried to warn my husband. He didn’t believe me! And then I dropped straight down–not even a ladylike swoon. Thank goodness he caught me. LOL.

    The virus was more insidious and scary. I had just gotten up and started to dress for work when I felt a sluggishness come over me. Everything grew dark until it narrowed to a pinprick. (That’s what they call tunnel vision.) Then I collapsed and came to on my own. Judging by the clock, I think I was out only a couple of minutes.

    There are probably dozens of other ways to experience fainting, so I’m glad you wrote out yours.

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  3. Wow, Tia, I’m glad you’re okay!

    When I was 19-20 years old and away at college, I’d made arrangements with my mom to meet her and my brother at the mall. It was 1 1/2 hour drive for each of us from different directions. I got there at the designated time/place and waited. And waited. (This is BC – before cellphones.) Finally someone at the mall came over the loudspeaker with a message for me. With a lot of calls back and forth, I finally found out my mom had been in a car accident.

    I zoomed my childhood home and went straight to the hospital. By now, it’s been at least 4 hours, and they were just then wheeling them out of the ER to their private rooms. My mom’s wrist had been crushed and they all had head wounds (evidently this was BS – before seatbelts, too). My brother’s girlfriend had been with them. My Dad was away at Chicago working and her parents weren’t there either, so I made my rounds between all three, checking on them until help arrived.

    At one point, I went over to the girlfriend’s room because Mom was sleeping. She was sitting up chatting with another girl in the opposite bed. Now I’d seen all the gashes on their heads, etc. I’d cleaned my mom as best as I could after they brought her to the room. I’d been fine the whole time. But the girlfriend pulled back a bandage on her knee to show me a puncture wound from the turn signal.

    One minute I was standing just fine, and the next, I was sagging. My ears were roaring, but I could hear myself saying, “I’m okay, I’m okay.” But I couldn’t stop myself from going down.

    The girl in the HOSPITAL BED got up and caught me before I hit the floor. She helped me get into a chair while I panted and sweated, my face so tight I thought the skin would split open. I guess it was a combination of stress, no water/food the entire day, etc. with that puncture wound. The gashes were expected. A bloody HOLE wasn’t. Ugh.

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  4. I think we may have discussed my little fainting spell last year. I had that moment, once I’d pulled myself off the shower floor and stared at my colorless face in the mirror, when I thought, “Well, at least I know how to write fainting now.”

    Sometimes I think anything short of actually dying makes us writers think, “Well, I know how to write that realistically now!” It’s a strange brand of optimism.

    In my case, first I got really hot and lightheaded, and then there actually was some weird haziness–not quite a haze, but more like the light got really bright and yellow and sort of…pixelated. That was when I decided I needed to sit down on the bathroom floor, but of course I just fell into the tub. After I woke up, I was very cold and shaking uncontrollably.

    You’re right–there’s no fighting it. I never thought of it that way before. “She fought to stay conscious” will definitely not appear in any of my future works =)

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  5. Thanks for all the great fainting stories! There are evidently many different ways to faint. Joely–you made me laugh out loud. And this will all be great research for some future writer. Including us!

    For me, I wondered if I would faint only because that was what happened the previous time. Other than the pain, I felt competely normal until I found myself sliding onto the floor.

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  6. I’ve actually fainted once. I was 15, had a severe stomach virus, and was resting in bed between episodes of vomiting. At one point, I thought I felt better and was going to get up, turn on the light, and get a book. I stood up…and the next thing I remember I was back on the bed and 20 minutes or so had passed. Kind of anticlimactic, because I didn’t even realize it till after the fact.

    Last week I came close to fainting repeatedly, and it was terrifying. And FWIW, I did fight to remain conscious, because my lizard brain thought of it as fighting to stay alive. (I was never in mortal danger, and on some level I knew that intellectually because no one was calling 911, but the lizard brain was in control.)

    I’d given blood, for the first time in ten years, and had a bad reaction, we think because of a combination of factors including a medication I was on. I nearly passed out before I even tried to sit up, and then for the first two times afterward. It felt like there was a darkness crowding in all around the edges of my vision, my arms and legs felt floppy and weird, and it was as if something heavy was sitting on my chest. I didn’t notice it at the time, but I’d broken out in a sweat all over, to the point that the cot I was lying on was covered in damp patches when I finally managed to sit up.

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    • Susanna, what was it like to fight to stay conscious? For me, there was no such obption. I was just gone.

      It sounds like a terrifying experience. Did they stop drawing blood? Did you go to the hospital? Or did this happen after you were finished giving blood? I think I remember you tweeting about this last week.

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      • The best I can describe it is that I was thinking, “No, no, no, MUST stay awake, will NOT give in, MUST think, MUST talk, MUST ask for help.” All through this wave of pure terror.

        All this happened right after they stopped drawing blood. I’d been getting a very little bit dizzy before, but not in a scary way. I didn’t go to the hospital, but they kept me in the blood drive room for a full hour, even though for the last 20-30 minutes I was just sitting at the juice and cookies table reading on my Kindle and occasionally having my blood pressure and ability to converse rationally tested by the tech.

        I went back to work after that (blood drive was in my building, so it just meant walking to the elevator), though I had trouble focusing–and the next day I was looking at my email thinking, “I read that yesterday? Really?” That night I took it easy, and the next day I still felt a little drained when I had to do things like walk up hills. But by Friday I was normal again.

        I’m not sure about ever giving blood again, though. I might feel obligated to try if I were O-, but I’m B+.

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        • Wow; that’s totally different from my experience. For me, there was no sense of trying to stay awake. It was just “blip!” I was out and “blip!” I was back.

          Of course, I had not just given blood.

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        • Susanna, if you tell them you faited after giving blood, they might not want to take it again. That’s what happened to Dad when he fainted the evening after donating blood. They didn’t want to risk it again. That was back in 1950, so I suppose things could have changed, but I wouldn’t count on it. {lop-sided smile}

          Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

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  7. I’m glad you’re okay. I haven’t paid attention to myself on the few times I’ve felt faint/lightheaded and to my knowledge I’ve never lost conscious.

    I remember picking up a friend from the hospital after he’d had surgery on his broken ankle…the nurse was wheeling him in the wheelchair, I was walking next to him…we were chatting about nonsense one second and the next — mid word — he was slumped in the chair. I notice it about half a second before the nurse and she elevated his feet and we were headed back inside. When he came to, about 30 second later, it was like a light came on or the power and he finished the word he’d been in the middle of.

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    • Ok, now that is wild. Finishing his sentence like that. My husband tends to be very badly affected by anesthesia and he never remembers anything for about 36 hours afterward. Me–I was still in the operating room when I came to. The surgery was over–thank God–but they had JUST taken me off the anesthesia, and I was fully alert.

      I think I startled the anesthesiologist.

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  8. I’m glad your okay, Tia -and (I hope this doesn’t sound too warped) I’m really thankful to everyone for sharing all these different experiences. I’m healthy as a horse, which is great for me, but not so great for describing sicknesses, broken bones, ect.

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  9. I have fought to remain conscious, and it was a lot like the experience Susanna describes. In both cases it would have been extremely dangerous to pass out – one time I was on horseback, and another I was driving in 60 kmph traffic. In each case I focused all the attention I could spare into breathing steadily and on keeping myself safe – keeping my seat when on the horse and keeping the wheel straight and slowing down when in the car. My vision grew dark around the edges and black spots hovered in my field of view. I just kept telling myself that passing out was not an option. On the horse (this was during a group lesson – I was probably dehydrated, I felt a bit ill but decided to try to push on through it) I got out of the way of the other riders, reined in and dismounted, then sat with my head between my knees until I felt better. In the car, traffic was too heavy to pull over easily; I reached a red light first, and by the time it turned green I’d recovered a bit, but I still pulled into a side-street to take a few minutes to rest. In both cases I think I had a fair amount of adrenaline in my system, and I’m sure that made a difference.

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  10. I have a very strong reaction to the sight of my own blood and have either fainted or come close to fainting every rme I’ve cut myself severely enough to cause a gushing of blood. On the other hand, I’m also a nurse and have absolutely no problem at all with other peoples blood LOL.

    I also have what’s called orthostatic hypotension, or a sudden drop in blood pressure if I get up suddenly after I’ve been sitting or resting so I have a fair amount of experience with feeling faint and/or actually passing out. When I was younger this used to really worry me, but I’m actually healthy as a horse so now I just accept it as one of those weird little quirks that we all have.

    Anyway, the times that I’ve actually fainted, I don’t usually get much warning and I can’t stop it. I get hot and sweaty and I go down like a rock. I’m never out for long. When I come to I’m cold, clammy and queasy, but that passes in 10-15 minutes as long as I stay down with my head between my knees, or just lying down flat on the floor taking deep breaths for awhile.

    As for feeling faint when I get up from lying or sitting down, that happens so often that I know exactly what to do. I just grab the wall, or stand still for a bit while I see stars and my head swims, then it clears up and I’m fine. It typically only takes 10 or so seconds to clear. I don’t think I would actually faint, I just feel dizzy and lightheaded during that time and then I’m fine.

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    • I had that problem when getting up during my blood pressure issues of a few months ago, so I know exactly what you are talking about. I never fainted, though, and I never came close to fainting. I did get vertigo.

      Jo, your experiences were really different from mine!

      Chicory, I’m getting the same sort of perverse enjoyment from reading these. I’m glad everyone is ok! Maybe this post will be useful to someone someday when some reader recognizes the signs of fainting and takes the appropriate action. From now on, whenever I feel that pain in my throat after swallowing, I’m going to sit down as fast as I can!

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      • Good idea. After one true faint during a niacin flush, I started sitting down immediately as soon as one started, and not getting up until it was clearly over. I didn’t faint fully again. {Smile}

        I was still very glad when we figured out it was induced by taking non-time-release niacin. Getting off it and switching back to time release stopped the flushes and the fainting. I hoped it would. I’d taken timed-release niacin for years with no trouble. {Smile}

        Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

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  11. People faint differently, but many people will describe what I’m going to describe now.

    I have fainted a number of times and except for the first time–when I had no idea what was happening to me, no sense of the warning signs–I put up a tremendous fight to stay conscious.

    For me, it is always a fight. A battle of will. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose.

    The first symptom is that everything feels slightly farther away. Sound starts to blur into a distant roar. My vision actually narrows. It’s black around the edges and starts to contract. This is when I know I’m going to faint and I start to struggle.

    I try to scream inside my head that I won’t faint, can’t faint, it’s dangerous. I try to focus on one thing…a sensation, a sound, anything that will bring clarity to my brain.

    Meanwhile, the blood is draining away from my face, though this isn’t how I’d describe it as its happening. I feel my face go cold. My lips get numb.

    When you faint, your body decides to protect your vital organs. Blood gets pulled to your core. This is why most people who faint feel cold and look pale even if they experience this as a hot flash.

    If I can’t stop myself from fainting at this point, I will completely check out. Once, I fell like a sacrificial ox onto the tile floor and hurt my head. Another time, suffering from pneumonia, I sat up in bed beside my husband and said, “I think I’m going to faint.”

    Then, just like the author of this post, I woke up beside my bed on my hands and knees and asked my husband why I was on the floor. He says that my eyes rolled back and I keeled over. He grabbed me by the shoulder in an attempt to stop my fall and that spun me into the dresser; I apparently regained consciousness somewhere mid-fall because I protected my face from the dresser with my hands, then caught myself on the floor.

    After fainting, the symptoms are also usually the same. Fainting is a reboot of the body; I think it doesn’t know if you’ve been poisoned or what. It wants everything out. This may be why many people who faint will start sweating profusely. I also experience intense nausea afterward.

    It’s never a delicate pretty affair like in those Regency Romance novels!

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  12. The only time I fainted was right after the birth of my first child. The nurse got me up and took me to the bathroom, and I fainted. I don’t remember the actual fainting part, just waking up lightheaded and going, “Did I just faint? Wow, I fainted! I’ve never done that before!”

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  13. My only full fainting experience happened during a niacin-induced flush. Fainting isn’t a normal symptom of taking niacin, tho flushing can be. {lop-sided smile}

    So it can’t be typical, which maikes me wonder how useful describing it would be. {smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

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  14. Hi! I am a french Canadian novice writer ( I mean unpublished) and i just fainted for the third time of my life tonight. I am 38 and i faint about once every 8 years.
    Fainting is pretty common among creators. Dostoievski, Shaeskepeare and Bethoven were great fainters. I also recall the movie ‘‘Wonderboys‘‘ where Michael douglas‘s character (A writer in the movie) fainted twice.
    I‘m no psychologist but maybe it‘s related to the subconcious; In a way, the writer lives the life of his characters. Characters who often go trough great emotionnal challenges. This combined to the real everyday life challenges of the author may just be too much for the concious mind to handle making us shut down unexpectedly.
    On a personnal note, everytime i fainted i felt slightly dizzy just before it happened and then it‘s a sudden lights out! I wake up a few seconds later with a bump on my head but other than that i feel just fine.
    As long as it is not a regular occurence, i don‘t think that it is something to worry too much about.
    Wow! It‘s almost 3:00 am now and i should put some ice on that bump before i get to bed.
    I hope everything is fine for you and welcome to the bumby heads guild!
    P.S. Forgive my english!

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    • Your English is very good!

      I’ve found out that I seem to have a problem with my swallowing reflex, and I get an esophageal spasm sometimes if I swallow cold liquids. They are extremely painful, and my brain just says enough! And then I faint.

      I am now very careful about the amount of water I use when I take a pill.

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  15. Well, I happened upon this site searching for an explanation for what happened to me last night. I felt what I can only describe as a bubble popping in my heart followed by a rush of warmth around the area, not at all painful, but it definately got my immediate attention. I am not one to get others excited about what could possibly be just some strange unexplainable event, so I went to bed after doing some research on my phone. I found nothing similar to my experience so after lying there a few minutes I felt a tingling sensation running up my left arm and after rubbing it for a few seconds as one would do if their arm had fallen asleep I felt like I was going to pass out. I jumped out of bed to go downstairs to let my husband know something was very wrong with me, I was afraid I was going to pass out and he would have no idea. I told him I needed to go to the er as I felt more like I was fighting to remain conscious. I experienced tunnel vision, fading in and out, blurred lights, very muffled hearing, while my body was trying to collapse for an entire 7 to 10 minutes. Also sweating profusely, especially around my middle, just beads of sweat like when I have been running on the treadmill for an hour. I really thought I was dying. They ran a bunch of tests, everything checked out great. What I am most perplexed about is the lenght of time I was fighting to remain conscious. The funny thing is they had written “dizzy” as my prognosis on my chart. I was never dizzy or lightheaded. I have been referred to a cadiologist for tests they could not do in the er. I have no insurance and would never go to the er unless I felt like my life was in jeapordy. I know it’s a risk not having insurance, but we are self employed and just try to live very healthy lifestyles. By the way, I am just 33. I have felt like I was going to faint several times, from getting up too fast, giving blood, but that was totally different. Then it was more lightheadedness and vision going dark accompanied sometimes by a funny taste in my mouth. This time it was totally struggling to remain conscious and really feeling like if I did pass out I would not wake back up.

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  16. I have been searching for someone to describe what they feel as they struggle to come out of a fainting spell with no avail. It disconcerts me a lot. I faint when blood is drawn and now I dread even the sight of a needle. However, now I’ve added to my repertoire by fainting when I get a really bad migraine and feel like throwing up. I understand the mechanics of the vasovagal response and all that jazz, but I’ve yet to stumble upon a single person that can discuss what it feels like inside (inside your head) as you struggle to come out. It is the most horrid experience that I know of and I dread it. When I pass out, I have no idea it happened. However, most people say they just come back, dandy-do and nothing more. For me, it is a lot more bizarre. My first impression upon re-emerging (inside my head) is that of being before some sort of visual loop, a nauseating visual loop from which I am unable to escape because I do not understand what it is I’m looking at or have any awareness of who I am. The thing that makes it so disturbing is that I cannot seem to be able to focus my vision, so the loop seems to go on forever, it truly feels like I’m stuck in a hell of sorts where I can’t form a coherent thought or muster the wherewithal to make sense of my situation. The nauseating loop goes on and on and on. At some point, after struggling for what seems like a thousand years, I somehow either manage to focus on some object, or like yesterday, when I passed out while sitting on the john (after a migraine made me nauseous), somehow I finally managed to get my hands to hold my head even though I had no awareness of where my hands where. I just knew I was in danger of keeling over, not because of a sense of space, but because of some vague, but urgent recollection that I was sitting on something. Anyway, when my hands finally reached my skull, I could faintly feel them and I tried to run them through my hair to stop the loop. That’s when I can identify the hiss in my ears and slowly I begin to truly emerge and realize that I am me, that my body is attached to me, and that weird visual loop retreats, leaving me in that shaken state of hot/cold sweating and nausea. I would like to know if anybody else out there goes through this struggle to come out. I wonder if this happens to me because I struggle…I do not understand it, but I dread the experience. It’s a complete loss of self. Trying to grasp at straws while feeling like that is the most disconcerting experience I’ve ever had. And not being able to control my eyes is highly unpleasant. Other than that, I am in excellent physical condition and I’m quite athletic, but I guess stress and a migraine can do this to you…great.

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  17. Pingback: Niacin fainting | Imperialtaco

  18. Perhaps I should begin by saying that the idea of fainting, for me, used to be associated with shame: it threatened a masculine fantasy of toughness and invulnerability (which in my case was first punctured as a child when I was put to sleep for a minor operation). I say ‘masculine’ because I suspect it is more common among men: but there is nothing manly about it; it is rather a sign of anxiety and insecurity, or at least in my case it was. I have got over this feeling and am now more interested in describing the experience: that is how I came to find this site, where the descriptions are fascinatingly concrete.
    Anyway, I have had two experiences of fainting, or perhaps I should say one and a half because the second time I didn’t lose consciousness altogether. I’ll describe that second time first, though, because it was a more commonplace experience: in fact, it fits the conventional model described by Tia, but not borne out in her own experience. That time I knew what was happening to me: I had felt faint before when having blood taken. I had been in hospital several days. Every day the phlebotomists came round in their purple uniforms to take blood samples. That particular day, the nurse had difficulty finding the vein. She called her two colleagues over. Suddenly everything started to fade. The nurses were dark shadowy figures before me. I heard one of them say ‘He’s fainting.’ ‘No, I’m not,’ I said. I made a great effort to fight what was happening to me. Everything came back into focus; I felt a bit weak at first, and after a while I felt all right again. But I wonder if, but for the nurse’s words, I would have lost consciousness altogether.
    The first time, I did. This first time was quite different: I didn’t ‘feel faint’, only a strange and frightening sensation; everything didn’t go hazy, and there was no question of fighting unconsciousness: I simply succumbed.
    It happened a long time ago: I must have been seventeen. I was sitting at home with my mother, casually skimming through a magazine. I came upon someone’s description of having a heart attack. The subject was of no interest to me, but I read on. The person in the article described pains in his chest: I started to feel a pressure weighing down on my own chest, and a strange sleepiness. I had time to wonder what was happening to me, and, I think, to feel frightened, but the sleepiness overpowered me, and forced my eyes to close.
    I opened them. I was slumped in my chair, probably sweating. My mother said I had fainted. To me it felt as if I had just closed my eyes for a second, and I tried to convince her it was nothing more than that, but she was clear that I had actually passed out, and, being a nurse, she ought to know. Had she woken me, I wonder, by calling to me? How long I was unconscious, I don’t know: I didn’t think to ask her because I was too dismayed and embarrassed by what had happened; and then angry, which was in retrospect a very childish reaction. Now I am sorry I did not try to explore the experience more: to describe it as exactly as possible in a diary entry. But I am glad I have had the experience, and don’t have to wonder what it would be like.

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  19. I have fainted three times. First time, I was driving my car home. I’d had a anesthesia/Big Nurse pre-op at hospital –what to expect prior to surgery, what happens in recovery room, and then what happens once you are in your hospital room, including IV and the tube up your bladder — catheter. Up until the bladder bit, I was calm. Suddenly, I panicked — kept it inside — (I’m a trial lawyer and you learn to show an expressionless face so that jury does’t realize that dude testifying on the stand has just ruined your case). Anyway, as I was driving home to change clothes for work, my heart started pounding crazily, both eyes started turning gray from the outside to the in, and then: I was unconscious. (How lucky am I that I live on a quiet street, at least it is at 11 am, and no one crashed into me.) I was out for just moments.

    Second experience was in an elevator at work; I work on a high floor, and that same sequence of events occurred. As I fainted, an unfairly handsome and super-quick F.B.I. agent, caught me one inch from the floor. He carried me out of the elevator, placed me on a couch and called for an ambulance. But by then, I felt fine and he called off the ambulance. I’m married, and no romance ensued, but I’m telling ya . …

    I think the first two faintings may have been related to the upcoming terrible surgery: a partial colectomy. (Either a panic attack or a-fib). I was right too; we had to do it, but it has caused a great many awkward moments in my life, and painful ones too. When 2/3 of your colon is gone, if ya gotta go, you have maybe a minute or two until all hell breaks loose. As to trials, etc, I just don’t eat dinner or breakfast or even drink coffee (hell!) the day/morning before.

    Last fainting was the worst. Happened two days ago. I have a problem with my esophagus or trachea. Sometimes when I’m eating. or even drinking water in the middle of the night, my throat clamps up. It feels like it is spasming and it hurts. I pound it with my fist, I feel like I’m going to pass out. Then, it lessens and everything is ok. However, this last episode was really different. I was pounding my chest and then, mini-seconds later, I was flat out on the kitchen floor. There was no pre-aura with my vision disappearing. I remember nothing at all. Two days later, I’m covered in bruises on my left side.

    Issue: I’m having another big surgery in one month. (had a double mastectomy, and a chest stretcher was placed in the muscle behind the breasts. It is slowly filled with fluid so that the muscle expands — this takes about 2 months with once per week visit). Before the surgery, I’ll have the usual pre-op jazz, but this time I have to have a full physical (last time too). I don’t want to tell my internist about the throat spasms because I’m afraid he’ll want to explore the problem before he’ll give the plastic surgery the okay. And because my plastic surgeon was booked for months (I’ve been waiting 4 MONTHS to get these hard baseball appliances removed from my chest, I don’t want to wait another minute. If we explore the spasm/faint issue, I may not be able to timely remove these dreadful (and bumpy) baseballs and replace them with the real, well real-ish, implants put in.

    Worse yet, I’m having a total knee replacement on July 31. If my breasts and surrounding tissue aren’t fully cured, the knee surgery is off — I’ll be using crutches and pushing a little cart after the knee surgery and you can’t do that if your breasts aren’t completely healed. As it is, I can barely walk more than a few steps. I’m thinking that if I tell my internist about the spasm-fainting thing AFTER the breast implants and before the knee replacement, I’ll be good. He can check it out between the surgeries. I really don’t want these lumpy baseballs and plastic tubes in me for one more minute.

    Plus, I heard the testing for the esophageal spasming is extremely uncomfortable. I just can’t take any more pain and trauma.

    Any readers have advice about whether I should tell my internist about the esophageal spasms before the breast surgery? Thanks. I know this fainting-thread has gone on for three years and my post has gone on for three hours, and the prospects for a reply are slim, but I can still hope.

    Thank you kindly, and yes you may wish me luck!

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    • Hello Pamela. Best of luck with your upcoming surgeries. {Sympathetic Smile}

      I’m afraid your esophageal spasms sound like something your anesthesiologist would want to know about during your surgeries. That might help them prepare for and even head off possible complications. I’m afraid I can’t think of a good way to alert your anesthesiologist without telling your internist as well. {apologetic smile}

      And thanks for sharing your fainting experiences. I haven’t had anything quite like them, myself. They do sound difficult. {Sympathetic Smile}

      Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

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  20. Hi, Pamela; thanks for posting. I didn’t realize so many people posted here without my being aware of it. I usually reply to all posts. I think before I moved my blog, I was not notified of replies after a certain amount of time.

    Anyway, I found you post both hilarious and alarming. God bless you for keeping your humor during all this trauma. I absolutely think you should talk to the doctor about your esophagus spasms. What if they get worse and you are unable to swallow at all? As for the test, they can’t force you to do it, after all. Just describe your symptoms as best you can. You do not want to be in a position where you have just swallowed a gulp of liquid and your esophagus refuses to work. I bet the muscle stretcher is causing the problem, and that particular complication will not be a surprise to your surgeon.

    In the meantime, I have found some relief (not complete) in avoiding cold and fizzy soda. I also recognize the particular tightness in my chest when my esophagus is more likely to spasm. Warm liquid helps at those times.

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