Thursday, May 21, 2009

Appreciations (4) …my “sick sinus syndrome” saviours

Appreciations (4) …my “sick sinus syndrome” saviours
Torrey Orton
May 21, 2009

Here I revisit a “heart event” I had six years ago. Much of the following text was written four weeks after that event and I present it as written with a few editorial deletions and insertions. Some additional setting description and commentary (like this) is added in italics.

I was walking down Clarendon Street in Sth Melbourne on my way from one meeting to another about 9:15 am. I’d been walking 30 minutes at my normal quick but not breathless pace, feeling fine, when I suddenly felt faint, fuzzy, weak and thought, ‘where can I sit down?’ – which was the last conscious thought I had until I woke up on my back looking up at Jane and some medicos around 11:30am the same day in The Alfred Hospital trauma unit. Lesson number one: if you feel faint just sit down regardless of the dignity protocols that may be compromised in the act. I figure it was 1-2 seconds between the first conscious sensations of losing my senses and fully doing so. I’ll try to remember that – though I shouldn’t have to again if the pacemaker works. ….

And I haven’t had to remember for safety’s sake, but the story is a powerful one for showing the difference between the speed of thought and unconscious processes. As for my dignity, it’s still likely to be a cause of concern.

It appears that I had hit the curb from my full height (191cm, which the trauma people told Jane was twice the minimum level considered a dangerous descent) with a significant proportion of my full weight (107kg, at the time), fracturing slightly “a small bone” a bit above the right ear, leading to internal bleeding in the brain which prompted a seizure that went on for some minutes – thrashing around enough in the public pathway to chew a tear in my tongue, bounce my head on the hard parts a few more times, swallow a reasonable amount of blood into my stomach, inhale a portion into my lungs and attract the attention of someone who did two smart things (at least): call the ambulance service and take my handkerchief (I almost never use the things these days but have always carried one in the same place for 35 years of more) from my right rear pants pocket and stuff it into my gnashing mouth. …

..and on the way did not take anything out of the other pockets – keyset, wallet, watch: all present in the hospital bedside cabinet, including the blooded handkerchief..

The role of chance / luck in all this – One example: if this moment had occurred at the same time a day earlier I would have fallen out the door of a Bridge Road tram under one of two cars that were illegally passing the tram after it had stopped (I was leaning out to check if any yobbos were passing the stopped tram, which they do so often here that not looking before getting off a stopped tram is an invitation to an earlier death). Another example: if this moment had occurred while driving us around the Falls Creek neighbourhood a week earlier we could still be unfound down a ravine, which was subsequently incinerated a week later by the bushfires we could see ringing the high country we were driving through. And so on. A newly acquired respect for fate, luck, chance, etc, …

Finally, there’s the status of me as meat* – which is the only intellectual position from which I can summon the images of my unconscious states, especially in the first hour of the events. It’s a peculiar result of seeing myself as an object / subject of fate – as an entity whose intentionality is wholly in the hands of a series of others (some of whom I never saw – the critical care ambulance guys and who ever called them!). These others collectively by their actions affirmed what I could not: that I was more than meat and thereby made it true.

My experience of being saved by the system is what I want to recognise and celebrate. I am very aware from living in other places – notably China – that this kind of health system is not widely available across the world. Second, where it exists, it may not be well run, especially at the level of service provision. The para-medics service (Ambulance Victoria) has been an object of political contention and governance doubt for some time, but whatever the sources their service was excellent. Third, it is stunning that a matter so life and deathly should be handled with such precision and care both by the stipulated role holders and the passing public. My thanks, again.

*See here for a wonderful take on ‘meat’ which illuminates various pretensions of the meat class of conscious beings.

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