My recent 2-week trip to Kenya was wonderful. Traveling with my family, I met new friends from all over the world, spent a week at a resort on the Indian Ocean, attended an Africa-themed wedding and went on safari. For some time now, I’ve been pondering the possibility of stepping out of my comfort zone. Well, be careful of what you ask for, I was reminded. I not only stepped out of my comfort zone, I fell out of it.
As one might expect on a journey around the world, with a variety of new experiences, adjustments to schedules, new food and time change, my body was doing a dance to keep up. I tried to maintain healthy eating, keep up an exercise program and get plenty of sleep, but said body was struggling. Before the trip, knowing that change and disorder would accompany me, I’d scheduled extra sessions with my personal trainer, Rebecca. Despite my best efforts, Mother Nature had her own ideas for me. Mother-daughter dynamics plus a trip to Africa proved to be a lethal combination.
It was the return trip that got me. Our journey included a 6-hour flight from Mombasa to Istanbul, 2-hour layover, then 11 hours to Washington, DC. We flew out of Mombasa at 4:10am. My attempts at sleep proved futile before I began my sojourn. I was out of sorts, thirsty, hungry and tired, as I steeled myself for the 20-hour trip that stretched before me like an unending midnight.
After one measly hour in the air, I did myself in. Sitting over a plate of breakfast, complete with spinach for strong bones, I recall my last thought: “How am I going to make it through this trip?” My next moment of awareness was filled with worried flight attendants staring down at me, a very kind passenger-doctor who came to my aid and an oxygen mask covering my nose and mouth. I hazily heard my husband saying that I had most likely had an episode of vasovagal syncope.
And, not my first.
Bottom line, I fainted. Since I have experienced such episodes before, I know my triggers: dehydration and extreme stress. Having had difficulty maintaining my fluid intake on the trip because the water was non-potable, I was definitely thirsty. Telling myself that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make the trip was the final blow to my body’s up-to-that-moment heroic attempt to absorb all the shock I’d subjected it to. I was fine once the crisis passed, with no after-effects, other than the blush of embarrassment and reassurances of my well-being to everyone on the plane.
Back home, safely on terra firma, I made an appointment with my doctor. When I explained what happened, she described it a classic “fight-or-flight”, while referring me to a cardiologist to ensure there are no underlying heart problems.
It’s my version of “I gotta get out of here.” When it’s not possible to make an exit gracefully, my mind decides that it is going, regardless of what my body is up to.
So now, with all the pictures of the beautiful ocean, lovely people and exotic animals, I will always have an overlying photo of me, prone, across the row of seats on Turkish Airlines, as dozens of worried eyes wonder what to do.
Vasovagal syncope is not that uncommon. Have you ever gone through an episode?