Monday, September 16, 2013

Fainting Goats

Ever since I first heard about them, I have wanted to have a goat that would pass out. It seems to me it would provide hours of entertainment, and you also would get the milk. However, rather than receiving a fainting goat, I have become one—and in the worst setting possible.

In my small town of 12,000 souls, we have one grocery store. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that everyone is there at once. If you have exchanged terse words with someone at the MVD, they are in the freezer aisle. If you have taught a child at the local elementary school, that child is in line with his mother at the pharmacy window while you go to buy spermicidal lubricant. If you bump your cart into someone, the person in question is a respected member of your church. And so on.

The most public part of this store is the part with the check-out aisles. It faces the door and the pharmacy, and 90% of the people you know are always lined up and checking out. It would be easy to do without Facebook, because you can always just go and buy applesauce.

Yesterday, I went to the store after church. I hadn't eaten for several hours, but I wasn't hungry. I had a bunch of unpleasant paperwork to fill out at home and I just wanted to get my shopping done and get back to get it over with. I had accidentally left my cell phone on my desk before going to church and I knew my husband, after leaving his church meeting, was going to arrive home and wonder where I was. The store was busy, but everything pretty much went fine. In the produce section, I waved at two women I knew from the school I had worked at and visited with a fellow soccer mom. In the frozen section, I ran into a friend who also homeschools, and we talked for a bit about the possibility of a homeschool field trip to a pumpkin patch. My cart was extremely full, and I was thinking that after I shopped, there wouldn't be any money left in my account, but reasoned that I was planning on baking bread and so that this fact balanced out my financial irresponsibility with the assurance that I was the right kind of person—which is the kind of person who bakes bread for her kids. Whole wheat.

I got to the check-out line and had placed everything on the belt except some toilet paper in the bottom of my cart. In leaning down to pick it up, somehow I jammed the cart into the end of the aisle and whacked my knee, in that tender spot just below the cap. It hurt. It wasn't terrible, just the kind of pain that accompanies a smack of the funny bone, not the sort that accompanies burning alive or giving birth. However, I immediately felt light-headed. Lights, like glowing asterisks, punctuated the air. I could hear only as well as if I was underwater, which is to say that there were sounds, but that they seemed distant and muffled, as if ushering from another world. Most concerning, I felt like my body wanted to fall down. Fine, I thought, if I can just get through check-out, I will go out and sit in my car until I'm OK again to drive. I can do this. I have persevered through worse. And indeed I did. Staying upright demanded quite a bit of energy, but I seemed to be doing OK. I replied to the polite checker—yes, I was fine today and how was she—and swiped my card, wavering only slightly and feeling more than a little disoriented. So far, so good. I even remembered to withdraw allowance in cash for my three kids. The problem apparently came when the checker asked me if I had a Fresh Values card. I did have one and had already placed my keys with the green fob onto the little check-writing dais in front of me. But no sound came out of my mouth. In fact, I only know that she asked this because she reported it later to the paramedics when they came.

Time seemed to be punctuated by periods of strange blankness, like pages missing from a book. The next thing I knew, I was being settled into a chair (right there is the check-out lane) and given orange juice that wasn't mine. A woman who I know vaguely as a substitute teacher was talking to me and a lot of people, one after the other, were saying, "Are you OK, Ma'am?" "I'm fine," I assured them, while wavering more alarmingly and then starting to retch. A plastic shopping bag was handed to me and I retched into that. Nothing came up, but breathing into the bag seemed to make me feel better, so I did that for awhile. Then, some men that I think must have been policeman suggested that I be moved over to the little in-store Wells Fargo area just across from the check-out line. They asked to see my ID, wanted to know if I knew what today was, and if I was diabetic, and then they let me know that they had called the fire department.

It was then that I realized that from now on I needed to find a way to shop at the very-expensive health food store on the edge of town, because I was never going to be willing to darken the door of Smith's again.

The thing is I have been at Smith's with intolerable migraines. I have been at Smith's with fibro flares so bad that I felt like I wanted to collapse in tears on the floor of the paper goods aisle. But, up until now, I have never made any scene that has caused anyone to notice my having a problem. And, today—which was a day that I had felt basically fine during—I was finally and irrevocably making a spectacle of myself.

Then the paramedics came. All twenty of them. And they talked to me for a while before insisting that I get on *A STRETCHER* and go out to their ambulance. This was not what I was hoping would happen. The nice substitute teacher lady had called my husband on her cell phone and I indicated that I would really like to just have him come and get me and that everything would be fine. I had no desire to the local emergency room and have them tell me that I still had fibromyalgia and also a fainting goat gene. One paramedic looked with interest at my cuticles and asked if the injuries therein were due to anxiety or a medical condition. "Bad habit," I told her. "So you pull the skin off your cuticles?" she asked. "Yes," I told her. Everyone nodded and looked at one another. They took my blood pressure, which is always low—this time being no exception—and my blood sugar and said I should go to the ER. "No thank you," I demurred.

After signing a refusal of service against medical advice, I ended up leaving with my husband, who installed me at home in a bed and then went back to dealing with the groceries and the laundry, without expressing overmuch concern about this new wrinkle on the ongoing saga of his wife's physical frailty. This, he thought, was the most helpful thing possible. And perhaps it was. However, after all of the attention and concern from the good-looking firefighters, I couldn't help but feel that this was not exactly the reaction I was looking for: "Oh, it's just my wife. It's one thing after another with her." I began to wish I had gone to the hospital where people actually cared about me. *

At any rate, I used to joke that it would be intolerably embarrassing to actually buy condoms in the pharmacy window at Smith's and that this was most likely the cause of the multiple teenage pregnancies in our town. Now I know that doing this would not be nearly as embarrassing as being hauled like a sack of dirty laundry from the most visible section of the local Smith's. And so I would now say to any teenager who is worried about publicly purchasing contraceptives that they should rest assured—at least the fire department would not be called.

Lest you worry, I have diagnosed myself with a vasovagal reaction and determined that the thing to do would be to avoid clocking any tender nerve centers, at least while in public, in order to avoid future embarrassment. From now on, I will simply remember to wear knee pads and a bag on my head before going to shop at Smith's.

And everything will be fine.

*This is not me making fun of my husband. This is me making fun of myself.


  1. I have a heart condition that causes me to, inexplicably and without warning, pass out and have what looks like a seizure.

    I'll see your grocery fainting spell and raise you multiple public exposures.

    I have demonstrated this skill:
    -in a jewelry store, while waiting on a customer
    -in my apartment alone
    -on the side of the road, in a car
    -on an airplane, several thousands miles above Kansas (my final words to the man, whose kneecap I fondled, was to "not call 911"--as if they could)
    -in the Walmart music section of a college town
    -in the middle of a woman's church event, where I made it to the lobby and was found by a late strangler who was convinced I was dead in the foyer

    You are preaching to the choir, sister. If we lived closer, we could tag-team shop. Surely only one of us would pass out at a time.

  2. Thank God my city is so huge and uncaring and anonymous that I could go out on a shooting spree while naked and menstruating and no one would know it had been me the next day.

    Not that I've done that. But I could.

    Glad to hear you Web-MD'd yourself a diagnosis!

    1. I am intrigued with your menstruating naked shooting spree idea. Perhaps I should try that here, just as a social experiment—to collect data, you know...

  3. I am laughing so pleasantly now, and I sure hope you don't mind. You just write so well. LOL
    Fainting goat genes? Yes. Lack of grocery store anonymity so as to eliminate the need for Facebook? Perfect. The way paramedics look at each other and exchange judgements, silently? Oh my. LOL

    You poor thing. I hope you feel better and your husband calls the cute firemen as needed.
    Also... keep baking whole wheat bread. It covers a multitude of sins, or so I also hope.

    1. I have made 2 loaves of whole wheat bread and managed to remain upright since Sunday evening (except for sleeping). Think perhaps I have redeemed myself?

  4. I deal with a wife who has seizures. I feel your embarrassment.

    However, you probably need to get the sugar level tested. That sounds exactly like a a hypoglycemic event.

    1. They tested it at the time, and I checked later to see if it was normal. It was. They've tested me for so many conditions, I feel relatively safe in assuming they've already eliminated diabetes as a factor. However, none of the doctors have ever clocked me hard in a joint to see what would happen. Therefore, they totally missed this.

  5. I have never fainted, in public or otherwise, but I did fall off my neighbor's front porch as I turned to leave at the reception following his mother's funeral. Talking about an embarrassing time to try to seize attention! I don't have very good eyesight and the steps were painted the same color as the porch. I didn't realize how close I was to the top step when I turned around and took a step. Wham! I face-planted on a concrete sidewalk. Blackeyed my eye and broke my glasses! There was this long silence while I lay there wondering if I'd broken anything and then somebody said, "Are you hurt?"
    Anyway, I managed to get to my feet with my hostess's wet paper towel on the cut on my forehead and I was escorted to my door, where I told them I was fine and disappeared inside. I was OK, except for a momentary spell of double vision. The ophthalmologist told me he thought I had cracked a sinus bone and it had pinched one of the nerves to the eye. He said not to blow my nose for a few days. That was it, except, boy, did I have a shiner!
    I think your vasovagal diagnosis is probably correct. The nerves are all interconnected and you already have nerve problems. Probably just one of those freaky things that won't ever happen again!

    1. I am sorry to say that I find that story rather amusing, although I'm sure it wasn't at the time.

      I think I'll be OK as long as I keep those knee pads on...


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