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August 27, 2008

Awesome: Some species die out, others survive. The reasons are not always clear. Sometimes they are very clear: Water Buffalo leave no man behind. (Also, when opportunity knocks, crocs open the door.)

Scary: Commuter Flights Grounded Thanks To Bumbling TSA Inspector

Brilliant: Downfall as a template for corporate implosion: Equity Private. Also: Puzzle Alarm Clock (via Kim).

Understandable: Gawking tourists not welcome in the Castro.

Funny: Will It Blend, Chuck Norris Edition; A Lego Star Wars comic called From Bricks to Bothans; Hot Chicks with Douchebags (the girls may be on the skanky side, but the guys are way more than a bit on the douchey side); Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Presidency.

August 22, 2008

I donate blood (platelets only, via apheresis) about every four weeks, and have done so for years. Today, after donating, having the provided juice and snacks, and hanging around for 30 minutes at the blood center (15 minutes longer than they required), I felt extremely weak and lightheaded as I got out of the subway on the way home, and had the MUNI agent call me an ambulance just in case. While I waited I felt tingly hands and feet, my throat started to feel like it was constricting, and I broke out in a cold sweat. I sat on her chair in the gate agent booth and put my feet up, and it passed in a couple of minutes, before the paramedics arrived. I went to the hospital anyway just to be on the safe side, and they ran some tests. Diagnosis? Common blood-donation aftereffects, compounded by a panic attack. I had never felt so unwell, ever, and freaked out when I couldn't feel my pulse and my hands and feet started to get really tingly and numb. I may also have had a minor case of dehydration, although the apheresis donation process that I volunteer for replaces lost blood volume with (I think) saline solution.

Specifically, this type of episode is called vasovagal syncope, though I didn't quite pass out; I was just really close. Columbia University has a good description of the physiology in their Neurocardiogenic (Vaso-vagal) Syncope article. Essentially the lack of blood volume causes the heart to have to squeeze very hard to create the blood pressure your body is trying to maintain, and after a certain point the heart is squeezing so hard that it's dangerous for the heart, so your body takes drastic steps to get you to stop standing up so that your blood is not pooled in your feet.

So, I was in an ambulance (for the first time) and emergency room, they did some tests (including an EKG), had some more blood drawn for sugar and potassium checks, and waited... a lot. Clearly the least ill person in the emergency room gets the short end of the triage stick, but I did end up sitting around for an hour, apparently for no reason other than that the doctor was busy with other patients.

Aside from the delay, everything was handled extremely well by everyone involved, from the MUNI agent to the paramedics, nurses, and doctor. I can see room for improvement in the hospital experience (it's not exactly a warm and inviting environment), but in general I'm happy with the way I was treated and the level of expertise that I encountered.