So what I really wanted to do almost as soon as I got to California was to think I was dying on the side of Highway 101 with a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean, and to make Suebob stop the car and call 911 so I could go check out the emergency room of a local hospital.
Actually what I really wanted to do on my second night here was to go to Santa Monica and see Molly Ringwald and Meghan Daum in a writer's talk there last night. I'm a fan of both, but I haven't read Molly's book yet, so she's still actress-first, to me. Meghan is a writer whose voice in memoir/essays I came to appreciate long ago, and she's since gotten a gig as a columnist for the LA Times. I just really like her, and the two of them together was a bonus.
I did not get to see them. However, you're welcome to ask me what I think of local health care delivery, now that it turns out that I'm okay. (I really am. It was just a little dicey for a couple of hours.)
I had had a perfectly delightful day here, happy to be in cooler weather, just to be here. I worked with the door open, with a view of some parking lot palm trees, until Sue came over to drive us to Santa Monica.
I had never been there or to Malibu before. I was so excited about the drive and the ocean and the event. Then around one bend and up a big hill I started to feel really strange, in a way that I had never felt strange before. Pressure clamped down on my head, and my vision blurred. My heart started beating really fast. I hate complaining about being ill, and I tend to stay in denial for a period of time before I'll even admit it to myself. But I knew something was not right, and I asked Sue in a somewhat hysterical fashion to stop the car.
I got out, and that is when I decided I was dying, and couldn't breathe, and my heart, and the pulse, and all of it together. I felt terrible more than I felt like an idiot, so I asked Suebob to call 911. I couldn't calm down, couldn't catch my breath, couldn't feel better. Approximately 15 firefighters showed up a few minutes later, with a few smallish trucks and one ambulance along the side of this strange highway, which, ugh. They fanned out around me like an NYPD Blue ambush. I helpfully told them I was afraid I was dying, which I was, by the way, still convinced that I was.
Gonzalez, the unfortunate member of the crew assigned to be my ambulance butler, told me that I was not, but I didn't believe him. My blood pressure was extremely high, which isn't new, but its been so under control that I haven't paid enough attention, I guess. My pulse was very fast, as well, and I couldn't help him with an explanation of why. Not stressed, no, no more than usual. They seemed unconcerned with my changes in environment and climate, so no, no idea. Also he is not a doctor. He told me that several times, which I understand is his responsibility, but I can't say that made me feel any better at the time.
This is important: remind me never to be half an hour from a hospital by ambulance in case I pull this shit again.
I've also never been in an ambulance before, so remind me not to pull that again, either. It's not enjoyable at all.
It took a couple of hours to get my vitals down, and being terrified the whole time that they're not going to do that doesn't help that, it turns out. My eventual not-acutely-dying diagnoses were very low sodium, and dehydration, which could be karmic payback for all of my dumb jokes about celebrities and their "exhaustion and dehydration" situations. I've lost another fallback crack, because it's really not funny at all, except the part about how I came to LA and that is what happened to me. That's a little bit funny.
The ER was efficient and kind, except for a nurse who showed up late in the game, but he could have been irritated because by then I was one IV bag away from dehydration, Clinton was speaking, and I couldn't shut up about him or the speech or politics in general to Suebob, in my new euphoria that I wasn't dead and belief that it was actually, in fact, 1993. The first very nice nurse rejected my contention that I was having a heart attack, and I guess I should trust people who understand EKG results while I don't. The second was from Philly, which was some East Coast comfort, and she came with an unsolicited load of life advice that was very sweet, regardless.
I'm very disappointed and sad that this happened. I was so glad to finally have the trip done, and so bummed this happened on the other side of it, although I guess it's good that this didn't happen when I was alone with no phone reception on a highway somewhere. I'm also relieved in general, obviously, so relieved, that it wasn't worse, and a bit worried still, I admit it. How did I become this person who has to go to an emergency room twice in nine months? How? This is disturbing me.
I'm very grateful for Suebob. She was a champ in a crisis, stayed with me the whole time I wasn't freaking out in an ambulance, and generally helped me in every way that I didn't want to have to need help. This is a true, good, friend and person.
So. I'm still freaked out, and pretty tired, which is no unmanageable thing, but it's a thing. I'm going to work through my fear that this will happen again, and move on. I've been scared by my physical condition before. I was pretty upset by the initial visit to the ER in December that revealed the hypertension issue, honestly, but not like I was yesterday. I can't even rate how I felt over the two hours it took for things to settle down, give or take, and it's exhausting. It's also no treat to manage life review while I feel like that, it turns out. It was overwhelming, the people and situations and random stuff careening through my brain, most of it unresolved, and knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do about it where I was, and what the hell if I die on this road, poof, that's that. Forget about it. That will take some processing, I guess, and I am tired of nothing more than processing, so I hope it auto-processes.
My blog is my process for this trip, apparently. I wasn't that into the idea of writing this down, as much as I knew I had to for myself. I guess I'll just keep drinking water (I don't know how I can possibly drink more water, that's all I'm saying, but I will try), standing in some big gratitude that I didn't die, and that I have a very good friend who hangs in there when things get that awful. If I'm always a little bummed that I missed Molly Ringwald and Meghan Daum, I hope the universe understands. I think we all need some little rocks to cling to.