Syncope – My transient loss of conciousness

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During the week while giving blood I lost consciousness, it seems from the outset a fairly benign thing to happen. Before this experience I thought of fainting as relatively common thing, not really something to to fear or feel dread towards. But the experience has left a mark, enough to warrant a little discussion.

I give blood on a fairly regular basis, (every 12 weeks or so) my records showed that I had given blood 9 times previously without any issues, I had drunk plenty of water and eaten before giving blood. My blood pressure was good and my heartbeat was healthy.

While watching the blood travel down the clear plastic tube I felt an uncomfortable pain in my stomach, at first I did not feel too concerned but very quickly the nausea increased. I felt the light of the room dim, a wave of anxiety come over my body that was not warranted. The colour of the room changed in tone from bright white to yellowish tinge. It was then that I knew something was wrong, this was reminiscent of an experience on LSD, I knew that my body was not O.K.

I politely raised my hand to the nurse, simply because I wanted to rip the needle out of my arm, it was one of those moments that warranted an instant response but it seemed to take huge gulf of time to get anyone’s attention. The next moment was simply black, I had passed out.

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When I came to, I saw my legs raised in front of me with about five people around me opening their mouths but I could not hear anything they said, I was unaware of where I was, or who I was. I looked around like a new born baby unaware of anything. Very quickly I recovered the world was still grey which could of only lasted less than half a minute. I broke out in an intense fever like sweat and temperatures seemed to change in my body, until they stabilized

The nurses gave me oxygen, it took me half an hour to return to normal I was at work and started to face some ridicule from some people at my work that were also giving blood in the blood bus, the social implications of my passing out was the last thing on my mind.

A few days after the event when the horribleness had warn away it occurred to me just how trippy the experience was, how bizarre not knowing who I was or where I was. It was a reminder of how mortal we are. I don’t think as people we are invincible, but I had not really contemplated just how small the gap is between living and dying.

There is also a kind of stigma attached with people who faint that had never occurred to me before as if they are weak or frail individuals, some people in my workplace seemed to be unable to see that I was putting myself in harms way to help others when I fainted.

There was a cross examination from all parties and questions raised by people. One was the inevitable ‘maybe you should not give blood’. The nurses explained that this just happens sometimes, you are taking blood out of your system some people faint.

However I got a phone call a few days later from the blood people suggesting that maybe I should not give blood anymore, I had convinced the lady to keep me on the register but just the suggestion that she would take me off after what I had been through really upset me.

Philosopher Peter Singer asked a blood donor why he gives blood in his book about altruism ‘How should we live’ the donor answered ‘No man is an island’. 

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