You join me for the epilogue of my adventures in Birmingham. Part three is here part two can be found here and part one is here.
Firstly I apologise for the last post’s rather cruel click-bait cliffhanger.
It’s not my intent to worry anyone – but honestly jamming everything about the experience of the weekend into one post (whilst at the same time doing it justice) seemed frankly impossible. For those that are a little squeamish I also apologise. I end up in a bad way during this post.
So – on with the story…
I didn’t get much sleep after the ball – but I felt good. Even when sitting on the loo I at 5am I was still smiling.
(You’re welcome by the way internet)
After all – why shouldn’t I be feeling happy?
The night had ended with some great company, lovely conversations, the start of some hopefully excellent future friendships, some very enjoyable social media chatter with people I’d met as well as a comfy and cosy bed in a warm room.
Although I spent much of my time in a swanky hotel on Sunday morning staring at a dark ceiling unable to sleep I really didn’t mind. I’d navigated a massive evening of socialising and mingling without a single drop of alcohol (I only consumed water, coffee and diet coke) and worked through the nerves that I usually associate with such events really well. I’d been outgoing, chatty, managed to not clam up or find myself stuck for things to say – and I was actually really rather proud of myself.
Not so long ago when faced with a similar work gathering I’d unexpectedly clammed up and afterwards remarked casually to friends that ‘events used to be easier when I drank.’
I was almost immediately annoyed with myself after I said this, because what I realised was that I didn’t miss alcohol because I needed to drink.
I missed it because it had been enabling me for many years to avoid getting better at chit chat. Managing interactions whilst either mildly or completely under the influence of alcohol had made it possible for me to avoid improving my small talk.
In truth I don’t think I’d ever really tried to get to know people at social gatherings without additional lubrication. Rather than working on what was clearly a weakness (who would want to speak to a failure like me anyway?) I just cared less that I was continually below average.
In alcohol’s absence therefore existed little else but fear and nervousness.
Ever since I admitted this to myself I’ve been trying to ‘fix‘ it – and the only way to do it and remain sober is to continually push myself outside of my comfort zones. Familiarity is the key and this is my constant goal.
I therefore counted the previous night as tick in my ‘win’ column, and as I watched the time on my watch edge closer to 7am I eventually resolved to give up on sleep and instead got up to go down for an early breakfast in the Hyatt’s serene piano bar.
There was absolutely lovely classical music all around when I arrived (I was the first person there!) and the smell of freshly cooked bacon and mushrooms in the air…
The breakfast was particularly awesome – and since the previous night’s meal had barely touched the sides (I’m a guy in need of way more generous portions than the ones that were served up at the ball!) I ate this without any guilt whatsoever.
Mind you – I still avoided the sausages, hash browns and toast because I’m not going to change all of my good habits regardless of how great I feel!
Although I’ve often struggled with meeting new people one thing I’ve never been shy about is asking them for more coffee – and I was already on my second pot by the time my ‘wing-woman’ from the previous night arrived to share the table and chat about the evening.
By the time I’d finished catching up with her, the fabulous new woman of the year 2018 and a few lovely SW consultants on the next table I’d probably nailed about 6 pots of strong black coffee before headed to my room to pack and check out.
It wasn’t until long I was heading from Birmingham to Warwick in a car with Angie, her husband and Jodie – a fellow consultant.
Around about here something very very odd started to happen.
I don’t normally suffer from car or motion sickness but I felt my head becoming light, and the car suddenly felt oppressive, hot and decidedly uncomfortable. I took my hoodie off, tried to adjust the air vents and took deep breaths but nothing seemed to help the sensation.
I felt myself slowly going quieter and my conversation tailed off. I couldn’t look down or out of the window without feeling strange and soon asked my companions if any of them minded me opening a window.
Before long I had my forehead completely outside of the car at around 70 miles an hour and was desperate for a cold breeze and for all motion to stop.
I started counting slowly in my head to try and work through it. By the time I was nearing 500 I couldn’t take it a minute longer and asked Angie’s husband to pull over.
We stopped in Balsall Common at a Sainsburys petrol station and by this time I was finding it difficult to stand. I sat on a wall for a while to try and compose myself and noticed that I was shaking and clammy – as well as beginning to shiver. I couldn’t decide whether this was due to the temperature and the rain (it was drizzly and cold and I was in a polo shirt) or the underlying problem – whatever it was.
Surely it was just car sickness though right?
I needed to grow a pair, man up and get back in the car.
I was holding everyone up (not that they seemed to mind in the least). Since they all had to get back home to their kids and I was worried I would cause problems with childcare so I forced myself back into the front seat, holding onto a cold bottle of water (that felt wonderful against my skin) and hoping that things would improve.
Barely half a mile down the road I was once again unable to carry on and practically staggered out of the car when the car stopped at some traffic lights.
I just opened the door unceremoniously and stepped out. Once more I was struggling to stand and shaking – but now the sensation was far worse.
What on earth was going on?
I tried walking back and forth but it was getting harder to comprehend what was happening. This was like travel sickness ramped up beyond anything I’ve ever felt before.
I couldn’t figure out whether I wanted to fall over, be sick, drink water, warm up, cool down or just pass out. If you want to step into my shoes then imagine the worst ferry crossing in the world on turbulent seas and then multiply it by the highest number you can think of.
Then double it.
In a final attempt to push on I once again got back into the car and hung my head out of the window. We were barely 6-7 miles from home – so at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.
It really really wasn’t.
Another mile or so down the road I begged Angie’s husband to stop and once more lurched out of the car. By this time I knew something was very wrong.
I was clinging for dear life to a wrought iron gate in someone’s drive, had no idea where I was and could barely stand. Before long I was fighting for consciousness and my companions were getting really worried.
They weren’t on their own.
I could no longer speak properly, my face was numb and I was unable to respond to questions despite what I tried to say. I could either stutter incoherently or was completely mute. Although I could hear and understand everything I felt completely incapable of interacting and every sound, light or movement was excruciatingly difficult to bear.
The world was suddenly oppressive and loud and everything was sensorily terrifying.
I could hear Jodie next to me on the phone to the emergency services and I felt Angie rubbing my shoulder and holding me upright. Before long (guided by a voice on the 999 line) they were trying to assess whether I was having a stroke or a brain haemorrhage.
I could see Angie’s husband out of the corner of my squinting eye standing in the driveway ready to flag down the ambulance that was apparently on it’s way.
How long had I been there? Time was losing all relevance and I was getting lost in the moment.
The more the questions I was asked and the harder I found it to say ‘No – I’m OK’ (when I clearly wasn’t) the more scared I became. Was I having a stroke? Was this the last time I’d be me?
What if I dying?
My companions (on advice from the emergency services on the phone) prised me off the railings and lowered me to a floor where I curled up into a foetal position on the wet leafy driveway – which belonged to a kind old lady (called Sue) who had rushed out with a blanket for me.
I heard Sue saying she’d recently lost her husband and had suffered a brain haemorrhage herself shortly after. She thought it looked like I was too – and then all of a sudden I stared crying.
I was getting progressively more and more terrified. What on earth was happening to me? I couldn’t uncurl my body, I was trembling more and more and couldn’t see properly. I could barely move or open my eyes and I could hear the growing concern in the voices of my companions.
All I could think was that they had to get home to their children and I was messing everyone’s day up – and this kept looping through my mind endlessly.
Then the ambulance arrived, the paramedics hopped out and I was loaded onto a stretcher.
They told me once in the ambulance that it looked like I was experiencing a vertigo attack. This was just confusing to me at the time – I wasn’t at altitude and I hadn’t ever suffered from vertigo. Were they trying to keep me calm because they suspected something worse?
Were they lying to me?
I could still barely move and the slightest motion made everything spin. The whole world seemed to feel alien and I still couldn’t speak. In minutes we were heading for the hospital but all of the roads were blocked.
Angie sat next to me in the cold and darkness of the ambulance and I heard her speaking to my brother and my friend on my phone – telling them what was happening. Suddenly I started to be violently ill – and began pouring the contents of my stomach into a vommit bag the paramedic had placed on my chest.
It wasn’t pretty – and all I could think was how sorry I was to be ruining everyone’s day – whereas all they could think about was whether I’d be ok. It’s funny how your priories get skewed at times like this…
After what seemed like an eternity we were at the hospital and I was loaded out of the ambulance in a mostly frozen position. By now any kind of movement was horrible and I just wanted everything – absolutely everything – to stop, regardless of what it was.
Soon I was in a cubicle, rolled onto a bed by a burly nurse and the lights of the room were dimmed which helped. Light and sound and warmth were the enemy. I wanted only silence, cold and darkness.
Not long after the nurse had helped me with some (ahem) intimate necessities the duty consultant arrived to confirm the paramedic’s diagnosis. After ushering my brother (who’s arrived shortly after) and Angie out of the room he started prodding and poking me all over and checking my vitals and blood pressure.
Earlier in the ambulance I’d mentioned that I’d lost a lot of weight in the context of saying that I had previously existing medical conditions that may have been contributing factors.
Although my diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all currently in remission it’s always good to be forthright – however they didn’t seem to believe I was over 20 stone lighter until Angie confirmed what I was telling them.
They’d clearly relayed all of the info to the doctors and nurses regardless of whether they believed me or not.
‘Hmm’ said the consultant, looking at my arms and stomach. ‘I can see you’ve lost a lot of weight.’ He said, manipulating my rather saggy abdomen.
More fuel for my already paranoid self image.
‘Yes. I have. You’re all lucky you didn’t meet me three years ago.’ I replied, trying to be jocular, even though I felt anything but cheerful. ‘You wouldn’t have been able to lift me onto a stretcher or out of the ambulance back then.’
He nodded, engrossed in his work, and set about taking some blood samples and my pulse.
‘Your heart beat is really low.’ he said, sounding a little concerned.
‘It’s always like that.’ I said, lifting my Apple Watch. ‘The fact it’s over 50 now is abnormal. My resting rate is usually just above 40.’
He nodded again, looking surprised, but accepted it since I seemed to be really confident about what I was saying.
‘I walk a lot.’ I said rather pathetically.
‘Well I’m pretty sure it’s just vertigo.’ he eventually said.
‘What the hell!?’ I replied weakly. ‘Why would this come out of no-where, and why so bad?’
He sat on the side of the bed with one foot on the floor, like he was about to read me a story and turned to me to explain.
‘Well we’ll have to check your blood and confirm it – but these things can just happen. It could be an inner ear infection – but it could also be brain related. However everything that’s happened is just textbook for vertigo. Your brain, nerve impulses and inner ear are just out of sync and when this happens everything shuts down. We can give you an injection to block nerve impulses and some pills to help the side effects. Hopefully this will ease the symptoms and it will get better.’
Dr Ahmed seemed to be correct.
After jabbing a needle in my butt, giving me some pills and installing a drip (and around around six hours elapsing) I started to feel a bit more human.
I eventually left hospital with a prescription for another four days of medication that I’d have to return the next day to collect.
After a short taxi ride and a rather ginger drive home with my brother (I had left my car and house keys at Angie’s earlier the day before) I was sitting in my house feeling decidedly sub par.
Truthfully I still don’t feel great but I’m just glad I’m able to speak and not curled up terrified like a quivering infant in someone’s driveway under a blanket.
Since I’m a cup’s half full kind of guy I have to look at the positives here.
- When this happened I wasn’t alone, and the people I was with were absolutely legendary in their compassion and support. I cant thank them enough. Angie sat holding my hand in A&E waaaaaaay longer than anyone had to. If there’s a medal for consultants who go above and beyond the call of duty she deserves it. She’s a wonderful friend and no mistake.
- If I hadn’t have lost all of this weight who knows what would have happened. This was yet another non-scale victory. Would I have choked when I was sick?
- The ambulance and doctors almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to lift or treat me and I couldn’t have fitted in the cubicle bed.
- I would also have been unable to use the bedpan whilst lying down. The nurse who helped me as I struggled to move and cope wouldn’t have had a hope in hell of shifting my position in bed back then.
- I’m alive – and although I still feel… really odd… the worst seems to have passed.
It seemed that this was a relatively common phenomenon – and going to A&E is actually what the NHS website recommends in cases like this.
The following day (feeling like I still had a nagging hangover from an epic night out on the lash) I started browsing through their website and came across this – which is practically a boilerplate description of what I experienced.
It doesn’t seem like five minutes since I was sent a photoshopped version of myself in a hospital bed (link) after a bizarre ‘catfishing’ incident but this was for real.
Although I normally don’t speak directy to people in my blog on this occasion I will because I’d like to finish by thanking each and every single person that helped me, showed understanding and compassion, and that has reached out to me via text and social media to check on me since this happened.
Sometimes I feel quite vulnerable on my own and they have all made me feel like I’m being looked out for. They have all reminded me just how much goodness there is in the world, how many selfless and genuine people there are out there and how I appear to be surrounded by them.
It’s times like these that I’m reminded possessions and status are completely immaterial.
True riches can only be found in the hearts of others – and I am a very very wealthy man in this respect.
If anyone needs me internet I’ll be taking it really really easy.