health

What’s Wrong with Me

“Do you do Zumba, too?”

I’ll bet I’ve been asked that question hundreds of times, no joke. You see, my wife Sarah is a fitness instructor. Actually, she’s not just a fitness instructor. She’s a kick-butt fitness instructor. Take a look at some of her videos on YouTube and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about. As a result, I’ve heard the aforementioned question on more than a few occasions.

If you think about it, it’s an odd question, because I’m sure the reverse very rarely happens. I don’t think anyone ever asks her if she edits audio, doodles caricatures, writes comedy reviews, or interviews people for a podcast. If I meet someone who works at Michael’s, I don’t ask her husband if he works in a craft shop, too, and if I meet a mechanic….well, you get my point. It’s just a little weird to me.

Be assured, I’m never offended when I’m asked if I also do Zumba, but the query has been posed to me so many times, it’s just kind of taken me by surprise. There are two answers to that question: the short one and the long one. I always give the short one, which is to say I smile, chuckle, and reply, “No, I don’t like to pass out in public.” It usually gets a laugh and then it’s on from there. If only they knew that the short answer isn’t just a joke but exactly what would happen.

This post is the long answer.

There’s something wrong with me (insert joke here). I don’t know what it is and apparently neither do the doctors I’ve gone to see. To put it simply, when I move around so much that I sweat, I also get really close to passing out. I have no idea why and it’s plagued me since I was in my late teens, early 20s. I run around, I get hot, then I get dizzy, then I either need to run my head under water or else it’s lights out. Weird, huh?

My very first memory of thinking something was up (and it didn’t actually occur to me until years later while reading a blurb in Men’s Health) was as a teenager mowing the lawn in the summer. We had a huge lawn and I assume our riding mower was on the fritz because I was using the push mower. I recall being drenched in sweat and suddenly getting really woozy in the head. I stopped and stood there and just stared at the ground and watched it spin. I wanted to run to the five gallon bucket we used as our dog’s water bowl and submerge my head in it. That would feel great. I wanted to lay down in the grass and just sleep. That would feel even better.

About that time Dad came out of the house to get something from his truck and I asked him how someone knows if they have heat stroke. Assuming I was just trying to get out of mowing the lawn (something I totally would have tried to do, I’m sure), he replied, “You don’t have heat stroke.” Which really meant, “Mow the lawn, cry baby.”

And so I did. I didn’t pass out and I didn’t have any other dizzy spells. I just mowed the lawn without further incident.

I used to love playing outdoor volleyball. It was always a family reunion favorite and one day (a few years after the lawn mowing story) I noticed that after only one game, I got really dizzy. I had to sit out (literally) the rest of the games and just watch from the sidelines. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I figured it was just a really hot day when, in actuality, it probably wasn’t any warmer than an average humid summer day in Indiana.

And that’s just how things kind of progressed from there. If I was doing anything too active, I’d need to be careful, otherwise I’d get super-sweaty, light-headed and dizzy, I’d fall to all fours and just want to sleep.

I didn’t mention it to a doctor until around the year 2000 because, to be honest, that’s the first time I had medical insurance. During a routine examination I mentioned it to my family doctor and his eyes lit up like he was about to gain Doctor Notoriety with a paper he would write about me. In actuality, he told me it sounded like an extremely rare heart condition and, when over-exerted, the symptoms are dizziness (check), the desire to dunk one’s head in water (check), and needing to put one’s head as close to the ground as possible (and check. That wonderful, alluring sleep).

I told him I had those symptoms and soon found myself at the local hospital wired up to a machine and on a treadmill for a stress test. Did you ever hear the one about the guy on the treadmill wired up for a stress test who actually couldn’t run long enough for them to get any readings? Well, now you have.

I don’t recall exactly how long I ran, but when they told me I didn’t last long enough, I remember feeling a little confused. It’s not like I only ran for 20 seconds and it was Game Over. How much info did they need? And how ancient are their machines that they learned nothing? I was standing on the side of the treadmill, dizzy and sweating like a maniac, and they could get nothing out of it.

After that, they attached a heart monitor of sorts to my body and told me to wear it for three days. They also told me not to do any running or strenuous physical activity. I tried to tell them the problem only happens when I do strenuous activity, but they assured me they knew what they were talking about. Not having any sort of medical degree, I conceded.

Three days passed and nothing happened. I didn’t sweat and I didn’t get dizzy. They unfastened the wires and monitoring device and, lo and behold, one week later called to tell me they didn’t see anything wrong.

I mean, I could have told you that.

So, basically, modern medicine shrugged its shoulders and said, “I dunno. Beats me.”

And that’s where I am today, 14 years later. I have no idea what’s wrong with me. All I know is I have to keep myself to one game of volleyball (and even then, I can’t go all out), I workout (carefully) at home to DVDs so if I have to get on my hands and knees or put my head in water I can (and, once in a while, just lie down on the floor and sleep where no one will see me), and I can’t do my wife’s Zumba class. She’s a little maniac and really goes to town and I can’t keep up. I want to, but I can’t. If I try…well, see the short answer at the beginning of this post.

Last year I was reading Men’s Health and I read a blurb on a study done about people who had suffered heat stroke at an early age and how, in a handful of cases, the symptoms stuck with the person whenever they engaged in physical activity (I wish I could find a link to the article. I looked, but nada. It wasn’t an article per se, just a little sidebar quickie).

In my head, that’s what I have. Did that day mowing the lawn do it? I don’t know. Is it something else? I don’t know, but it’s an answer that seems to fit and having that answer is a lot more comforting to me than admitting… I don’t know.

**

I forgot to mention there is one activity I can do with no problem: Swimming. I can’t run for more than 15 minutes but I can literally swim all day long. And have. Maybe it’s because I’m already surrounded in water? Maybe it’s because I’m part fish. Who knows. But I’m super grateful I have that.

Body for Life…or at least for now

If you really want to be motivated to stay in shape, I recommend marrying a really hot fitness instructor.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Sarah is hot. I’m not biased, that’s just a fact. The sun is warm, ice is cold, Tom Cruise is an idiot, and Sarah is hot. Facts.

I know Sarah would disagree with me, and she’s sweet for doing so, but I know I married way out of my league. Trust me. I’ve seen me without a shirt.

And before you even say anything, let me cut you off. I know looks aren’t everything and if you know me, you know that’s true. I also know that Sarah loves me for who I am, not for what I look like, I know that. So….OK. We’re good? All right. Then I’ll continue with my rant that will seemingly contradict those last couple of statements.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Sarah’s hot.

Sarah’s also a fitness freak. Not that she enjoys working out but this girl loves it. Tae Bo, kickboxing, biking, running, doesn’t matter. She’s up for it.

I on the other hand…well, I’ve been known to work out, sometimes on a pretty regular basis, but I’ve never stayed on top of it. Like most people, I’ve gone through my phases. But I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago and decided that I’d like to get into shape – and stay in shape – not only because I think it’d be cool, but because if I’m going to be married to someone as good lookin’ as Sarah, well…it’s only polite that I do what I can to return the favor. Not that I am operating under the delusion of becoming something I’m not genetically going to become without an Extreme Makeover, but at the same time I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have abs, even if it’s just two of them. I may even settle for having an ab.

So last week I started on the Body for Life fitness routine. I know, nothing like jumping on the bandwagon 14 years too late. But we’ll see how it goes. I do some sort of exercise six days a week and it’s only been a week and a half, so I’m definitely not touting any major accomplishments yet. But I’ll see what happens. I’m enjoying it so far, even if it does mean I drag my butt out of bed at 6am every morning. And that’s saying something. Especially for me.

And don’t worry. In 11 weeks I’m not going to be posting any before/after photos and I’m not going to be driving around town with no shirt on any time soon. Because if I did, that would mean I could no longer make fun of people who do.

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My Body Is A Wonderland

Yikes. What a week it’s been. Methinks this blog entry will be a lengthy one, so tuck in the kids and make sure you’re comfortable. I am about to embark on a tale of pain and agony, and I think what struck me most during this encounter are the random thoughts that popped into my head and I actually considered. Observe:

I woke up Monday morning at 6:30 with an excruciating pain in my left side. It felt like I had just done a million oblique crunches and now my obliques were going into spasm. It was more than just an upset stomach kind of feel where everything is a bit woozy, but it felt like something inside of me exploded. I briefly wondered if it might be my appendix but then I remembered that the appendix is on the right side of the body. I then went on to wondering if perhaps I was a medical anomaly and MY appendix is on my left side and what do you know, it done blew up.

My next thought went to “hernia.” I’d never had one of those before, but I know it’s a really sharp and sudden pain in the side. But I was also pretty sure that when you got a hernia, something stuck out of the side of your body like a lump (I learned that from “Friends” and the old Bill Cosby routine) and since my side appeared normal in appearance, I discounted that as well.

All the while, I was in unbelievable pain. I wondered if this is what a gunshot victim felt.

I really didn’t want to have to call an ambulance or anything, just because they cost money, something of which we don’t have a lot of lately. I lay there a bit longer hoping that it would at least subside a bit, but no such luck. The pain was constant and the pain was extreme. I briefly considered driving myself somewhere, but had no idea if I was going to pass out and run over a fleeing Eddie George or not.

I lay in bed, one hand on my side, my eyes scrunched and my teeth clenched and I was MAD. I was mad that I had no idea what was wrong with me and I was going to have to spend money on medical attention. I was mad that I had a job interview the next day and might have to miss it. And I was mad that I was in so much FREAKING PAIN.

There is a fire station just a few blocks from our house and an ambulance is also housed there. I heard the sirens wind up and begin to wail. Seconds later I heard the ambulance zoom past the house. I shouted, “No, that one’s mine!” but I don’t think they heard me. I chuckled to myself but it hurt.

Suddenly I tasted metal in the back of my mouth. You know how blood has that distinct metallic taste? Well, I tasted it and my mouth suddenly filled up with liquid. Great. Was I about to commence vomiting blood? I briefly wondered where my video camera was and if the battery was charged. It might make for some awesome footage.

I didn’t bother with the camera and instead made it to the bathroom. I knelt over the bathtub and spat. Whew. It was just spit. No sign of blood. But it sure tasted like blood. And my mouth kept filling with saliva. I spat and spat and spat and couldn’t stay ahead of it. Finally my saliva glands slowed down.

I wanted to call an ambulance, but I just woke up and my hair was crazy from the sleep. Should I jump in the shower first? Or maybe just stick my head under the faucet and wet it? Or maybe I should just bring a hat. A hat would be fine. But what if they need me to take the hat off and then my hair would really be insane. And I might leave my hat there. Screw that. I’m not leaving my hat at the freaking hospital.

I grabbed the phone and dialed 911. It rang once and I hung up. I can’t afford an ambulance. Maybe I’ll wait a few more minutes and see if I’m good to drive.

The phone rang in my hand. Wretched caller ID. “Did someone call 911?” they asked. And I gave in.

“I think I need an ambulance.” The pain was making my voice really raspy and it was hard to get enough breath to finish an entire sentence.

We exchanged info and I remember congratulating myself on how even keel and levelheaded I had been. I had remembered all my vital info and even told them I’d turn on the porch lights for them. If I were in a movie and I got shot I wouldn’t be the wimp that falls down and tells everyone else to “Go on!!” Doggonit I would be the guy who lags behind and slows the group down but keeps on going and then gets shot again LATER.

I put the dog outside. Who knows how long I’ll be gone. A few minutes later a fire truck pulled up and some fireman dudes came to the door. They were going to stay with me while they waited for another ambulance, since the one down the street was on another call. I knew it. I sat on the couch holding my side while two of the firemen sat beside me and asked me questions and a third perused my bookshelf. I seriously thought he was going to ask to borrow a book he was looking that hard.

In the meantime, the incredible pain continued. I tried to be a polite host but it was hard doubled-over and wishing one of them would just clock me in the head with a tire iron and put me out of it already. One of the firemen told me there wasn’t much else they could do unless I needed oxygen. I was about to tell them I’d give that a shot when the EMS pulled up. I was excited. My first ambulance ride and here we go!!

We all got up, I locked up the house, and they walked me out to the ambulance. The driver was a huge overweight guy with a moustache that made him look like Mario from the video game. I’m thinking his shirt had a stain on the front of it, but my memory might be adding that slight detail because if there wasn’t a stain on his shirt, one definitely needed to be there to complete the picture. Ambulance Jane came around the other side. She was short with a buzz cut hairdo that made me wonder and helped load me in. I tried to make eye contact to smile and kind of nod hello but she paid me no attention. Instead she started talking to one of the firemen about a friend of theirs who had a baby and yadda yadda yadda. After I was all strapped in and I thought we should be on our way, we continued to sit there while they continued to talk about the new baby. I don’t know if the pain actually got worse or it only seemed to get worse since I was beginning to get angry and impatient. Let’s go, Emergency Jane!

Finally Emergency Jane seemed to have told Fireman Bob all of the info she had on the new baby and Fireman Bob left. He closed the doors and we were off!!

Sort of. First of all, I noticed that we were cruising without the siren. Rip-off! The second thing I noticed is we were going about 30 miles an hour. Stopping at all of the stop signs and stop lights. I could see cars passing us. And I was like what the heck is THIS?? Let’s go!! You obviously can do nothing to alleviate my pain, can we at least get to the people who can a little quicker?

During the ride I tried to be light-hearted and make jokes with Ambulance Jane but she either didn’t get any of them or wasn’t interested because I wasn’t a hot girl. I remember saying “Boy being in an ambulance is so much more anti-climactic without the exciting chase music in the background.” Yuk yuk yuk. I thought I would at least get a friendly smile. Instead she answered, “We hardly ever drive with the siren on. We probably only turn it on 5% of the time and that’s only if someone is dead.”

All right, Ambulance Jane, you crazy party girl you.

I finally get to the hospital. Ambulance Jane tells me to feel better and I secretly tell her to fall in a hole. They wheel me into what looks like an examination room in a doctor’s office instead of the standard “hospital room” and that’s fine with me (maybe cheaper!). Nurse #1 comes in and asks me all of the questions and I give her the rundown. She asks me how much pain I am in on a scale of 1 to 10. At first I say 10 but then tell her on the grand scheme of things compared to other people who’ve had metal pipes lodged in their heads, it’s probably only an 8. Nurse #1 laughed and I thought “All right.” At least it’s not my material. The ambulance was probably just a bad crowd.

I’m still not sure why I feel the need to make people laugh, even when I am in pain. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t people be trying to entertain me? I think it’s just another classic Ed example of putting others in front of myself. I don’t want my pain and inconvenience to make them feel uncomfortable, so away I go. I don’t know. Just a theory. Not like I know what I’m talking about or anything.

Nurse #1 said, “But this is the most pain you’ve ever been in, right?”

Definitely right.

She wondered if I had kidney stones and I thought that was odd. I’d heard guys’ horror stories about kidney stones and thought there was only pain when they were actually trying to pass the stone. But what do I know. I only realized that the U.K. was an island last year and I’m 33 freaking years old.

Nurse #1 left and Admissions Nurse came in and took all of my information. After a few minutes, Admissions Nurse left.

And there I was all alone. Just laying there and then the saliva started up again. I felt like I was going to puke and I sat up. There were two trashcans in front of me. One was your standard trashcan and the other was for hazardous waste material. What’s the proper etiquette in this case? I mean, vomit isn’t exactly hazardous, but it’s also not paper or plastic cups. I assume the hazardous waste can would have a liner inside that might hold up better against vomit, but at the same time I didn’t want to puke in the hazardous can and make herpes splash up into my eye.

So I opted for the regular trashcan. I was so mad at the possibility of throwing up because I was about to break my 17-year record. I was a middle school kid living in Indiana the last time I threw up and I loved impressing people with my tremendous record.

I heaved.

Nothing came up. Whew. Technically my record still stands.

And then something weird happened. The pain started to go away. Seriously. As quick as it came, the pain started to subside.

I sat back on the gurney and lay down. Hm. That was weird.

I didn’t hurt anymore.

You mean if I had stayed at home and just waited it out for 45 minutes everything would have been cool? Well that sucks.

And now what? When the doctor comes back, should I pretend that I’m still hurting or should I just be like “UM, I’m OK now?” That would be a waste of everyone’s time. But these people are professionals and they’ll know if I was faking it. But I wasn’t faking it earlier. For real!

Nurse #2 came in and announced we’re off to get a CAT scan. I was excited. Another new adventure!! So many new things we’re learning today, kids!

Nurse #2 explained on the way to the scan room that she too thought it might be kidney stones. I told her I heard they were awesome. She asked me if I needed anything for the pain and I told her it’d actually gone down a lot. I told her it was a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10. In reality it was probably only a 1 or a 1/3 but I didn’t want them to throw me out quite yet. I wanted a CAT scan!

The CAT scan was also anticlimactic. I was picturing the big white tunnel-thing like you see on TV and I wanted to show them that I was a man and wouldn’t freak out like those wimps you see on TV (“It’s too small! I can’t stand it! Get me out of here!”). Instead they had some new-fangled device that was basically a small wall in part of the room with a hole in it. Kind of like they stood a big piece of drywood up on end and put a hole in it. Not at all intimidating.

They scanned me and took me back to the room and told me it would be half an hour. Awesome. I felt fine. I can do a half hour. And I fell asleep.


I was awakened by Nurse #2 returning to announce that Yep, It’s Kidney Stones. Awesome.

The good news is the stones I have (3 in total. Or as some people say for reasons I’ve yet to understand, in toto) are only 1mm in diameter. Interestingly, the Nurse informed me that I probably wouldn’t even feel them when I passed them, but the passage from the kidney to the bladder is when I would actually feel the pain, since it is a much smaller tube than that from the bladder to the toilet. She said I was actually fortunate, as in most patients the pain lasts much longer, even a few days. Well, Nurse #2, most patients aren’t Ed, are they? They gave me a prescription for the pain and sent me on my merry way.

Awesome. I’m free to go and my hair isn’t even close to being presentable.

I called Drew and Andrea and they were awesome enough to swing by the hospital and pick me up (as my friend Nik says, hospitals don’t exactly deliver. Except babies. Heh heh. I’ll have to tell Nik my addendum to her little joke). I got home and felt great. I didn’t even bother to go to the CVS down the corner to get the prescription. If I start to feel the pain, I’ll run down (it’s literally ½ block away) and pick some up.

About 3 hours later I felt the onset coming, so I went to the drugstore, added a book of puzzles to my purchase, and returned home. I took a pill (the prescription indicated to take 1-2 pills at a time, but since I don’t get a refill, I decided to conserve).

The pill hit me faster than I anticipated and I was out for the rest of the day. Goodnight Irene. Kidney stones are cake.

I awoke the next morning at 5:30 am in pain just as horrible as the day before. I did not fret, though, because this time around I knew what I was in for and I also had medication. The pain will last for 2 hours tops but hey, I have medicine so we can cut that out of the equation. I took two pills and went back to sleep. Or at least tried to.

Apparently 1 pill is all Ed needs. Two pills means vomiting.

My record was broken and there were no technicalities to dance around this time. I was vomiting. I threw up perhaps 6-10 times before 9 am so I knew I was in for a great day. And I must have vomited up the pills’ super powers, as the pain did not subside. I couldn’t even hold down water. It was an amazing display of biology.

I won’t bore you with all of the details. This thing has already run on a bit too long and worn out its welcome, so let me begin to wrap up. Basically the pain on Tuesday lasted until that evening. Maybe 9:00. It was definitely a very bad day, one of the worst ever. Also that night, the A/C in the bedroom conked out. And if you’ve spent any time in the south, July isn’t exactly the best time for your A/C to conk out.

I spent the rest of the week recuperating. I’m still a little sore, but I think the worst is over. Actually the most pain I have now is in my back, probably from spending so much time laying down (and not exactly laying straight…a lot of it was curled up, so my spinal cord is probably more twisted than the “21 Grams” storyboards.

I was able to get my job interview postponed and I went in on Friday morning. It went really well and am going in next week for the follow-up interview to meet some of the management.

Davy and Jenn got in touch and offered to pick me up and take me to their house to rest up and recuperate. You (and they) have no idea how much that meant to me. Friends like that are indeed a rarity. I didn’t get their message until Friday afternoon (I think they called Thursday) and by then I had some gas from Venus and didn’t want to bring it to their fine house. Drew also called to check in and make sure everything was OK. I didn’t get his message until I got the message from Davy and Jenn (when I got back from the hospital on Monday, my cell phone somehow ended up under some pillows behind my bed).

OK, that’s enough. I’ve kept you too long. Go out and get some Chinese and a breath of fresh air. That’s what I’m going to do.