So when I left off my epic novel of a post about the cardiology visit, I was determined to prove to the doctor that I am actually experiencing not just orthostatic hypotension, but also orthostatic tachycardia, by way of a ‘poor man’s tilt table test’ experiment I was going to carry out with my blood pressure cuff and a spreadsheet. That experiment came to an almost literal crashing halt this morning. I guess there’s a reason the instructions said not to do that alone.
The premise was as follows: take a baseline blood pressure and pulse reading after laying down for at least fifteen minutes, then stand up and retake it every minute for three to five minutes, without walking around or even shifting feet in between readings. Some versions said ten minutes, but the spike happens pretty fast usually so I figured five would be good enough.
It was a miserable experience each time. I’ve been getting dizzy on standing for quite a while now, but I can usually cope with it by staying in motion. Standing perfectly still was a completely different experience, ranging from mildly uncomfortable to downright distressing. I got three sets of data Friday, four on Saturday, and I was going to do one more day today and then call it quits. The results were interesting: usually my systolic pressure tanked and my pulse shot up, but sometimes just one or the other, and Friday at bedtime, neither one fluctuated much but my blood pressure was at the bottom end of normal for all six readings.
Last night I had a really, really crappy night’s sleep – worse than usual, and usual is often pretty bad. That probably made the issue worse than it has been for the other times. I took the baseline reading and it was pretty average for my ‘supine’ reading, then I got up and began the standing readings. I started off dizzy and uncomfortable right from the beginning, and it got quite a bit worse with each reading. Finally there was just one left…
The counter got to a minute and I hit the button to start the reading. I realized I was really, really nauseous and my head felt weird. “Last one,” I told myself, “just suck it up and you’ll be done in a minute.” It got worse. I thought I might actually throw up, and forcing myself to stand still was torturous. I realized that the fan in the room was starting to sound weird, and that everything was going all… sepia? Sepia with glitter. Not like the ‘shooting stars’ I’ve seen if I blow my nose real hard, or that time my blood pressure went up so high from the sodium oxybate, no this was really weird, like tiny sparkles. I almost would have been fascinated by it, except that I felt so bloody nauseous and everything was getting dimmer and dimmer and now the periphery of my vision was black, like I was looking at the sepia glittery room through a tunnel and suddenly it clicked: HOLY SHIT THIS MUST BE WHAT FAINTING FEELS LIKE!
I am stubborn, and even at that moment I was trying to talk myself into letting the reading finish, but then I realized the cuff had stopped making noise and had an error, so whatever was making me pass out had messed up the reading anyway. Simultaneously, I realized that this was actually serious, because if I blacked out I had no idea if I’d crumple, or topple like a felled tree, or where I’d land. What if I hit my head on the bookcase or came down twisty and broke an arm? My partner might not find me for hours, maybe she’d assume I’d decided to sleep in. Just before everything went all the way black, I managed to shamble backwards and launch myself back onto the bed, and once I was laying down again I came back around almost immediately.
May I never, ever experience that feeling again! Almost fainting was truly horrible, and in retrospect I was stupid to play around with that test without having someone nearby to look out for me in case things went wrong. Tomorrow I’ll transcribe all my chicken-scratch notes a little more legibly and scan everything for the doctor.