Yesterday was a strange, frightening, and beautiful day. Grateful to be alive to continue to experience this beautiful universe with all of you. Yesterday around 3:30, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to make it.
Tip of the Truth-and-Beauty cap to pianist/composer Beth Karp, whom I met at Saint David of Wales Episcopal Church to work on musical accompaniment for a few of my poems including “magic taken seriously,” “Alliteration is not a Nightclub,” and “Burnt Retina. Beth is a talented performer and composer. She played me some of her film scores for silent movies, including part of her score for The Golem. I appreciated her ability to find the perfect music for a poem, whether it was Bartok, Tchaikovsky, Ives, or her own composition or improvisation. She also taught me a lot about Classical, Jazz, and modern music in a short time. We had great conversations about the nature of swing and soul, and the history of music and how it changes as cultures collide and mix. I had a great time working with Beth, and look forward to performing with her in the near future.
At around 3:30 I left the church and headed toward Gladstone Pub to meet my friend Mike G. Mike and I are both poets, and both of us take performing very seriously. We had been talking about how we only see each other at readings and wanted some time to just sit and talk, so I offered to buy him dinner. I was looking forward to hanging out with him. Afterward, we had planned to attend Johnny No Bueno’s Them’s Fightin’ Words open mic at St. Johns Booksellers.
As I was driving on Cesar Chavez, the world began to spin. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I knew that I could no longer drive safely. I pulled over onto Kelly and attempted to get out of the car. I found that I could not stand up straight without holding onto the car. I thought I might be suffering from dehydration. I tried drinking some water, but it didn’t help. I stumbled to the curb and sat down. I ate an apple and waited for the dizziness to subside, but it only got worse.
No one stopped to help me. I may have looked fine, sitting on the grass with my apple. I began to panic. My mind raced. I began sweating profusely. I ruled out a heart attack, because I had none of the symptoms. I had no chest pain, and I was breathing normally. I knew something was very wrong with me. Toni was in Vancouver; still, I tried her first. Toni always seems to know what to do. She wasn’t home. Then I remembered that the pub was not far from where Mike lives, and that he was probably on his way.
I called Mike, and he handled the crisis perfectly. He remained calm, and helped me to keep calm even as the symptoms became more extreme. He kept me on the line as he made his way down Cesar Chavez. He even stayed on the line as I began puking my guts out. Mike found me. He called his housemate to get directions to Providence Medical Center. I gave Mike the keys and although he hadn’t driven in a year, he got me there safely. One of the things I remember him saying to me was that driving is something you never forget.
If I had to be saved by a poet, I would want it to be someone like Mike G, a man possessed of colossal intelligence and heart.
I was impressed with the care I received at the hospital. Everyone was nice and compassionate. I was a little pissed when someone at the front desk asked me my birthdate even as I was puking into a bag that resembles a large blue female condom. There was also a glitch when three consecutive scanners were unable to read the results of one of my tests, which apparently magically resided in the bar code on my wrist band. Mike and I both wondered aloud how such tests were conducted before bar codes and computers. There must be an analog way of doing it. My chest was so wet from all the sweating that the tape for the EKG kept slipping.
The dizziness was so intense that I could not open my eyes. Opening my eyes or moving made the vertigo worse. So I heard more than I saw. Perhaps this was a blessing. I couldn’t see any of the other sick people, or the perplexed looks on the faces of my doctors and nurses. I was vomiting so violently that I pulled a needle out of my arm. Eventually I was moved into a room and Toni arrived. I was given valium, fluids, and a chewable anti-nausea pill.
My sense of time was off. I think that I slipped in and out of consciousness several times.
I was taken for a CAT scan. Later a doctor informed me that I had experienced benign positional vertigo, which is common and unavoidable. It could have been caused by a virus, and it should go away soon. I am among the uninsured, so I am not eager to see what my bill is going to be. But I am relieved to learn that my heart and brain activity is normal.
Today I am chilling out on the couch, as per doctor’s orders. I am on valium and another drug that helps with the dizziness. An experience like this can’t help but make you think about what’s important. I am glad that it was not something more serious. I am grateful for Mike G, and Toni, and the staff at Providence. I am grateful for my family and friends. I am happy to be alive.
I have those symptoms in mild form frequently. Only twice has it been as severe as yours was, and even then, not so bad that I had to vomit. It's frightening to be attacked by dizziness such as that. My wife swears I don't drink enough fluids.
Chris, how frightening -- to not know what your body is doing to you ... so glad you are going to be OK. Knowing you, this vertigo attack will become a memorable poem.
Glad yer okay, Chris! What a scary moment! Love ya, bro!
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