My week in the desert was very unscheduled. The only commitments I made of my time during my time out west were 3 yoga classes in Ruth Hardy Park. Beyond those 3 individual hours, I was completely winging it.
I did a lot of walking, generally languidly, and a single bike ride that began strong but went terribly wrong. I had been riding through the lovely Los Palmas neighborhood, going up a rare and steep hill. I was pushing myself to make it to the top of the hill without getting out of my seat.
Sometimes I challenge myself to do stuff like that to prove I’m still strong and fit. Do you?
Anyway, I had changed gears as I approached the crest of the hill when, suddenly, the bicycle’s chain locked up preventing the wheels from turning. I easily could have taken a tumble, if I wasn’t as strong as I am. Or, as lucky as I often am. Fortunately, I was able to hop off the bike and, for the record, am confident I would have accomplished my goal had I not experienced equipment malfunction.
I intended to hike on this vacation, but didn’t find the time until the second to last day of my trip. On that day (Thursday), I hiked the trail behind the Palm Springs Art Museum. I got started a bit later than hoped, but felt reasonably prepared with my hat, sunscreened body, good trail shoes and Camelbak with 1.5L of water.
I queued up U2’s Joshua Tree in my ears and hit the trail with genuine glee. I felt so lucky to be there on such a beautiful day in good health, in love, in awe…
I spent the next couple of hours climbing up trails with practically no shade – or company. There were plenty of photo ops, however, and even cell service for a phone call. Not being in a rush made for a pace which was generally somewhere between leisurely and moderate. I was on vacation.
Twenty-three-hundred feet of elevation later, I turned around and began my descent anticipating a strawberry margarita in my favorite Mexican spot in town, Las Casuelas. A little before 2:00, approximately 4 hours after I had started my hike, I was washing my hands and face at my chosen restaurant as a table for one on the patio was located.
Freshened up, I returned to the hostess station to wait for my table to be ready, marveling at the ornate iron and wooden light fixture/sculpture suspended from the high ceiling. I decided to make use of the nearby bench to take a load off after approximately 5 hours nonstop on my feet.
A few minutes late, my table was ready and I rose to follow the hostess. I felt fine, just hungry and ready to enjoy lunch. Within seconds, though, I was intensely dizzy. I told the server I needed to seat down and returned to the bench I had previously just been sitting on.
The next thing I remember was opening my eyes.
I was flat on my back on the bench with a number of people staring down at me. I realized immediately that I must have passed out, something which had occurred with some frequency 20 years ago, but hadn’t happened in about a decade and a half.
Medical personnel arrived quickly. Prior to their prompt response, the restaurant staff showed me true hospitality by making me comfortable with cold towels and water along with fresh squeezed orange juice. They were amazingly kind and I’ll never forget the care they thoughtfully provided to me. Shout out staff at Las Casuelas!
My vitals were taken and, as is my usual “norm,” both my heart rate and blood pressure were low. I was still dizzy and bit nauseous, but completely coherent, and I explained to the first responders that I have a history of these episodes, generally related to my state of hydration,* and that I would be fine in a few minutes.
My heart rate and blood pressure dropped a little more, like to below 50 and 70 over 50, respectively.
An ambulance was called and I was hooked up to an I.V. of fluids.
Yes, I was still on that bench in the restaurant.
An EKG was deemed necessary and I was transported to the ambulance, on a stretcher, to have that done. Once in the ambulance, I was convinced to go to the ER, so off we went.
This isn’t the first time I’ve arrived at an ER in an ambulance after passing out and, in a way, it felt routine. I knew what to expect and, as I rehydrated intravenously with a liter of fluid, I was already feeling better.
Until the chest X-ray machine was parked above my body, which was followed by a heart ultrasound which required me to manipulate my breast in ways second only to the intense compression of a mammogram. This was new territory.
I started getting more concerned.
I wasn’t afraid because I was alone in a facility with which I was unfamiliar, far from home and the medical professionals who usually take care of me. I wasn’t concerned about the expense of a visit to the emergency department thanks to my good quality health insurance.
I was afraid that I would never get to do the things I wanted to do.
What if there was something seriously wrong with me?
were are so many things I want to see and do in this world that the thought of not being able to continue experiencing and exploring caused my eyes to immediately fill.
Moments later, the results of my bloodwork came back and the doctors seemed comfortable with the numbers. They concluded it was likely a simple case of dehydration brought on by exertion, heat, sun and insufficient water intake. An hour and a half after my arrival, I was discharged with some paperwork and the suggestion that I continue to take in fluids and consider not hiking solo in the future in case I should have another episode.
I guess I need a larger Camelbak.
*That’s why I almost always have a Nalgene of water with me.