Volpane In Love

Decade Archive of my personal blog from 1999 to 2009.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hunting My Inner Snark

Henry Holiday's illustration of the Banker and the Bellman from Wikipedia

"In the midst of the word he was trying to say

In the midst of his laughter and glee

He had softly and suddenly vanished away

For the Snark was a Boojum, you see."

--final stanza of Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark

On January 2, 2009 I found myself in the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital in Bellingham. The events leading up to my visit are absurd and out of character for me. My doctors are still unsure of what happened although in my mind many of the events remain clear. I was released from the emergency room after no less than two hours of the usual poking and prodding with the fairly cryptic diagnosis of "possible petit mal seizure".

Bruce and I were visiting with friends in anticipation of the New Year at a cabin reserved at a small state campground near the Canadian border. This was the third year in a row that we'd visited with these friends for the New Year, so the setting was familiar and comfortable. What was unfamiliar was my state of mind and behavior over the few days we were there.

Basically, during our visit I became gradually less coherent and responsive. Often I had a glazed look in my eyes and my attention would drift. When Bruce would check with me I assured him I was fine and in good spirits, but I was slow to respond and spent most of the time either sitting or sleeping. I had intended to spend time writing but had no interest or attention to do this. At times I would carry on conversations, but Bruce and our friends were having trouble following my train of thinking as I was talking about Quantum Physics and parallel universes. At one point I believed I was moving between parallel universes whenever someone would cough or the fire in the fireplace sparked.

Perhaps my behavior was most troubling when I would use the restroom. Sometimes I would forget what I was doing and Bruce would have to retrieve me, often finding me either sitting in the middle of the room or bent over at the waist in a yoga pose. A few times I asked him what I was doing there. For the remaining days I continued being very docile.

I had not taken any recreational drugs and while I did have a single alcoholic drink and half a beer on the first night we arrived at the campgrounds, I didn't drink any more and haven't had any alcohol since. The weather was snowy and while each day there were moments of thaw, the heavy and frequent flurries of snow pretty much kept us indoors the whole time. New Year's Eve was fairly calm and I was fairly lucid enough to participate celebrating with our friends and the next day I was ready to return home and said as much to Bruce.

Unfortunately the road out of the campground was too icy and our van became stuck in the ditch, forcing us to stay another night at the cabin. Friday, January 2nd, everyone was ready to leave and while our friends were packing up, all I could do was sit in a chair not really aware of what was going on around me. At some point I lost control of myself, and when coming in to retrieve me Bruce discovered me sitting in my own urine. While a friend called the emergency vehicle, he changed me into some clean clothes.

By this time, although I remember much of what was going on around me, I was convinced I was participating in an initiation or shamanic quest. I remember thinking that everyone who I made eye contact with had violet eyes or bluish halos around their iris, and strangely I was not too disturbed by this hallucination. At one point I was given a visual/motor control test where I was asked to look at the EMT's finger off to my right and then to the left, but I couldn't see anything out of my left eye, although I wasn't able to communicate this.

Bruce asked to travel with me in the emergency vehicle, but he was told he couldn't as he was not a blood relative. I would probably had protested had I been more lucid. I remember thinking the EMT's hand I was holding onto for support was Bruce until I felt his elbow and found them too rough to be Bruce's. The emergency vehicle didn't have any trouble getting to or leaving the campground and thankfully the trip was uneventful.

At the emergency room I was admitted while a nurse supervised. An IV had been attached to my left arm to replenish fluids and blood must have been drawn at some point although I don't remember that. I do remember the nurse commenting, when hearing the various things I was reported talking about, that I must have overdosed on television. I think an overdose of the Internet is more likely. Later I was taken to other rooms for a chest x-ray and an MRI. Afterward I was returned to a stall to wait for the attending Doctor.

The ER Dr. told me the only thing they found wrong with me was low potassium in my blood and I was given a huge white pill, usually given to race horses, that they had to break up for me to take. Later after Bruce arrived at the hospital and I was able to see him, the nurse came in and asked if I wanted to go. I was awake and felt well enough to go, but Bruce did ask that they give me a sedative for the ride home. I remained conscious until we were on the Ferry back to Vashon.

Since my visit to the emergency room I haven't exhibited any similar behavior. I saw my regular doctor on the following Monday, who insisted the hospital should not have released me as soon as they did, suggesting that he'd have preferred I was observed for twenty-four hours. He set up an appointment for me with the Swedish Neurological Specialist Clinic. I met with the Neurologist on MLK day, who unfortunately couldn't give me any sort of diagnosis as the films from St. Joseph's had not been forwarded to her. In the meantime, I've been receiving bills for all the medical visits and with no insurance or current income, I am quite stressed to pay these bills.

The Neurologist said the next procedure I needed was an EEG to see if I have any impairment to my brain, but I am unable to schedule this with Swedish until I am approved for their charity program. Perhaps the straw that may break this camel's back is my charity application was returned by the post office because I'd copied the address wrong. Last Tuesday I visited Social and Health Services in White Center to apply for medical assistance and was given no promises and more paperwork, as well as a psychiatric evaluation to schedule.

I am very bewildered and stressed in sorting all this out. While I remain lucid and aware without and apparent relapse, I have been experiencing emotional highs and lows that seem out of character for me, but Bruce says this was also happening last fall. I haven't included much of the delusional thinking I was experiencing in this post, just because it doesn't make much sense, but I have been writing it down in order to attempt some resolution for my own sanity.

I don't know what I'm going to do about the bills and feel very helpless having to rely on the bureaucracies of government and charity assistance programs. The only thing I can hope for is to keep my sense of humor (thus the reference at the beginning of this post to Lewis Carroll). I am very grateful for Bruce's support in this ordeal and ask for all your indulgence for sharing this difficult news.