Another regular brain biofeedback session at C4 location (on right side of head, just above and in front of my ear). But not a regular week. My heart rate is slightly elevated from my norm, but it and my HRV (heart rate variability) have stabilized. So even a flip flop doesn’t seem to result in rises to 150 or drops to 35 any more. Good news as this week hits me.
Thirty-three years ago, I was hospitalized for a sudden drop in blood pressure, a drop that went down to unmeasurable and knocked me flat on my back. I and my blood pressure stayed like that till they put an IV in me at full bore (every two hour pees there we went with the nurse often taking her sweet time coming to help the teen who couldn’t sit or stand on her own!). They did umpteen tests and examinations in this my first exposure to the medical system from the other side of the sheets and found no cause. The entire hospital discussed my case, cause, you know, doctor’s daughter, which also meant I had to be on my best behaviour or it would reflect badly on my Dad, I was sure.
Anywho, they sent me home, topped up with fluids, on a diet of salt tablets to which a Portugese family friend added daily shots of espresso and Marsala. I was all for that!
(Interestingly, I stopped drinking espresso and started drinking coffee after my brain injury.)
By the end of the summer, I’d managed to regain enough pressure to walk upright on my own and start university.
About ten years later, a very smart doctor diagnosed me with idiopathic orthostatic hypotension aka we don’t know why but your blood pressure drops precipitately upon standing, sitting, or vigorous exercising like jogging. Except she did discover why: I produced less than normal adrenaline and noradrenaline in day-to-day body operations, and neither adrenaline nor noradrenaline rose commensurate with stress like they’re supposed to do. Well, I suppose knowing what was happening still didn’t tell us why. Fucked up system is not a reason why.
Fast forward another ten years and things had stabilized. I’d learned to manage it very well so that I didn’t get into trouble much — trouble being my blood pressure would drop to maybe 70/50, I’d have to sit with head between my knees, and someone would have to come get me wherever I was, preferably with a glass of salted lemonade.
And then I had a brain injury. Instantly my blood pressure shot up to normal levels. The paramedic thought my blood pressure was just peachy; somewhere in my damaged neurons, I knew something was wrong but was too confused to articulate what and why. My blood pressure has not returned to my low pre-brain injury state.
But I am still left with the traumatic memory of that hospitalization, which began this journey. Oh yes, we already knew I had low blood pressure before I was hospitalized, but no one had realized that when I was under duress like I was in my final year of high school —– topped off with the sudden death of my grandmother — that my blood pressure would disappear into nothingness. And so we were all taken unawares by that day at Canada’s Wonderland that ended with me in the ER — and then two days and nights of being down the hall from the cardiac care unit where my grandmother had died, with screams filling the dead quiet of a hospital night, ending with my last day listening to a politician’s wife barfing her guts out as she received chemo.
I have had discombobulating flashbacks to that time. My neurodoc thinks the brain injury wiped out all the protective mechanisms I had built up that had allowed me to recover, cope with, then thrive after that hospital weekend. That’s why I have had flashbacks after my injury and must re-process this trauma anew, whether I like it or not. I’d rather faint into oblivion than do that. Could someone pass the smelling salts, please? Sigh.