At 10AM this morning I began to feel dizzy and nauseous. Five minutes later my heart rate was above 175 beats per minute. I told my wife I couldn’t catch my breath, and sat down. In minutes I couldn’t feel my arms or legs and I began shaking uncontrollably. I sat there for twenty minutes trying to catch my breath, to breathe slowly while the room spun and my hands shook, while my wife and two daughters (aged five and three) asked me to tell them what was wrong. I couldn’t think clearly enough or breathe well enough to answer them, and my attempted hand gestures were vague and impossibly slow.
From that moment to the time when I arrived at the doctor, many half-formed thoughts went through my foggy mind. I’m not a dramatic person. I try to be pragmatic and thoughtful, to take in stride both successes and failures, to keep an even keel. Don’t get too excited, don’t get too depressed. Stay level. Assess and respond rather than react. You get the idea.
But this was not normal. This was drowning in open air, uncontrolled shaking, fear like I’d never felt, and after saying goodbye to my kids as we left for the doctor there was an irrepressible voice in my mind asking questions which simply would not be quieted by calm logic nor practiced optimism. Is this the last time I’m going to see them? Is this what it feels like to die?
Let me reiterate that I’m not one to panic. This feeling truly was that unusual. There has been nothing in my life to analogize it. I can only describe it as an animal feeling.
Thankfully, I didn’t die. A doctor wouldn’t see me for another two hours, and by then my surging heart and other symptoms had ebbed to the point where I could at least take slow, deep breaths. My limbs were no longer tingling. My brain was more easily connecting questions with answers. I was no longer nauseous.
An hour or so after my symptoms had relaxed, an electrocardiogram registered no evidence of heart attack. That’s great! Beginning at 4PM my beats per minute range has come down, elevated on average about fifteen per cent higher than normal. Tomorrow I wear a harness which will monitor my heart activity over the next days. I suspect there will be inconclusive readings, assuming that I don’t have another episode like the one I’ve just gone through. Next step is to see a cardiologist later this week, and from there we will see what happens. It’s likely that everything will be fine.
You may be wondering why these words are appearing here on Casual Photophile. This post has nothing to do with cameras, photography, or anything that our readers would typically come here to read. Those types of articles are in the pipe of course, ready to go for the upcoming week. We’ve got a good one about a classic Canon lens, another writeup on a beautiful Leica lens, my review of Fuji’s GFX and another on the Pentax 67 and another on the Nikon Nikkor 28/2.8 all drafted and ready. Those articles will do great. I expect this one to fall flat. It’s a bit pointless and self-indulgent (though there is an ultimate message here which may be useful to some of you). And besides, this site is somewhat important to me, as are the people who visit it. I like to talk to y’all.
And this thing has rattled me. Life is unpredictable. My kids are young, and though we’ve not really told anyone yet, my wife and I are expecting a new baby which (you’ll know if you’ve read this article) is something of a miracle! I’m quite happy with my life. I sort of love it. I love my kids and my wife, and what I’m doing with this site and my other businesses, and I love the positive comments of the readers and all the friends I’ve made through this place.
I think that while Casual Photophile is certainly about cameras and photography, I like to think that this site is equally concerned with the more important things – life, and living it. And at its best, the writing here at Casual Photophile is affirming and encouraging. Affirming of the way that photography and cameras can improve a life, and encouraging by way of pushing that message, of encouraging you, our readers, to get out there with a camera and more deeply experience life and the world and the people with whom you share it. This was in fact my original intention when I founded this place. To add some positivity to the world through the prism of a camera.
I’m sure that everything will be fine. This has never happened before, and it’s hopefully an anomaly which won’t repeat. A few days or weeks of testing and doctor appointments, a change of lifestyle where I sleep more than a few hours a night maybe, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy another thirty-six years of smooth sailing and plenty of time with the people I love. That’s my hope.
Here’s the part of possible relevance to you all – I’ve managed to pull something useful from this unpleasant experience. I can once again try to affirm and encourage through my work.
To that end, I advise you to spend this week experiencing what you love. If that’s your family, spend time with them. Talk to them. Get an ice cream or a warm drink. Play a game with your kids. If your happiness comes from a hobby, engage with it. Do something you’ve been putting off. Make some plans. This year has been trash. Do what makes you happy and be happy.
Last suggestion – leave your camera at home this week. I know that’s not what we usually advise here. But take a minute to just be. Put the camera down and live your life. Forget pictures and work and maybe even social media. We can get back to the grind in a little bit. For now, just be.
I hope this post is useful to some of you. If not, well, we’ve got the usual good stuff coming up.
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