August 09, 2011

A Kick in the Head

While I was exploring Bodie ghost town this weekend up in the Eastern Sierra region of California, I walked through a disembodied doorway, whose surrounding building crumbled to the ground around it. I took a photo from "inside" the building, and then walked back through the doorway.

Or, shall I say, I walked into the doorway. (The culprit is pictured above.)

I've clocked myself in the forehead more times than I can count. As a three year old, I famously cracked my head open in my parents' basement, thanks to a new pair of glasses that distorted my depth perception so severely, staircases were deathly and sidewalks always appeared to run uphill or downhill even when they were completely flat. Later in life, I've fallen on hikes, been dragged by a moving car, burned by battery acid, punched, pushed down, smacked in the head, bruised, battered and molested.

But I've always recovered quickly.

So when I gave myself a goose-egg on Saturday, I rubbed the area of impact a couple of times, winced at the pain, and then moved on. I joked that I might have a concussion, but I didn't really believe that I had one. I cautiously anticipated the onset of headaches or dizziness that would send me to some mountain hospital far from home, with no one to comfort me (and no insurance, to boot). But as the day wore on, I felt ok, my brain a bit jarred and jostled, but not really any worse for the wear. I slept great Saturday night, and triumphantly returned to LA on Sunday evening, unscathed after an eight-hour drive.

On Monday morning, I woke up cranky and sleep-deprived, as usual. I left for work at the time I was supposed to be there, as usual. I walked to work, headphones plugged in ears, lunch slung over shoulder, lips mouthing the words to every song in my mile-long walk, as usual.

When I arrived, I headed straight for the teakettle, as usual. I spooned instant decaf into a mug, as usual. I started up my computer, as usual. I opened the curtains, put my bags on the floor, added milk and Equal to my coffee, and sat down, as usual.

But something was off.

I'd had a bit of a headache the night before, which wasn't so unusual considering the long drive home, the hours spent in the sun, the hikes I'd done across snowy lake shores and volcanic glacial falls. But the headache was getting worse, and I was having a hard time concentrating.

I was grumpier than usual too, but I wrote it off as sleep deprivation, or the Monday, Mondays.

As I sipped my decaf instant coffee, which has become somewhat of a daily ritual for me, I felt a little nauseous. My delicate stomach always feels a bit sick with coffee. But I really did not feel so good.

I Googled "concussion."

I clicked through to the National Institute of Health's page on concussions, reading about the "normal" symptoms and then examining the "emergency" symptoms. I got worried. A huge wave of nausea set in. And then a huge wave of dizziness set in.

I opened my mouth to call out to my coworker, Michelle, to tell her that I felt faint, or that I might pass out, or something, but no words came out.

That's the last thing I remember...

...To be continued...

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