Friday, May 9, 2014

heat exhaustion ambulance trip - 2014-05-08


So, on May 8, I decided to go outside and take some photographs of John Philip Sousa Bridge here in Washington, D.C. I also wanted a few shots of the nearby Barney Circle neighborhood. It wasn't a big deal: Take the bus to the Potomac Avenue Metro stop, walk across the bridge and back (a distance of about 1.5 miles), and take the bus home again. I'd spent the morning writing and doing some research, and had drunk a liter of water. My goal was to saunter across the bridge, taking photos. Not anything strenuous at all. It was 84F.

As I got back to the Metro stop, I started to feel dizzy. Well, I know the early-warning signs of heat exhaustion, and I figured I had gotten a little bit too much sun. Maybe I wasn't hydrated well enough? I sat down on the bench, waiting for my bus. I felt dizzier and dizzier as the minutes went past. At first, I thought I'd just wait for my bus, which would be nice and cool. But after 10 minutes, I realized I was going to pass out. My heart was beating super-fast, but not hard.

I asked a woman sitting next to me to call an ambulance. They arrived in about three minutes. By then, my lips and arms were tingling as well. I had trouble breathing deeply; if I took a deep breath, my head spun. I was getting very weak, and although I could close my fist I could not actually grasp anything tightly. I started to realize I wasn't going to be making sense for much longer.

The EMTs hooked up an EKG machine to me. But it wasn't a heart attack. They took my temperature. It was 100F. They took my blood pressure. It was 90/50.

Now, normal blood pressure is about 130/80.

I'd gotten heat exhaustion. Or, at least, a mild case of it. They put me on a stretcher, and I immediately felt better laying down. They put me in the ambulance. Because my blood pressure was so low, they couldn't find a vein. After some moments, the EMT found a very large needle and found a vein in my left forearm. Some screams and shouts on my part later, they got an I.V. into me, and quickly gave me a liter of fluids. I felt instantly better.

The ambulance took me to Washington Hospital Center. They ran an electrolyte test, and everything came out great (except for some very low potassium levels). I took another liter of fluid via the I.V., and was released at 9:45 PM.

I came home, and went to bed.

I have no idea how I could have gotten heat exhaustion. I'd been well-hydrated, I hadn't done anything strenuous, the heat wasn't bad at all, and I'd done a lot more strenuous hiking in much worse heat before. It came on very sudden, it seemed like. And the thing is, I was sweating profusely. Not like typical heat exhaustion, where you run out of fluids and stop sweating.

Naturally, I was not going to waste my trip in the ambulance, so took a photo of my foot and the rear of the ambulance.

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