At its simplist definition, syncope is passing out, or fainting. It can be caused by a huge range of things, and I happen to be susceptible to one of the rarest.
The very first time it ever happened was at my in-laws, playing cards. Someone said something funny, and I laughed REALLY hard. I kind of lost track of what people were saying and doing, and I wasn’t even sure I’d passed out. No-one even noticed.
I didn’t give it much thought.
It was only a few weeks later that I totalled our car because I laughed until I passed out.
No-one was really hurt, but it was pretty terrifying for everyone involved. I went to the doctor of course, and he said it just happens to some people, and to be careful. There’s no treatment.
It’s happened a few times since, but never in any dangerous situations. Once I was on the couch at home and the family was having a laugh. When I woke up I said “I passed out, didn’t I?” and everyone nodded nervously.
When I get sick it can happen from coughing as well. Basically my coughing/laughing muscles start to convulse, and I can’t stop. I run out of oxygen and my blood pressure plummets. As soon as I pass out I stop and everything comes back to normal.
I’m rarely out for more than about 3 seconds, and there’s never been any pain or discomfort from it.
Soon after Christmas my whole family got the flu. My lungs got all messed up, and I coughed a lot. I almost passed out once with the family after only a little coughing, and I told them right then, “It wouldn’t take much at ALL to make me pass out right now”. I quit driving for the week.
Then one night I was awakened by the coughing convulsions. It didn’t start with a normal cough like it always had before, it went straight to the convulsions. I sat up on the edge of the bed immediately. About 3 seconds after I sat up I lost track of things. Then it felt like I was trapped inside a bag, and I started thrashing, and I couldn’t breathe and it felt like I was being electrocuted.
Then I was standing next to the bed. The thrashing never happened, but it was a VERY disconcerting experience. My eyes were running and my nose was drippy though, so I hit the bathroom and went back to bed.
Sometime later that night it happened again. I awoke to the spasms and sat right up. Several seconds later I was convinced I was having a seizure from the thrashing. I was suffocating, being electrocuted, and my face hurt like crazy. Then I realized I was slumped between my bed and the wall, and my wife was holding me.
I asked her what happend and she said she heard me coughing funny, and then saw me fall over and hit something.
There had been no thrashing, no seizure, nothing. It was all in my head. My eyes and nose were running like crazy again, so I went to the bathroom again.
I turned the light on in the bathroom, turned and saw myself in the mirror.
I was covered in blood.
When I fell over after passing out I hit the bridge of my nose on the bedside stand and my nose was bleeding like crazy. In my sleepy state I’d been wiping my face and it got all over me.
My wife came to help me clean up, and I went back to bed. I slept the rest of the night sitting up. I told her that if it happened again I wasn’t going to sit up, but rather roll over and put my arm across her.
It didn’t happen again though. The next night I was pretty scared to go to bed. I slept on my side the whole night, since I’d been on my back when it happened. It made my hips hurt, and was a miserable night, but it didn’t happen again, so it was worth it.
It hasn’t happened since. My flu was much better the next day, so I haven’t been coughing as much. My lungs still tickle though, so I’m being careful.
I almost didn’t blog about this. It’s pretty personal and scary, but a friend recently posted about a malady he has, and it occured it me that it might be good for people to know this thing exists, it happens.