My Health Crossroads

December 2, 2007
By Angelina Zaiden, McDonough, GA

One day life is great, everything is normal. Before I knew it my entire life was changing in a 20 second time span in which I couldn’t remember what had happened. This drastic change occurred last spring break. I went to Nashville, Tennessee for the first time with my mom and my boyfriend, Austin. It was an amazing, fun filled trip all the way up until the last day.

I woke up and went into Austin’s room. I was really excited because I had the whole day planned out. I was going to take him to do all these things he wanted to do. I left the room to go get my breakfast and talked with my mom briefly. It seemed like a perfectly normal day because I felt completely fine. I walked back into the room and was standing over my boyfriend talking to him and that is the last thing I remember, up until I felt my mom vigorously shaking me awake and saying in what seemed like a distant voice, “Angelina, wake up, Angelina, you had another seizure”. It’s the scariest moment in your life to be shaken to consciousness and realize that you have no clue what happened to you the last 20 seconds of your life.

When I finally came to I was soaking wet from spilling my breakfast all over me. I was scared and panicked not knowing exactly how bad this one was, all I knew was that it was definitely worse than my first. When I was in 9th grade, I had a seizure at school while in biology. No one realized what happened until I asked how I became I was bent backwards in my chair and why my head hurt so badly. After my first episode I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia. Since then my life style changed, because I was required to alter the way I ate in order to stay safe. However, my incident in spring was different and not related to hypoglycemia.

My mom immediately changed me out of my clothes and the three of us rushed to the hospital. While driving there Austin told us what happened before he jumped out of the room to get my mother. He described to us that while he and I were talking, he continued to talk but I stop responding. He didn’t realize that something was wrong with me because I appeared to be fine. I assume that was the moment when everything shut down for me. He continued telling us that I fell forward and he jumped up completely startled, I hit my head on the headboard of the bed and didn’t move. That’s when he jumped out of the room to get my mom.

When I got to the hospital, they took me back immediately because seizures are so severe. They ran test after test on me. Meanwhile Austin was sitting in the waiting room not knowing what was happening. He didn’t even know what had really happened; I can only imagine what was going through his head during that time. Finally, though, they did let him back into my room, and he stayed with me for the remaining time. We spent the whole morning in the hospital, and they said that I checked out okay and then they released me. So, the last day of my vacation was spent in the Nashville hospital and then after that I wasn’t allowed to do anything but rest. My vacation not only ended poorly but this mess wasn’t even close to being over with.

When I got home, I went to see my doctor who told me to go see a neurologist to get a brain wave; Also, that I should see an endocrinologist and a cardiologist. We had to narrow it down one by one to figure out what was wrong with me. I was eager to find the answer too because now I was forbidden to drive because it wasn’t safe, and I really couldn’t be left alone since there weren’t any signs of when this could happen again. I had no life and I had no idea when I was going to get it back. Meanwhile, directly after my lovely hospital visit I developed this chronic headache that refused to go away. It continued day after day, making me miserable and making it very hard for me to function. It got so bad that I ended up in the hospital one night and I was there most of the night. They stuck an IV in my arm and pumped me full of meds. It was the best I had felt in a month but the feeling didn’t last long. At this point, though, I was missing school, I was in and out of hospitals, and I had an unbearable headache that just wouldn’t go away. Everything just seemed to be getting worse and worse.

I had to go see another neurologist that specialized in headaches to try and relieve my pain. I was diagnosed with post traumatic migraines and put on medication which I have been on ever since, and I am completely incapable of functioning without it. I slowly went to see the other doctors and had test after test done. All of this continued through the end of the school year, into my summer vacation, and my last doctor’s appointment was the second day of school this semester. I didn’t find out what was wrong with me until that appointment, which was my cardiology appointment.

At that appointment, several hours and many tests later, I was diagnosed with Neurocardiogenic Syncope as well as low blood pressure. This means that when I do something too quickly my blood pressure spikes low. It also means that my brain and my heart don’t get enough blood to them the way most other people do. My body doesn’t work as hard as it should to pump the blood back up to my heart and brain so those organs are lacking blood flow which causes me to black out or have a seizure. My doctor told me what I had to do and ways I had to change my life to avoid this from happening. He did say, however, that if they continued to happen or became more frequent I would have to be put on medication. Hopefully that will never happen, though.

This event was life altering for me because it forced me to change a tremendously otherwise it might eventually have cost me my life. It has taken a great deal from me and I don’t want to lose anything else so I have become extremely dedicated to staying as healthy as possible. You truly realize how much you value your life even the bad parts when you think something could take it from you.

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