written by Kokayi
I’ve passed out exactly 2 times in my life. Once when I was around 13-14 at my brother’s wedding and Saturday night. According to the hospital, it was a febrile seizure which is brought on by a spike in one’s body temperature. They found that I had pneumonia, so the crappy feeling I had since Thursday was not just a “summer cold”. What makes this entire episode interesting in retrospect is the context; of spaces during a specific event, in a room filled with a specific demographic of individuals and the subject matter being discussed in that room.
I finished telling my story when the buzzing started. I knew that feeling, that high pitched sound. The brain is amazing, I was standing next to Phil 30 years ago hearing the same sound. My younger me leaned to Phil and said “do you hear that?” then I woke up on a church pew with the church hat ladies fanning me.30 years later, I stood up. We had come to the Anacostia Artspace’s black box theater for their interactive production. The house was packed we were on the last row and it was hot, which was good and bad because I hadn’t been feeling that well. I checked in with my doc earlier, she suggested I get some Tylenol cold and keep it moving, I obliged. The heat was actually a respite, having spent time in Senegal and Saudi Arabia, I was good. So standing up and wiggling my legs to get the circulation going was my primary thought, the buzzing began to wane and I felt that I could make it through the last act/story and go home and rest. I turned to my wife and in doing so the buzzing was back, I believe I said to her this is not good.
Lucidity is a great feeling, I felt super clear and aware but enveloped in a fluid like I had just finished deep sea diving. I heard my wife crying and I saw my daughter crying and I’m wondering where all the people had gone. There was a person holding my hand asking me to breathe slowly, there were police, prayer circles and voices of dissent when the police kept asking for my ID. I kept apologizing, I had interrupted the production in the last act. Why was my wife crying? I apologized to her for making her cry. Someone removed my daughter from the room when the EMT’s arrived and began checking my vitals. As a black man over 40, I’m vigilant about my checkups and health. I just had a check up, I know my medications, status – “horse healthy, but you need to run” is how my Dr. put it. I knew I hadn’t taken my hypertension meds because of the way I was feeling and after speaking with my Dr. earlier. I asked the EMT’s for the numbers, they came back stellar. So what the expletive just happened. I hate hospitals. Unless I’m having a limb or organ removed/repaired miss me. I don’t like to visit, I don’t want to stay any longer than I need to. So when asked, “Do you want to go to the hospital?” I said, “ask my wife”. Handled. They replied that I had to make the decision. Herein lies the rub. I want to go home and lay down and sleep it off. I don’t know what happened, I’m groggy and tired, but i look at my wife and daughter (both of which are traumatized and complete wrecks) and opt for the ambulance.
I had no idea you could have a pocket of pneumonia. I was told that I had a febrile seizure, this type pf seizure is relegated to humans under the age of 2, so to have this be an early diagnosis seems guessy at best. My night sweat, chills, fatigue were all explained. The pneumonia was camping out near my diaphragm and my temperature was reenacting the Rebel Yell at Kings Dominion. I was poked, prodded, examined – from the “roota to the toota” – let the old folks tell it. I was good after hearing all of this, I logically compartmentalized all of the theories, justifying my body’s reactions and tucked those neatly in my, “wow” but I’m not tripping box. This was not the case for my family. They were traumatized, seeing me flop over , tongue akimbo, shaking. I didn’t see all of that. I was lights on, lights off, lights back on, I’m alive. It took 3 days for some semblance or normalcy to return, the catalyst being my wife’s unwillingness to leave my side. I knew she was scared and quietly so was I, my daughter was ever resilient and as long as she saw me smile and say I was ok, she moved on with her 15-year old drama. But my wife and I had to take a moment. I saw in her eyes the fear of losing me, the uncomfortable feeling of having to care for three people instead of co-working with your teammate to watch over two people. I saw the love she had for me in seeing that I wasn’t strong, that I wasn’t guaranteed a spot on the mortal plane, that I was susceptible to infirmity and disease. I saw the S slip off my chest, my cape fade a little and in that look, I understood that my goal is to never witness that feeling again and to do everything in my power to prolong that look.
I got off the couch and we started our daily walks again, I’m seeing the neurologist for a follow-up EEG and MRI and we’ll get a diagnosis for real. We’re back on our daily walks, I’m on work rest for a week and my kids are being them. I sent my cape in for dry cleaning and darned my S with some new stitching, we’ll see how long it holds.