Vacations Can Hide Its Glamour & Show Its Fierceness
My husband & professional nature photographer, Scott McGee (Under Pressure Photography) & I planned to visit WA again, for our 4th time, via flying. To give you all a bit of a heads up, I’ve been struggling with heart palpitations/panic attacks for the past year & a half. They seem to have triggered (so we think) my 28yr. old, on & off IBS symptoms. Last year when we flew to WA, these palpitations surprised me just after eating a cheese & fruit plate the flight offered. I had shortness of breath, got sick to my stomach & had consistent palpitations. It was like a scene off of Airplane, but I didn’t have the chicken or the fish! WTF!? That was a challenging last hour of the flight. Thankfully, there was a doctor on board who helped me bring my pulse down by calming my breathing with a technique I never heard of, the valsalva maneuver. I felt I was high after a couple of those. It was a good moment. Heh heh. Unfortunately, though, the palpitations kept coming back. So they hooked me up to an oxygen tank, all the while practicing that breathing technique until my body calmed down. The rest of that trip went a little smoother. Unfortunately, I had to cancel the flight home, rented a car & drove for 2 days instead. I had a few more episodes on the way back while driving through Redding, Sacramento, & all those hot cities. The heat & I never got along. I know, I know, how the heck have I survived summer weather in Southern Cali for so many years!? Lots of moments of sticking my head in the freezer. The warm temperatures in these cities also seemed to have triggered my palpitations. Sigh! We weren’t quite sure why I was getting these. What came first, IBS or palpitations? That is the problem we’re still trying to figure out.
Fast forward to April 1st, 2017. We’re boarding the plane that will take us back to Seattle, WA. We have plans to check out Port Townsend for a possible place to call home one day & planned hikes in Olympic National Park, in between home searching. I have the memory of our last flight in my mind so I’m a little nervous, but I really thought I was prepared. Only 10 min. in, shortly after they closed the doors, I had an episode. This episode didn’t want to stop completely either. My wonderful, patient husband & I tried out our usual mental & breathing exercises, but my body wouldn’t have it. I so badly wanted to overcome this nasty feeling & fly away, but I knew if this was happening so quickly upon entering the plane then it will only get worse the next 3 hours. We made the decision to get off the plane to play it safe & avoid a possible emergency landing had we stayed on, which would only piss off the other passengers. I have to add, the crew & customer service for Alaska Airlines was top notch. They were so thoughtful. They went above & beyond in taking care of us. We got basically everything refunded, including the cost for our suitcases that were still on that flight. Once again, we decided to make this a road trip & meet our luggage in SeaTac, WA.
Vacation Hiding Something Up Its Sleeve
Scott & I came down with some kind of sinus infection a couple of days after we arrived. We’re pretty sure we caught this at the airport. We then decided to take a mellow day & explore Port Townsend & nearby towns. We stopped by a drive-thru mom & pop coffee place for some hot chocolate. It is a very rare treat for us since we usually drink caffeine free teas instead. We had an interesting conversation with a very sweet & young girl who never met vegans before. She, like others in WA we spoke to, only eat meat that is hunted by her brother, otherwise they choose to eat vegetarian when eating out. Just to clarify, we’re not technically vegans either since we do eat responsibly hunted meat that my in-laws share with us, but we explained to the young girl that we choose a vegan lifestyle otherwise. Soon after finishing only half of our drinks we stopped by a Mexican restaurant for lunch. The challenge of eating vegan in these very small towns was quite difficult, but we managed to customize our order. I told the waitress we were vegans. Not a word came out of her mouth. Instead, her eyes popped out & she stared at me like I was speaking in tongues. So I explained that we will be customizing our burritos to only veggie style. She snapped out of it & said, “Oh, a veggie burrito, ok.” Well, not necessarily “ok”. So I told her no cheese & to add more veggie variety than what was on the menu. She pretty much gave us the thumbs up & off she went with our orders. Phew! When she arrived, the burrito was sitting on a creamy tomato based sauce accompanied by a big dollop of sour cream on the side. Oy vey. I just thanked her & pushed aside the sour cream. Although, the burrito itself tasted fine, I was only able to finish half of it since it took up the width of the whole plate. Only minutes later, the unglamorous part of the trip had decided to visit me…again.
The Not So Glamorous Vacation: Part Ouch!
Simply put, it seems the food, including the hot chocolate, didn’t agree with my stomach. I didn’t have palpitations, but my energy quickly disappeared. So we took it mellow that day, plus we were both already feeling crappy due to our sinus issues. Later, we were playing around with a couple of plans for the next day. Will we hike or kayak? I’ve been wanting to kayak each time we visit WA, but hiking its forests is just so magical! Oh what to choose!?!? So, Scott suggested we go kayaking, but to check out the Staircase area of Olympic National Park for photos that evening. On the first mile of the pothole-filled road it took to get there, Scott was considering turning around because it really took a toll on my already sensitive tummy. The sites we have seen so far made me suck it up & tell my man to plow thru the next 3 miles. Something in me was saying, “There’s usually something beautiful hidden at the end of a storm”. That’s something my father taught me. Our family has literally driven thru some crazy storms or taken a rough trek just to see what’s on the other side. The journeys & its rewards were memorable. We never regretted it.
I was right. Not ony did Scott & I find such fantastical beauty, but we found our next backpacking venture! Scott will post his blog & photos on this journey on his website at Under Pressure Photography. For a moment my pain & discomfort disappeared. I was in such bliss & awe for the short time we spent there. We noticed it was getting late, but dreaded the 4 mile drive back. This time I drove which made it a little less uncomfortable for me, but when we arrived at the cabin we were in for a surprise later that night, er morning.
Vacation To Our Final Destination
I woke up around 2:30am & had to use the restroom. When I sat back on the bed I felt something unfamiliar & weird. Instead of it being something physical it was more like an intuition. I coudn’t lie back down, but I stayed frozen sitting up, afraid to move. Scott asked if I was ok & I responded with, “I don’t think so”. I told him I was going downstairs because I thought maybe I was freaking out at how quiet & suddenly small the room felt. I asked if he would mind joining me to sleep on the couch instead. Like the amazing trooper he is, he joined me. I sat on the floor with my back against the couch, while Scott tried to fall asleep. I just couldn’t lie down yet. Suddenly my entire digestive system felt like it exploded into pieces, causing palpitations, shortness of breath & dizziness. I was already having trouble breathing because of my clogged sinuses so that added to the equation for major discomfort. We both got very little sleep the rest of the morning. I got sick for almost 2 hours, while Scott, sneezing, coughing & congested played nurse the entire time. We finally fell asleep for maybe 2 hours. When daylight showed thru the windows, we both knew we had to cut our vacation time short & go home. I was bummed, but too weak to care that much really. I just kept thinking of home & how badly I wanted to be there.
We drove 6 hours to Portland & stopped for the night. That night was also rough. I had to sleep sitting up against the headboard. The next morning, Scott stopped at Jamba Juice since he’d been craving it all night. As we were walking to the entrance we noticed a Zoom+Care (urgent care) across the way. I suggested we stop by there first to get something to kill our sinus issues. As we waited, I noticed I was getting weaker, palpitations picked up & I got so cold. I’ve never felt my body get that cold ever. It felt like my blood drained out of my body. I knew something was seriously wrong because I was feeling like I was going to pass out. I muttered, “911”. Scott quickly turned to me & asked me to repeat what I said. My eyes were now closing, “911”. I can hear him asking the receptionist to get a doctor. I didn’t pass out, but I barely could respond to the doctor, keep myself upright or keep my eyes open. I was a rag doll. I started to shake really bad & that’s when they called for an ambulance.
You would think I was too weak to notice anything, but I remember the 3 female paramedics that assisted me. They were hot & bad ass! I remember thinking how awesome it was to have such pretty, bad ass women take care of me. While I was smiling in my head, my poor hubby, was so concerned. He said waiting in the car, behind the ambulance, were the longest moments of his life. Tugged at my heart. While in the ambulance, Sara took great care of me. She made sure I was comfortable & helped my shakes stop. I started to feel warmer too. My vitals were all normal, but away we went to the hospital. I was able to speak a little better & unloaded all the info she needed for the hospital.
With Scott by my side, they wheeled me in a room. I was diagnosed with dehydration. So they filled me up with 2 bags of fluids. I also had UTI, (WHA!!??) in which they added antibiotics to my IV. I was still very weak & they advised I go home asap to my GI to get an ultrasound, etc., which was already the plan with my doctor at home. They could’ve done that & a CT Scan there, but since my doc at home already knows what to look for, it was advised to go have it done then. After many more “triggers” similar to aftershocks after an earthquake, & some full blown palpitations with stomach upsets, we barely made it home in time. Poor Scott was feeling real crappy & he had to do most of the driving. I managed to gain some strength to drive only a couple of hours from LA while he caught some sleep. In total, we, er he, drove approx. 13 hours that day/night.
Home At Last
Currently, I’m still undergoing tests. Doctors can’t figure out what is causing my digestive issues that may or may not be triggering palpitations. By now, it’s a combination of physical triggers, but also mental. After so many palpitations & difficulty breathing which, literally feels like you’re dying each time, I’m also now dealing with what they’re calling “situational anxiety”. In my mind, I know I’m not dying, but it’s like breathing thru a straw while your heart tries to break thru your chest like a parasitoid Alien chestburster! The mental challenge just got real. I also lost 7lbs. in less than a week. Hey, on the bright side, I have less abs to tone. Boom! I’ve been referred to a GI Motility specialist at UCSD, but I have to wait a couple of months to be seen. In the meantime, I’m continuing to exercise & meditate 5 days a week, still eat very healthy & smaller portions which helps some. I have my not so bad & bad days. There are days where I don’t think it’s worth the fight anymore, but somehow I snap out of that & keep going.
Not all vacations are glamorous. This one really kicked my behind to the curb, but Scott & I are very excited & grateful we found the town we want to call home in Washington!! We did get to hike earlier in our trip where Scott was in toyland photographing his favorite…waterfalls, at Sol Duc. We also hiked another mile toward Deer Lake, but turned around at a snow covered landslide. We thought it wasn’t worth the risk to cross it. Ok, maybe I convinced him it didn’t seem safe. He was all ready to go. Such a rebel. Even though that was our only hike, we did find a magical place we hope to backpack soon by putting up with a moment of bumps & pain. Thank you pothole road!