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Fainting isn’t fun

This is going to be a short one as I haven’t recovered from a rough day yesterday.

I have wires in my wrist since this most recent surgery and one of them is sticking up enough under the skin that it catches and causes intense pain. The surgeon decided to remove it yesterday by freezing the area. It wasn’t really responding as he tried to get it and he pressed on a wire on the other side that wasn’t frozen. Between the pain and the rather disturbing nature of trying to pull a wire out of my wrist while I’m awake I went white and came pretty close to fainting, but why?

Fainting is typically caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure because your autonomic system (the stuff we don’t have to think about like heart beat) has a glitch. All of a sudden, your brain gets less blood (meaning less oxygen) and you faint. Sometimes you get other symptoms like nausea, sometimes you don’t. 

This occurs because your brain, unlike other parts of your body, doesn’t store anything for later: it needs a constant supply if oxygen and glucose. Interrupt that supply for even a few seconds and you can faint. Unfortunately there are many triggers, pain being one of them. Abd there isn’t a lot you can do except avoid situations that make you faint, and make sure you are well hydrated and have appropriate blood glucose levels going in. According to the Harvard heart health site, drinking a quart of juice and eating a bag of chips beforehand will help. And, if you can, lie down so that it is easier for your body to pump blood to your brain, and you can’t fall and hurt yourself.

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About Peyto

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities. Peyto is a reference to Bill Peyto who was an outfitter, trapper, and eventually a park warden in Banff National Park. Peyto Lake and Peyto Glacier are both named after him. He is also a distant relative of mine.

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