I’m embarrassed, amused certainly, but most definitely embarrassed. You see, I apparently have the delicate sensibilities of a Victorian lady, and am prone to fainting. Yes, fainting, as in swooning like a corseted ancestor. Bah humbug!
A few days ago, I was happily commuting to work when I saw an interesting entry on Letters of Note describing the surgery endured by Lucy Thurston, a missionary on Hawaii in 1855 who underwent a mastectomy without anaesthetic. For some reason, I ignored the warning that preceded the article advising the squeamish to go no further, despite the fact that I get faint every time I have to give blood. I convinced myself that I would be able to read her rather descriptive letter, because you know, it’s not like there were pictures or anything. It turns out that I’m really not that tough at all.
Unfortunately the bus was crowded, and due to the heavy rain, incredibly stuffy, and as I started to feel ill while reading about blood spurting into the surgeon’s face, I turned my phone off and thought increasingly desperately of ringing the bell and jumping off so that I wouldn’t be sick on my poor unsuspecting fellow passengers.
…and then I heard an alarmed voice in my ear asking me if I was alright, and I found myself lying on the girl sitting beside me.
That’s right, I’d fainted from reading an article.*hangs head in shame*
And unlike our Victorian ancestors, modern society doesn’t know what to do with a fainting lady. There were no smelling salts applied to my delicate nostrils, no handsome gentleman to loosen my clothing, no maidservant to mopping my perspiring brow. Instead I slumped in my seat with my mouth hanging open, moaning faintly while the bus driver made everyone disembark in the pouring rain and called an ambulance.
In the space of an hour, I went from reading about painful medical procedures to enduring them, as the paramedics gave me finger-prick blood sugar tests and the ER nurses inserted a cannula into my hand and took vials of blood.
Don’t believe the nurse when she tells you that a cannula will save you from further pain when they want to take blood from you later, those things hurt like the dickens.
Not only was I hooked up to ECG machines and blood pressure monitors, nobody seemed to believe me that is was a straight forward faint. Apparently modern human doesn’t faint without good reason and “I was reading a gory article” just doesn’t cut it as far as explanations go.
Though completely mortified that a few simple sentences robbed me of my consciousness and reduced me to a whimpering jelly, I felt warmed by the kindness of strangers who waited for the ambulance with me and held my hand while I tried not to further humiliate myself by vomiting in public, and while I shed a self-pitying tear or two (there’s nothing like having to scroll through your phone contacts to find a friend to help you, to remind yourself that you live alone in a city).
In future, I shall avoid anything that remotely horrifies me, at least while I’m on public transport. I’m thinking of expanding my faint triggers to include mentions of ‘ankles’ and ‘unwed mothers’ just to fully embrace my Victorian sensibilities.
I shall be advertising for a lady’s maid to carry my hartshorn and fan.