Have You Ever Fainted?

Today a man walked into a Red Cross in St. Louis, felt a needle prick his finger, and fainted to the floor.

Fortunately, I was not that man. I was the guy who was waiting to donate blood while that man was revived. While I never saw him, apparently he was a big fella–350 pounds, 6’6″–and when the needle touched his skin, he was out like a light. He slid down onto the floor, and they couldn’t move him while they revived him.

I learned all this from my attendant while successfully donating blood, something I do twice a year on my birthday and half birthday (today was the half birthday). While I’ve never come close to fainted, I always try to stay aware of how I feel, particularly when I stand up after finishing. I wonder, though, that if my body needed to faint, if I would feel it coming at all.

So I’m curious: Have you ever fainted? Did you feel it coming? Did you crash to the ground or slowly lower yourself?


13 Responses to “Have You Ever Fainted?”

  1. Erin H. says:

    I’ve fainted countless times, usually due to blood draws or other gross medical/injury stuff. I cannot even watch bloody movies or have some one even describe bloody stuff.

    I can totally tell when I am about to faint and can often stop it from happening by laying down. The most recent was Memorial Day when I broke my toe and set it back into place.

    Once I was in post-op after a sugery and hooked up to a blood pressure cuff. The doc started talking about the procedure with someone (intern?) and I started feeling like I was passing out. My blood pressure dropped to 60/40. I am not sure if this is why everyone faints, but it’s definitely why I do!!

  2. Dave Banks says:

    I’ve not fainted before, but I came close once. My wife and I had trouble getting pregnant. So, as a last ditch effort, we tried IVF. They implanted two fertilized eggs and we crossed our fingers and waited. On 9/11 (yes, that one), we found out she was pregnant. Awesome! A few weeks later, we went in for an ultrasound. On the drive to the doctor’s office, we bet each other whether it was going to be a single baby or twins.

    We arrived and went in to the room for the ultrasound and the doctor began. Quickly, he said “Here’s a nice, beating heart.” Brilliant! I high-fived my wife. We were so happy! The doctor then said “And here’s one more heartbeat.” More high fives. Twins!

    Then he said the words I will never forget, as long as I live. “We’re not done yet.”

    What? I flushed. I felt very, very hot and the room began to spin. I grabbed the table and held on as the doctor said “Here’s a third heartbeat.”

    I put my head down and took several very deep breaths. And waited. The doctor said nothing more. I asked, “Are we done?”

    “Yes,” came the reply.

    Some more deep breaths and I regained some stature.

    Anyway, that’s the closest I’ve come to fainting. So far.

    After very early births and some health scares, they are doing great. My kids are 16, beginning to move on with their lives, almost. As I type this, one daughter is in Versailles, France as part of a student exchange, another daughter is at Cal Tech, doing data analysis as part of an astrophysics internship, and my son is on staff at a Boy Scout camp for developmentally disabled. I couldn’t be happier or more proud. But when I first found out …

    **deep breaths**

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      I can definitely see how your mind and body may have considered fainting at that moment, Dave! đŸ™‚

  3. Sara says:

    The vagus nerve is the thing that makes people faint at the sight of something. It also can activate in the case of extreme pain. The nerve resides near the rectum, so it can be accidentally triggered by loose stool. For me, I feel it coming on – the room gets bright; I feel like I’m going to be sick; then it’s like I can see the black curtain dropping behind my eyes and then night night! Sometimes I’ll break into a clammy sweat beforehand. I definitely turn ghost white, but I haven’t had a BP reading while in that state. It’s a trip for sure.

  4. Oh yes, similar to Erin, I’ve fainted a number of times. and have to make sure they lay me down if they want a blood sample. When I had to do first aid training, I was advised to drink strong coffees before and during to keep my BP up, and I advised the instructor that I might have to step out.
    It is an extremely unpleasant feeling! Oddly, I have a high pain threshold but I’m quite squeamish and talk of blood and bleeding is usually what gets me.
    I got through my son’s birth without drugs–which was my goal after I heard about the needle they need to insert for epidurals–and a few days after I wrote an account of it as I knew I’d forget many details. If I read that now, it makes me feel light-headed!

  5. Ryan Moore says:

    I was singing in a choir competition in high school. This competition happened to be during finals week, as well. Studying and writing papers had kept me up well past midnight the night before. The choir competition started at 6AM and I got there early. I was tired to be sure but was pretty animated for having two hours of sleep. My school was up next and we all shuffled into our little room to go before the judges. It was warm in that room and the sound was deadened by all the soundproofing so that other competitors could not be heard during our adjudication. I took my spot on the third step of the riser near the other basses. Not 30 seconds later, I hear people asking, “Ryan, are you ok?” I didn’t respond in hoping these annoying people would just let me sleep! This sudden nap was sorely needed after no breakfast and no sleep from the night before. After a few more urgings from teachers and students, I woke up and sat out of that round of the competition. I was dizzy and lightheaded. I had passed out and had started to lean on the student in front of me. That student, unaware I had fainted, moved to one side which left a clear pathway for me to fall about ten feet forward from three feet up directly on my face. I wasn’t hurt nor did I have any scrapes or bruises. After my impromptu nap, I was able to get to a vending machine and get some food and caffeine in my system. I think it was a combination of that room being so cozily quiet and (probably the main reason) the fact that I had locked my knees, cutting off circulation. I never felt it coming. One second I was singing, the next I had people standing around me trying to get me up and asking if I was ok.

    A dramatic retelling of the one time in my life I fainted. It really wasn’t that interesting but it was fun to write!

  6. Nik says:

    When I was younger I think I had an iron or maybe just a vegetable deficiency so occasionally when I would stand up too fast I would start seeing spots and my vision would start to go black. I would immediately sit down, crouch, kneel, etc. and let it pass. Which it usually would. In hindsight, I probably should have gone to the doctor about it but that’s not really something I tend to do.

    My parents used to have a couple of brick red recliners with a small 30″ high by 24″ diameter circular table with a white table cloth between them with a relatively large brass table lamp and associated knick knacks sitting on it. Behind the chairs and table was a pair of 36″ x 72″ windows that were butted up against each other and led out to the front porch. The sill of the windows was only 12 inches or so above the floor. On nice days, and even some days that were way too hot for it, my parents would open all the windows rather than run the AC.

    One day, I’m sitting in one of the recliners. I got up to do something. The next thing I know I’m sitting outside on the front porch on top of a crushed little table with a big brass lamp in my lap and my feet are hanging through the window.

    I’m fairly lucky they had the windows open. That was the only time I have full on fainted.

  7. Candy Mercer says:

    My story is so much less dramatic. It is believed the vagus nerve caused it. I use cannabis for my chronic pain, and I had just smoked some, and was coughing really hard…yeah, it happens. I woke up on the floor next the dishwasher I was emptying. I was freaked out of course, but my doctor reassured me (I always tell doctors the truth about my cannabis use). It has never happened again, though every now and then, if I feel a little light headed, I make sure to sit down until it has passed, just in case. I have now felt it a duty to let other users know to be careful!

    Two takeaways:

    Be careful with the weed kids. You don’t need to cough for it to work.

    Also, always put your silver wear sharp side down! I could have really hurt myself! This could apply to any sort of slip and fall, not just fainting from too big a cannabis hit!

  8. Candy Mercer says:

    PS. I LOVE that picture! And kudos for taking time out of your day to help others!

  9. Joe Pilkus says:

    About a year and a-half ago I set up my house for a Gaming Day which would go from noon-to-midnight! I had all of the right treats, from several different types of apples and melons, bowls of nuts, and other healthy treats for the day-long event. I knew that we also order pizza later in the day. By all accounts, things looked great.

    It was a very warm day in mid-December, hitting almost 80 degrees, which in Northern VA is tough to do. I had just picked-up my friend from the Metro and brought him back to my place before the others arrived. I’m forever thankful that my buddy was there that day. I reached, twice, for a glass on the shelf, and then promptly went down like a ton of bricks. He had caught me and leaned me against the sink area in the kitchen, offering me and then taking away (by the directions provided by the nurse on the phone) a glass of water.

    Within minutes, I heard the footfalls of the medical team arriving on the main floor of my townhouse and they set to work. Five minutes later, I’m on a seated contraption outside of my house and several cars had emptied with my friends who had arrived to play. I waved them into the house and let them know I’d be fine and would return…unbeknownst to me, several hours later.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Wow, that’s quite an adventure, Joe! Is it normal for post-fainting analysis to take that long?

      • Erin H. says:

        If Joe is not “a fainter” it could have been a number of more serious things, so better safe than sorry. With me, it’s just like “OK, she’s awake. What’s for dinner.”

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