‘I was just standing waiting for a bus...I was just watching the TV with my wife...I was just having a coffee with a friend...I was just on the bus to work...'
The people I see in clinic are many and varied. They are all genders, ages, ethnicities and from all social backgrounds. Some have been fainting for many years, others perhaps only once or twice. Nevertheless, when people tell me the story of one of their faints I find they often include this phrase: “I was Just…”
They tell me; it was an ordinary day. They were not doing anything which they thought was dangerous of ‘stressful’. The faints are ‘random’ and make no sense. The ‘ ordinary-ness’ of what they were doing at the time is often what confuses (or scares them) all the more.
People have seen films and TV programmes when someone faints because of a shock or a scare – but what is scary about catching the Number 7 into town to do your shopping on a lovely sunny day in July? Maybe if they had been walking back from the shops? With heavy bags and straining something? But not just sitting on the bus! “What’s all that about Nurse?”
Understanding why you may faint is very often about the ordinary and mundane. Certainly, particular and sometimes quite traumatic events can lie and the root of fainting for some people. Yet for most patients it’s simply about a mix of blood pooling, hydration and setting.
I was just standing still waiting 15 minutes for a bus. Not moving because you were texting a friend. When you are bored you may walk around to ease the boredom? Whilst you were still the blood pooled.
I was just catching up with a friend in a crowded and warm coffee shop? Times passes so quickly but blood can also pool during that time.
You left the house early to get to the shops – perhaps you would grab a drink later? It’s a lovely hot day- even hotter on the bus and you looked quite flushed (as your blood vessels widen to send blood up to the surface of your skin to radiate off heat) and a bit more sweaty than normal? As you sit in traffic the blood pools and your ‘fluid tank’ that was half full drops below the ‘minimum level’ for you.
‘I was just.’ But perhaps you now can see that, in the right setting, for some people being at rest, whether seated of standing can encourage blood to pool and result in someone feeling faint.
You don’t have to be hopping up Mount Kilimanjaro on one leg to faint … but that’s the tale for another blog …