If this is 40, I want a refund

Don’t get old, kids

My first trip to the emergency room, I was a freshman in college. My appendix blew up, but modern medicine won. The following two decades were smooth sailing.

My on-ramp for my 4th decade was a fabulous long weekend full of friends, tasty food, and outside time. A perfect start.

Then last Friday I woke up nauseous, passed out at the bathroom sink and smashed my neck on the shower threshold’s metal door track. Chelsea found me splayed out on the floor totally unresponsive. A terrifying sight.

To the hospital we zoomed. I passed out again on the way there. WTF?! She broke a few traffic laws and wheeled me riiight into the ER.

Five hours of brain, neck, heart and blood tests later found…(drumroll) nothing but an elevated white blood cell count. Picture of health, minus almost breaking my neck.

The ER doc’s best guess was a strong vagal nerve reaction to an undetected virus (COV-19 test was negative). The consensus is that I’m going to be fine, though I’m wearing a heart rate monitor this week and doing follow up tests. I’d love to hear your experience if this has ever happened to you!

I share this experience not for shock value, but because it’s kicked off so many thoughts. I keep returning to the fickle nature of life, how quickly good fortune can pivot.

I’m also interested how detached from the potential severity of things I was. “Well, if it’s a brain tumor, we’ll cross that bridge. If my heart valve is weak, I can get an ebike or play piano. If my neck is f’d, I can still read or play chess.” I didn’t expect that.

They say happiness usually returns to previous levels after an injury. My mental space accepting things seems in line with that. Easy to say without actually getting bad news.


On my 40th birthday, I deeply felt how valuable close relationships are. This episode hammered that home again—friends dropped off food, picked up groceries, offered medical insight or their personal experience, or just checked on me daily. I felt surrounded by love and support.

Chelsea is a self-proclaimed barnacle after my fall, keeping me close. Thinking your husband is dead will do that to you! I sure appreciate our wonderful life together.

I’m intrigued to see what else surfaces for me as I continue processing the experience. I didn’t glimpse the proverbial white light at the end of the tunnel, but who knows how close I was to it. A couple inches in a different direction with my fall could have changed everything.

Overall, I’m thankful to have modern medicine (plus the means to pay for it), supportive family, friends and partner, and the luck to walk away from this with nothing more than a very stiff neck.

Still kicking!