Monday, January 4, 2016

Mick McKellar Update — Day +1778

I like to sleep in a cool room, and cuddle down under good, warm blankets. However, recently I allowed my room to warm to the level of the other bedrooms on the second floor of our home. There is no insulation between rooms upstairs, and my refrigerated room adjoins my daughter's room. It was sucking heat from her space. Consequently, I adjusted to only one blanket.

Last night, probably while doing my usual somnambulist Olympic gymnastics, I managed to kick my blanket off my bed and slept for hours under only a sheet. Because of medications I take at bedtime, I slept very soundly, and did not wake for a full eight hours. As I swam upwards toward consciousness, I realized something was wrong. My heart rate was slower than normal for waking, and I found it difficult to move. Confused, I struggled to sit up and noticed for the first time that I had no blanket. My first thought was, "Why am I not shivering?" Our house is old and cold in the winter, despite the best efforts of a new high-efficiency furnace, and I spend a lot of time shivering. I should have been shivering.

I pulled back my sheet.

My feet were bright red and my fingers were numb. I knew that meant something, but my brain refused to get into gear and start grinding facts. Although I'm certain it was less than a minute, it seemed hours before my mind's alarms went off—I was in the secondary stages of hypothermia!

It must have been a ridiculous sight, like a mannequin dressing himself, but I finally dressed. I included my largest and heaviest old, fat sweater (from my over 300 lb days), and rumbled down the stairs. I stumbled into the living room, scaring Marian half to death, looking all pale and moaning like a walking toothache. I slumped into my rocker and pulled a heavy, warm throw up to my chin. Marian cranked the heat up to 74°F (wasteful, wasteful) and we waited for the shivering to start.

First came a massive wave of pins and needles in hands, feet, legs, and arms. Then slowly I began to shake and quake enough to frighten Dante. Marian called him up into my lap, but the shaking frightened him off immediately. It took the better part of an hour for my core temperature to recover enough to allow me to make some Earl Grey and take my first wave of medications.

As I write this, my hands still ache and shake, but hot tea and a bowl of Malt-O-Meal have worked their magic. I still shiver, off and on, and the normal level of pins and needles in my feet and hands has resumed. I also realize how close I came to a real emergency. Staying indoors during the winter is about my body's inability to generate enough heat to counter the cold air in my lungs, and to conquer the heat loss in my extremities—as much or more than it is to evade contact with pathogens I cannot resist.

I have become fragile—a being brittle and breakable, in an environment hostile to my health. I am well. I am alive. Just don't bump me from the shelf, for I may shatter on the carpet.


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