Many of you have been wondering why I missed my ASSA session in Chicago. Here is what happened:
On the Thursday before the conference, I boarded my flight from San Francisco to Chicago. I had had only a small breakfast and a dark chocolate (consistent with my famous diet) for the entire day. On the plane, I ordered a salad with chicken and then suddenly I started sweating really badly and felt really hot so I decided to go to the lavatory and remove one of my twenty layers that prepared me for the ‘Ice Age’ in Chicago. On the way there, I guess I fell and passed out (I don’t really remember) but I remember trying to get up and two flight attendants holding me and telling me to rest because I passed out. Immediately they connected me to the oxygen mask and told me it is a really bad idea to pass out in an airplane because the floor is made of steel with little carpeting and one can really hurt yourself. I responded to them by saying that next time I’ll try to pass out in a safer environment.
Once we landed, they announced that all the passengers must clear the aisle and I was wheeled in a wheelchair to an ambulance where they connected me to really impressive machinery and they took me to ‘Resurrection (aptly named) Hospital’. I called my wife Leorah, and informed her about the situation (To be honest, this was the most nerve-wracking part of this experience). Then I called Prof. Madhu Khanna to notify her that I wouldn’t make the session.
The next morning, I had an MRI and a stress test (that was quite impressive too. It’s not a treadmill but they inject some material that enlarges your arteries) and then after several hours of waiting they told me that I am OK, my heart is good. I had a very low heart rate, perhaps because of my blood pressure medicine and since I lost weight, it may be overworking.
I always worried about my high heart rate but if you think about it, low heart rate, (especially if converging to zero) is not good either. Other possibilities included an inner ear infection, so I went to my doctor when I arrived back to Berkeley to gain a better understanding. After I told him the whole story and he read the report from the ‘Resurrection Hospital’ he decided I had something called ‘Vasovagal syncope” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasovagal_response) which is a nervous reaction that results in passing out.
Now, what are the causes?
- Tension and stress
- I was dehydrated (because of the diet and drinking lots of coffee)
- Heat (because I was dressed for Chicago and was in the airplane)
This is actually a rather regular condition that occurs especially for people who lose weight, or are under pressure; blood pressure drops and when they get up, blood goes to their feet and they fall. So, the solution is when you feel dizzy, put your head between your knees and it will be fine. My biggest mistake was getting up when I felt all this pressure rather than leaning my head between my knees and letting the blood rush to my head. Actually, the doctor decided that I should not change my medicine and suggested that I drink more water and that if this happens again, lie on the ground rather than fall to the ground after attempting to stand up.
So, I am actually more optimistic about my future than before, I appreciate everyone’s concern and I guess I will continue on writing papers and annoying people, especially in Berkeley, by stating that GMOs make positive contributions and biofuel is not a monstrosity after all.
Thanks to all for your concern,
PS: slides of my missed presentation are available to view here: Impact of Biofuels on Food Prices