Talk about going out with a bang.
With the trail complete it was time to head back to town, get cleaned up and celebrate some more. Most of the people I’ve shared Te Araroa with, having left jobs and homes, are on tight budgets, while I’m still bringing in a salary from work while on paid leave. And I thought it only fitting to show this crew my appreciation of their friendship and congratulatins by putting some money over the bar for celebratery drinks.
We met up at a tavern later that evening and I got the tab started. First rounds ordered, everyone was in a celebratory mood. Me, I put down a nice dark ale in quick time and was ready for a 2nd while I waited for the kitchen to bring out my dinner. But my evening didn’t go so well from there. Before ordering a 2nd beer I was talking with Mat about the camera he used on the trail, because it was small, could change lenses and he took awesome photos with it; I started to feel light headed. Mid conversation my vision blurred and my world was reduced to black.
I don’t remeber fainting but on opening my eyes I was on the floor looking up at everyone. I remember asking, what am I doing down here, did I just faint? Apparently so. That’s not good. I’ve never fainted before. Initially I don’t think anyone quite knew what was going on. Did I trip, was I drunk, did I faint?
Luckily we had a doctor in the house. Bella is a doc but in her own words “usually deals with lady parts and babies”. I was well looked after and felt fine so got up and returned to my seat. Moments later it happened again but this time I knew what was going on. Poor Jacinta looking on frightened as hell, as it was only a week or so ago that a 30ish somethng world renound mountain biker died from a heart attack and this was fresh in her mind. The second faint had me a bit worried as well.
Bella skillfully took charge of the situation and I was kept on the floor. An ambulance was called and arrived minutes later. The paramedics initially attending to me on the floor but I felt ok. Probably a little fatigued, a little dehydrated and no food for a good few hours. I knew this and was desperately hungry. Food had been ordered and I was waiting for it to come out of the kitchen. They wanted to assess me properly and got me into the ambulance and hooked up to an ECG.
I’m a fit bloke and and at the best of times I have a low resting heart rate in the range of 55 to 60 bpm. Having just spent four months walking 3000 km, I was in peak fitness and my heart rate still low. Jacinta, Bella and myself tried to explain this to the paramedics but they were not convinced. The ECG kept reading my heart rate below 60 bpm and the medics were keen to get me to hospital for a thorough check over. They had tested blood sugars which were fine and had a cannula in my arm with saline drip flowing.
It was not the way I had expected or wanted the night to end. My friends all gathered around the back of the ambulance saying farewells as a mountain of wires extended from my chest to the ECG. A bit confronting I’m sure but the ambo’s were just fulfilling their duty of care and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
So it was off to hospital we went, poor Jacinta following in the car.
On admittance it was straight to the resuscitation ward in the emergency department. I felt fine, truly. A million questions, blood taken for tests, another ECG and blood pressure taken. Most ECG’s are set up to sound alarms with a bmp of less than 60. My machine kept beeping. I kept explaining I typically had a low resting heart rate and I was fine. Surely someone else was in greater need of this bed than me. Chest xrays followed and that got me a little worried but again everyone was just doing the right things and fulfilling their duty of care.
Anyway long story short…. a few hours of monitoring and all tests coming back fine I was given the all clear from the doctor for discharged. I forget the full name of what she said but basically just a typical one off fainting episode due to a combination of emotions running wild on finishing the trail, fatigue, lack of food, mild dehydration and standing still as opposed to walking for which my body had got used to. Phew…. What a relief….and what a way to end Te Araroa. Rune had promised a big finale to Te Araroa but I don’t suspect he thought one of us would be carted off to hostipal in a meat wagon.
Thanks to all that helped. Most importantly Bella, Mary-Kate and Jacinta but also the St Johns ambos, nurses, docters and staff at Southland Hospital in Invercargill. Not to one attending nurse though…I never did get that meal that was promised and was starving on leaving the hospital, hooking into the doggy bag that the tavern had kindly packaged up our meals in. I swear that was all I ever needed. Some food in my system and a beer to wash it down.
I left hostipal with the all clear but with the biggest injury I’ve suffered right through Te Araroa – a sore and bruised left butt cheek from when I first went down like a sack of shit and hit the taverns concrete floor, my now boney bum having lost all excess fat along the journey through New Zealand.