July 20, 2006

Wednesday, 2007-07-19 Part II: Seasickness, food poisoning, or a heart attack?!?

We headed back to the boat, and I think the next stop was a two hour cruise with drinks. I decided that I wasn't too comfortable on the boat for two hours, so wouldn't have any alcohol.

After a few minutes on the boat, we hit some choppy water, and I started to feel unwell. I crouched down, and felt a bit better, especially after taking off my jacket, since I was having hot flashes and cold sweats. Strangely, as I was crouching down, my feet and hands started to tingle. I stumbled to an open chair, and when I asked if I could sit there, I was told that his friend was returning so I should not sit there. Luckily, a crew member came and asked me if I wanted to go to the upper deck. I didn't really want to go to the upper deck, since it seemed like it would be rocking more, being higher up off the ground. She said it would be better though, and I knew that there would be more open chairs there since it was still raining a bit, and was somewhat cold outside. The crew member got a seat for me, and told me to look at the horizon, which should help. She also gave me some water, and said I should drink all of it. I thought she might be right. I wasn't feeling much better, but concentrated on breathing in deep breaths through my nose, and fully exhale through my mouth to try to get all the CO2 out. Usually when I don't feel well it helps a lot to keep cool, which I was, and concentrate on breathing. Strangely, this didn't seem to help much. In fact, as more time passed, my hands and legs were starting to tingle more, and shake a bit. I was having a very hard time controlling my hands, it was very difficult to open them. I was starting to feel very bad after about ten minutes, my hands were frozen and I couldn't feel them, my feet were tingling and that feeling had moved up to my legs and arms. I could not drink the water any more because I couldn't move my arms at the elbows any more. I was like some poorly made action figure, with stiff arms and legs, hands frozen forever in some strange grip. It was about this time that I started to fear that I was having a heart attack. I didn't really think that it would be likely, since I'm fairly healthy, but my family does have some history of heart trouble on my mother's side. My stomach started to tingle as well, and most of the muscles up and down my back and stomach were spasming. By the time the ship crew member returned to ask if I was feeling better, I stammered out that I felt very sick, and would like medical attention. She asked if I was with anyone, and I told her about Dekai Wu, but it was becoming difficult to talk. My face was starting to tingle and my lips were numb. My speech was beginning to become a bit stiff.

It was about at this time that I started to have some very strange thoughts. Perhaps this wasn't a heart attack, since it seemed that my left and right sides were equally affected. Still, I could not move my hands or arms, and was starting to have trouble feeling my face, which was going numb. Perhaps I was having some trouble getting oxygen to my brain, and I was having some form of dementia or brain damage centered on my muscular control centers? I was very worried about that because there is also some history of Parkinson's in my family, which is a break-down of motor control dealing with brain functions. I thought that I could think very well, but was having trouble controlling my body (I was shaking all over by now) and was just very scared. I couldn't actually think any coherent thoughts other than that I was very scared, this might be a heart attack or some other scary mental problem, and then I just kept repeating that I couldn't feel my hands.

Not too long after I was going numb in my face (my hands, feet, arms, legs, and stomach were already tingling or numb) I threw up. After throwing up, I really started to feel better, except now I was worried because I had ruining my jacket and ACL/COLING bag. The ship's crew came and said that they had called an ambulance. I believe that we docked at the Sydney Opera House, which may or may not have been on our itinerary. The crew came and helped clean up a bit. Warm water on my hands really helped there, and I started to get some feeling in them again. After maybe ten minutes of that I started to get some feeling back in them.

I got off of the boat, I was able to walk to some extent, and we waited for the taxi for about twenty minutes in the rain. It never came, and instead Deepak took a Taxi with me to St. Vincent's Hospital. At the triage desk, the nurse asked me some questions, but said that mostly likely I had become seasick and hyperventilated, cutting off oxygen flow to my extremities. I don't agree with that analysis but I can't be sure. I have been seasick before, and never had any problems with numbness and tingling in my extremities. The other option is that I had food poisoning. I don't think I've ever had food poisoning in my life before, so perhaps that was it. I don't think it was a heart attack or anything like that, but I'm not sure I'll know until I have food poisoning or a heart attack to compare with. I did want to see a doctor though because I was a bit worried about what had happened, and I still felt quite ill.

I met with someone at the registration desk, and learned about the Australian health care system. Basically since I am not Australian I was treated as a "guest", which costs AU $95 for the visit, and if I see a doctor another AU $95. Costs for medical tests would be in addition to that, at some cost to be decided later. That sounded quite reasonable to me. I think the last time I was at a hospital in Dallas, it cost about $600 and I waited about a total of six hours for what we thought might have been a poison spider bite (I had a really nasty and bloody foot from it) but in the end was a fire-ant bite on a blood blister from basketball. And I had insurance (although, out-of-state student insurance) for that visit.

At about 8pm we caught a taxi, and I went home. I still didn't feel well, spent some time cleaning off the worst of my clothes, and then slept. I slept for about eleven hours, and woke up feeling much better. I dropped off my clothes at a dry cleaning place, had some coffee, and am now back at the COLING/ACL talks, with a healthy fear of seafood (which I love!) and boat rides (which I've never had much of an opinion about, aside from an excellent dinner cruise around New York city a few years ago.)

I will avoid seafood for the rest of this trip, and will spend some time reflecting on what was, at the time, a near-death experience in my mind. Also, thinking about applications of Bayesian methods to multilingual summarization.


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Re: Wednesday, 2007-07-19 Part II: Seasickness, food poisoning, or a heart attack?!?
I don't think I'm epileptic at all. I think it is more likely that I somehow encountered sulfa, which I'm (said to be) highly allergic to. Still, a very strange experience, and it has started me thinking about big life issues. Kind of hard to take that time in the middle of a very interesting conference though.
Posted 18 years, 4 months ago by FuguTabetai • • wwwReply

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