Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thought I was Gonna Die...

At least it felt that way to me.  It’s a not a feeling I want to deal with very often.  It’s sometimes called a close call, a scare, dodging a bullet, or too close for comfort.  And for most of us, once will probably be one time too many.   For me, it was an episode of not being able to catch my breath after running up a steep hill.  Sounds simple enough, but it was still scary and a little embarrassing because it happened on Main Street in Durango Colorado.

So here’s my story.  I was in Durango, CO with my son Cav, while we were on an RV trip.  It was Friday the 13th and we were scheduled to go on a day long trip on the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train up to Silverton.

It was 8:00 am, a nice sunny morning, and as we were waiting for the local trolley to take us into town, I realized I had forgotten my sunglasses.  The trolley was scheduled to arrive within the couple of minutes, so I quickly ran down a hill about 800 ft. to the campground and my RV to get my sunglasses.  The downhill run was fine, but now I had to hustle up a steep hill back to the trolley stop.  Now, I’m not much of a runner.  I used to be in excellent shape when I was biking, but now, I’m probably what some would call out of shape.   I’m not overweight but I was carrying a 20lb back pack full of cameras, coats and water bottles on my 60 year old frame.  The hill was very steep and to make matters worse, it was Durango, 6,800 ft. above sea level.  The air was thin.  At the start of the up-hill run, my breathing was already pretty quick from the downhill run.  About half way up the steep driveway from the campground, I felt my heart pounding.  I was sucking in big gulps of air.  My legs were still running but I wasn’t moving very fast.  I looked up and saw the trolley at the stop waiting for me, which created some panic as I didn’t want to miss it.

I kept going up the last 100 ft. to the trolley, but it felt like I was moving in slow motion.  My heart felt like it was pounding right out of my shirt.  I was taking in big gulps of air, but it felt like there was nothing in it.  My lungs were burning.  I felt light headed as I reached the trolley and was barely able to climb the two steps into the vehicle.  Once in, I collapsed into a seat.

I was relieved to have made it into the trolley but, I was still gulping air and my heart continued to pound.  I tried to slow my breathing with some meditation, but no luck.  It’s at this point I thought - heart attack.  I just put together the perfect recipe for oxygen starving my heart by running up that hill at a high elevation.  I anxiously waited for a stabbing pan to hit my chest, but I had no pain, heaviness, or discomfort – I just couldn’t breathe in enough oxygen.  For the next 20 minutes into town, I continued breathing hard and also started to feel a little nauseous.  My heart rate slowed a little, but my lungs continued to burn, I was starting to cough and I was getting some gag reflex.  It reminded me exactly how I felt the first time I ran a three mile race when I was on the track team in high school.

We reached the trolley stop near the train station and I was able to get out and walk slowly down the Main Street.  I asked Cav to walk slowly with me so I could try and recover, but it wasn’t happening.  Cav asked me if I was ok and I said I think so but I couldn’t stop breathing heavy and I felt like I was going to hurl. 
About a block down the street, a coughing fit hit me.  Then a wave of nausea hit and I found a tree on Main Street and started vomiting.  There were all sorts of people walking by and here I was puking my guts out on Main Street Durango at 8:30 am.  

Now, I give Cav credit for some quick thinking.  In an effort to cheer me up and explain my behavior, he told passersby that I just got out of rehab and had a relapse last night!  Way to go Cav.  Who else but someone coming off an all-night bender would be puking on Main Street at 8:30 in the morning?  His dead pan delivery did get some laughs out of me and I started to feel a little better.

We finally made it to the train station and I started feeling a little better but I was still breathing pretty fast.  Cav found me a place to sit and I got to rest for about 30 minutes before we boarded the train. By the time the train left, I began to feel close to normal.  I guess I wasn’t going to have the big one in Durango after all. My pulse slowed and I could breathe and the gag ref­­­­­lex was gone.  Thirty minutes down the rail, it was all a memory.  It took me 90 minutes to recover from a 2 minute uphill run.  Note to self – don’t ever try to run your 60 year old but up a hill at 6,800 ft. of elevation with a 20 lb. back pack.

And that's the way it was on the morning of Friday the 13th of June in Durango.  The day I thought I was gonna die.

J. Dawg recovered and breathing normal

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