The HP Diet, Week 6: Blackout

Sixth installment of “Harry Potter Diet” series.

We're going to take an unscheduled detour in our HP Diet journey, so that I can tell you about the crazy, slightly scary thing that happened to me the other day. There's no lesson in this, at least not one that I can fully form at the moment. But this HP Diet series is about everything that's happening to me on my weight-loss journey, and so I think it's important to write about it.

I guess I should start by saying: I've lost a lot of weight. I don't want to give away any numbers until the big finish, but in order for this to make sense, I should say that I've lost a lot of weight, and I've lost it pretty quickly. I have been relentlessly -- and I want to stress that word relentlessly -- dieting.

And so now to the story.

Last Thursday, I had a special day planned. I had 90 minutes in the morning carved out for some doubles tennis. After that, I was planning to have lunch at my favorite Thai restaurant. Then I had a long list of things to do for the new Passions in America project that I'm very excited about. Finally, I had the evening blocked out to watch the Cleveland Browns win their first game in 298 years. I was pretty fired up. As you might remember, this HP Diet post was supposed to be a joyous essay about tennis. I'll get back to that one in a couple of weeks.

I had tennis scheduled for 11 a.m. As I've written, I don't eat breakfast anymore, and, as usual, I wasn't hungry for breakfast. I dropped the girls off at school, went to have my car updated -- so weird that because I have a Chevy Bolt, my car doesn't get "serviced," it gets "updated" -- and then I headed out to the courts. It was another blazing hot day, a day I would probably classify as "St. Louis hot." I have a general heat scale that goes up progressively, like so:

  1. Florida hot

  2. Washington hot

  3. Frog in boiling water hot

  4. St. Louis hot

  5. Houston hot

  6. Columbia, S.C. hot

  7. Masada hot

Years ago, I visited Israel and I went to Masada, that "rugged natural fortress of majestic beauty in the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea." It was like sightseeing on the surface of the sun.

Anyway, it was hot and humid on Thursday morning, absurd for September, but it didn't really feel much different from the last few weeks, and I actually played pretty well. My serve is getting pretty good. Well, I'll save that for the tennis post.

After tennis was done, I felt OK. I was ready for the rest of the day. I drove home, took a shower, changed, grabbed my iPad and went to the Thai restaurant. Everything was going as planned. I was enjoying the food and reading my iPad when I noticed -- and I truly mean this as I write it -- I noticed that I was sweating a lot. It was like a self-discovery -- "Hmm, I appear to just be dripping sweat." This had happened once before, probably four or five years ago, when I was in Washington, D.C. I remembered that incident clearly, because it was weird; we went to The Tombs restaurant in Georgetown, and I just started sweating like crazy. And then I started feeling nauseous.

That time in Washington, I went to the bathroom and washed my faced with cold water, and after a couple of minutes I felt fine and returned to the table. So I thought I probably should do that again at the Thai place. I got up and went to the bathroom. I went to splash cold water on my face, and as I did, I felt kind of dizzy. I reached to splash more water on my face ...





I don't remember the dream I had, but I know I had a dream. I know this because when I opened my eyes, it was with the expectation that I was comfortably in my bed. I felt, well, I wouldn't say happy, but definitely contented. And so it was weird to see that I was in a strange and very white and bright place. It took me a few seconds to register that I was on the floor in a bathroom I didn't recognize. You know how your mind slowly pieces things together, well, I couldn't quite figure out what was happening.

And I couldn't figure out why I was sitting in a pool of blood.

And I couldn't quite remember where I was.

It all came back gradually. I don't know how long it took me to fully understand that I must have blacked out and fallen in this bathroom. It must not have been very long, though, because I slowly got up, and saw all the blood (it was like being in a scene in Memento), and when I opened the door, two remarkably kind nurses who happened to be eating at the restaurant were standing there.

Thank god they were nurses, because they showed no panic at all. Panic probably would not have been good for me at that moment. They simply asked me to sit down. They brought out towels to stop the bleeding, and ice to quell the swelling. They kept asking me my name and my date of birth and such, and by that point I was mostly up to speed on what had happened. I was bleeding from three places on my head, and I had somehow cut my leg in the process, too. There was a lot of blood. An ambulance was called.

I was cogent enough to try calling my wife -- an arduous task because while I have married high above my station in almost every way, one of Margo's few imperfections is that she NEVER ANSWERS HER PHONE. Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. I called her four consecutive times, and, unsurprisingly, she did not answer. This is when I tried to video-chat her through a device we have at home; that's sometimes the fallback when I really need to reach her. But this was a bad mistake because it was a video chat and I saw myself. I saw how I looked.

I looked like death itself. My eyes were sunken and surrounded by black. I was pale everywhere else, and I was covered in blood.

For the first and only time in my life so far, I was very happy that Margo did not pick up.

[caption id="attachment_22710" align="aligncenter" width="363"] In case you forgot what the HP shirt looks like.[/caption]

The ambulance arrived very quickly, and by the time it did, the situation was pretty well in hand. The bleeding had been stopped. The nurses had somewhat cleaned me up -- bless those nurses, I hope I can find them and buy them a Thai meal sometime. I felt operational. Margo called and was able to handle various logistics. The very nice ambulance crew got me to the hospital, where they took a pretty long series of tests and ruled out everything super scary -- not diabetes, not a stroke, not a heart attack, not a panic attack, no concussion, etc.

It was, as you have undoubtedly guessed by now, dehydration. My blood pressure was very low. They explained to me that when the top-line number on your blood pressure is 1-to-1 with your heart rate , that can lead to bad things.

In retrospect, it makes sense. I had played tennis in extreme heat without eating or drinking beforehand. I did have some water while the match was going on, but obviously not enough. Beyond that, I had been losing weight so fast -- while dieting so devoutly -- that, well, there are various things that I'm talking about with my doctor now. Like I say, I'm not sure what the lessons are here, not yet. I really just wanted to write about this because I try to write about all the insane things in my life.

I will share one more thing: I'm very close to a crazy, never-would-have-thought-it-possible goal in the HP Diet. As you know, the diet began with a Harry Potter shirt, one I wanted to wear, one that I could not even button when I got it. From that relatively small goal, I've added dozens of others, each of them pretty small in and of themselves, but when you add them up, they're pretty large, certainly in my life.

Now, I'm close to that life-affirming goal, a really big one, a goal that anyone would see as a dramatic accomplishment, and I admit that I wanted to rush the process. I'm not saying that it was my impatience and haste that led to the blackout. But it didn't help. One game at a time; it's the ultimate sports cliché. It's also about as profound an insight as you can get from the games we play. It seems to me that when you try to skip steps, when you try to rush time, when you look too far ahead, that you can fall.

And when that happens, the best you can hope for is that two nice nurses hear the crash and rush to help.

Next: Tennis (I hope).