The Fainting Girl


Has anyone seen an ambulance at the school in a while? Has anyone found that girl in a bathroom again? Whatever happened to her? Let me help you there. Hi, I’m Lauren Briggs, and I’m the girl who falls over.

If you haven’t heard by now, I fall over randomly. No, I am not a fainting goat. I also promise I’m not sleeping or have narcolepsy. My body is just trying to help me, even if it scares everyone else. I hope you weren’t too upset by it if you’ve seen it. I know it’s unsettling.

But it really puts everything into perspective. Because I started to pass out I’ve seen just how much our teachers and students care. While I was at school, I never had a lack of help. People always checked on me. Teachers always jumped into action to get me awake, according to my friends.”

I started passing out at Band Camp. As a band kid, I see someone pass out and think, “They didn’t do what they were supposed to.” That could mean they didn’t eat enough, they haven’t chugged water, or are wearing too many layers. It felt unnatural to be that kid, because I knew I’d taken care of myself. It’d be blasphemy not to take care of myself as someone in her third season. So I went to the doctor, who had no real answer, as you’ll soon learn.

I began to have episodes at school. Since then I’ve heard some rumors about what I may have, and as much as I’d like to tell you they’re wrong, I can’t deny them with certainty. I’ve seen a doctor of every kind of -ology there is: Cardiology, Nephrology, Gynecology, Neurology, and the list goes on. I’ve been to the hospital via ambulance three times and had several emergency visits. I can’t begin to tell you all the appointments I have had there.

The doctors have typically said, “I’m not sure, let’s wait for blank.” What we are waiting for has varied from an MRI to blood work. Hospitals are busy and tests take time; you have to wait for answers. I’ve been waiting two months for mine.

Speaking of answers, I haven’t answered where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing yet. I do want to make a disclaimer; sitting around with nothing to do, being incapable of seeing your friends, not even being able to walk alone is not fun. It is definitely not how you think it is. It is not like an extended summer; it’s the epitome of boring. The answer? I’m on Homebound.

Homebound means a teacher comes to me on a designated day for an hour. For that hour, I am learning a week’s worth of lessons. It can get overwhelming, but the bonus is the teacher only has to focus on you. It is not like when you’re in a class of 32 people and they have 31 other people to worry about. But being the only one is just as much of a downside as a win. Yes, I’m learning exactly how I need to, but I don’t get to talk to other students. I don’t get to work with other people and learn from their mistakes as well as mine. High school is a social place to learn. I’m missing half of the experience.

For the other 23 hours in a day, I sit in the living room with my phone, homework, and a T.V. I can’t say I’m completely alone because my grandpa has been awesome to stay with me in case I fall. I do get some human interaction, but it’s my family. If you spend that much time on your own you will find you get sick of yourself. That’s coming from someone who likes being alone.

To be honest, I’d rather be bored at home than get more bloodwork or another IV. I apparently have “deep rolling veins.” That translates to, “It’s hard to find your vein, so I’ll have to stab you 2-5 times.” I can handle a shot any day, but if you put a needle in my hand you may as well be stabbing me in the heart. The problem with not liking an IV is how often they need me to have one. Thinking of how much blood they take is enough to make me dizzy. You can’t eat for at least 10 hours beforehand and then sometimes you have 2-6 vials of blood taken.

Being on Homebound means I’m bored, but at least I’m not smacking my head on the tile at school. It’s safer for me here, even though I still have at least one episode a day. That is a rare and good day for me. I’ve had days where I have 3-5. It’s difficult, but it used to be worse.

Even though I’d had an MRI, echocardiogram, blood work, a heart monitor, and my blood pressure constantly being taken, doctors did not know if I was having seizures or perhaps something worse. They told my mom I could not stay under, it isn’t safe. My average episode was less than a minute and I would come out easily. Two minutes would be pushing it, but the longer I’ve had it, the worse it seems to get. Eventually one minute turns into five, and five turns into ten. It’s gone as far as an hour and a half.

When I go out I have no warnings, but I can always remember what I was doing before I do. One can imagine how weird it is to go from sitting in a living room to staring at a hospital ceiling. It’s rather terrifying, actually. I have no sense of the time that has passed.

All I used to know was that I was sore and exhausted when I came to. Since I could not stay unconscious, my parents had to resort to irritating me. That includes tickling, shaking, and sternal rubs. Eventually they stopped working, but I can vividly remember waking up to a sternal rub, gasping for air. When they irritate me, I apparently fight back and whine. If I was in too much pain, I would begin to cry or scream. I can’t imagine what my parents went through, but I’m thankful they did.

I recently went in for a 24-hour EEG that would decide if these episodes were seizures. For the EEG, I had three women marking my head and applying electrodes with a sticky glue. They were all lovely and allowed for less of the glue to be in my hair by braiding it. The electrodes were connected to what seemed like a million wires. My head was very heavy with them. The way to keep them on my head was to wrap them and essentially tape the wrap to my head. Eventually the sheer weight of my hair made that very difficult and they had to make a “strap” to go under my chin. It wasn’t the most comfortable, but function over fashion and comfort.

Thankfully, the EEG yielded that I do not have seizures and can remain unconscious and unbothered. Only, of course, if I am in a safe place. It also yielded a possible cause of my episodes. The doctors believe my body is converting stress into a physical reaction. It’s apparently prevalent in teenagers. For some people it presents itself as a pseudoseizure. For others, like me, it’s passing out.

A few days pass. We think we’ve found out I definitely have Conversion and I just have to handle that. And then we get blood work back saying I have PCOS. PCOS was one of the first things ever suggested, but it was tossed to the side for Vasovagal Syncope, and then that was all thrown out for Conversion. It all seems to go in a circle.

PCOS stands for polycystic ovary syndrome. It accounts for all of my symptoms; sudden weight gain, high blood pressure, and even passing out. It can lead to more problems, such as infertility, type 2 diabetes, or depression. Luckily we’ve caught it and it just means my hormones need to be rebalanced.

There is definitely more than PCOS, however. It can cause me to go under, but it doesn’t account for me staying under. I’ve had episodes where I wake up and don’t know my own name, who my family is, or where I am. My parents have to trick me into standing up so I pass out again just to make me remember my own life. I’ve had episodes where I freeze up and cannot move anything but my eyes.

So what do I have? I don’t know. My doctors are suggesting some combination of PCOS and Conversion. Conversion is brought on by some amount of stress that is traumatic, so it’s possible PCOS started it and caused my stress. Maybe I will never know. I’m just glad I have some sort of treatment plan and can continue with my life eventually.

If this has taught me anything, I’m missing a lot. I can’t drive, I can’t go to school, I can’t go to work, I can’t even be alone. But it really puts everything into perspective. Because I started to pass out I’ve seen just how much our teachers and students care. While I was at school, I never had a lack of help. People always checked on me. Teachers always jumped into action to get me awake, according to my friends. Even administration was working with me to decide if where my classes are would be safe. This school cares about you.

This has really opened my eyes to the amount of love my family and everyone around me has. So though I’m missing experiences, I’m never far from getting help. Thank you to staff, administration, friends, family, and even the strangers who found me in the bathroom and ran for help. I would be a lot worse off without all of you.