Tuesday morning: Heading to Bosnia via Vienna

On Tuesday May 7th, at 7:15 am, I was busily getting my suitcase and carry-on together for a 7:45 am taxi to the airport. I was headed to Sarajevo to conduct an evaluation of Women for Women International. (For more on the evaluation, click here.)

I have a mild hypothyroid condition.  I take 75 mg of Synthroid every day. I am very good with my daily dose, adherent all over the world. I take my pill and I don’t think anything of it.

When I travel for work to Africa or India, I usually bring Ambien or the generic because of the 4 hour to 10.5 hour time difference. Also, I usually work at a hectic pace for 16+ hours and then struggle to sleep. At home, I sleep like the dead so  have no need for a sleep-aid.

On this particular Tuesday morning, I was rushing. I wanted to spend time with the kids before my taxi departure. Plus I was mostly, but not fully packed. Around 7:15 am, I filled my little pill case with Synthroid, Tylenol, and the sleep-aid. I popped the Synthroid (or so I thought!), swallowed a gulp of tea and kept packing.

I went down to the kitchen. I remember leaning against the stove, overcome with intense dizziness.  And then, I blacked out…

Paul thought I was having a stroke … or maybe just ‘losing it’. I was incoherent. Several times I asked what was going on. Paul wondered if this this was indeed what happens when someone ‘snaps’. I had been very frustrated with work, busy giving talks to different audiences, was finishing up my evaluation course, thinking about my doctoral students and their exams, interviewing and calling references for perspective nannies, planning my daughter’s upcoming birthday party, organizing for spring/summer travel to Liberia, the DRC, Ethiopia, and Nigeria, and Paul’s summer trips to India, San Diego and I don’t know St. Louis?

Anyway, for at least 20 minutes, I was incoherent. Paul contemplated calling an ambulance (which is amazing because I usually lead all medical seeking efforts in our household). First step, he called the family doctor. I have a vague memory of confusion and of my daughter crying (due to my stupor!) For 15-20 minutes, they thought they were losing me to something, perhaps something irreversible.

The taxi arrived and honked his horn.  Paul sent him away, apologizing, telling him something was wrong with me. The taxi driver said no problem, he could still take me. Thankfully Paul shooed him away.

Next thing I know, Paul has me on the phone with my physician. I don’t know what the hell I said to her. But, apparently at that point, we somehow realized what I had done. As it goes, the Synthroid and Ambien are both little lilac pills.  Like a crazy &^$%$%$%, I took the Ambien instead of the Synthroid…about 2 hours before my trip to Eastern Europe. I am a little person. Ambien is designed to put someone my height and weight to sleep for 8 hours!

I vaguely remember mumbling to the physician. Who knows what I said? Something about “Sure, I am getting on the plane”. I don’t really know. Something tells me she may not trust me with Ambien ever, ever again.

Paul and I decide I am okay – I don’t remember this – but I guess we hurry given MassPike traffic around 8 a.m. Paul drives us (kids in the backseat) to the airport. Paul’s test for whether I was fit to travel was if I could check in okay (i.e. I had checked-in online but still had to show my passport and drop luggage). I passed.

In my functional stupor–I drank a cup of coffee and had breakfast in the car–I boarded the plane. I apologized profusely to my family for my stupidity. Paul and Alex were just happy that I hadn’t had a stroke. Theo, who loves a visit to the airport, was  happy to go through the turnpike tunnels and see some airplanes. They returned home, ate breakfast, and went to school late.

I have no memory of Logan. I was stuck in Dulles all day. I remember wandering around feeling calm and happy. Whatever bothered me at 7:15 am didn’t seem so bad anymore. I worked, but not sure on what. (Did I email you? I really should check any work I did…) Paul called me throughout the day to make sure I was okay (i.e. awake). I took an over night flight to Vienna, worked at the airport a few hours, and arrived in Sarajevo at 2:30 pm Wednesday local time.

I talked to Alex the next day. After some prodding, she admitted that she told a few of her friends that she was late to school because her “mother took sleeping pills”. Oi……

PS. Did I ever mention the time I confused the peach pills? My antimalarial and laxatives? Interesting times! (Click here for photos of Sarajevo!)


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