Childhood Cancer, Children's Hospital Colorado, Inpatient Cancer Treatment

Fainting Spells

Chloe fainted today. It happened late this afternoon. Craig was with her all morning, and told me that she was a bit low energy today, and that her stomach was not feeling well. This is typical, as the chemo has a cumulative effect on her digestive system, so it’s normal to feel lousy in the days following chemotherapy. And as her blood counts begin to drop, it’s also to be expected that her energy levels would drop with it. Her hemoglobin was getting low- near the levels to where they will transfuse blood to her. (It is totally normal and part of the process for an AML patient to receive blood and/or platelet transfusions while the blood counts are suppressed).

Jordan and I had a glorious, relaxing morning at Brent’s, and arrived at hospital in the early afternoon. Craig took off for a workout and to get some time to himself. The two siblings played happily together. We went outside for a short while but it was cloudy and windy and Chloe was not that comfortable, so we went back in. In the late afternoon after school with her teacher and then a bath, Craig had returned and brought up her bike helmet (which had been left in the car), so she could ride her scooter around. She’s not allowed to ride without a helmet, because her platelets are low, and if she crashed she could end up with a nasty head injury. So she donned the helmet, and away she and Jordan went, taking turns on the scooter, doing laps around the unit. I was surprised at how fast they were going. I saw them whiz by one time, Jordan on the scooter and Chloe running alongside him, and I then quickly ducked back into our room to grab my camera, in order to get a photo on their next lap. I waited in the hall for them to come around again, thinking I was going to capture a really cute photo.

So it was by the grace of God that I happened to be standing there in the hallway watching when they rounded the corner heading back towards me to complete their next lap. Chloe was on the scooter and Jordan was walking in front of her. Oddly, she was stopped. Jordan was walking in front of her. She stood a good 10 yards from me, not yet having completed the lap. I was saying to her, “Chloe catch up to Jordan so I can take your picture together”. It was then that I noticed how blank her expression was, and that she wasn’t speaking very loudly. She said that she couldn’t see anything, and that she felt dizzy. I recognized with a dreadful sense of deja vu just what was happening. She had that same hauntingly blank stare that she had had on that fateful day in January at City Market, where she had passed out. The exact same thing was unfolding here.

I sprinted to her, in the way that only a mother can, knowing that at any moment she would drop to the floor (again, hitting her head would be very, very dangerous b/c of the low platelets and the potential for bleeding). I caught her, with nanoseconds to spare, before she lost her footing. I don’t think she completely lost consciousness. I could not see her eyes, because of the helmet. She was about 3 rooms away from her room, and I had kept her vertical the entire time so I started walking/dragging her back to her room (she may have been walking a little bit with the help of my support, but still not fully supporting her own weight). I could not think of how to quickly page a nurse. There was no one visible in my line of sight down the hallway at the moment. If this had happened in her room, there is an urgent alarm cord I can pull, and there is an instant response from the medical staff. I could not figure out how to get her back in the room quickly enough to page our nurse, and it finally dawned on me to use my voice. “I need a nurse!” I firmly yelled. (I wasn’t panicked, but I was serious).

The first face I saw who ran around the corner from the nurse’s station was our nurse. Within seconds there were two more nurses with us and we had her back in her room, and lying on her bed. Craig and Jordan joined us too. The nurses started asking her questions and assessing her status. Her face, lips included, were a ghostly white. She responded well to the questions. The nurses started taking her vitals, which I figured out is their protocol whenever this is an urgent situation. One of the nurses went and quickly retrieved our NP, who came in and ordered a CBC. The general consensus was that her hemoglobin was low enough that her body could not keep her brain oxygenated enough during the strenuous exercise she was just doing. After all, she lay around all morning, so she could handle that, but then once Jordan arrived her activity level increased significantly. Her body couldn’t handle it!

Grandma left this morning. We will miss her. She and Chloe spent a lot of time working together on this knotted fleece blanket.

She slowly regained some color, and the nurses gave her some apple juice to sip, just in case the issue was low blood sugar. While all of the grown ups were discussing her situation, no one had thought to pay any attention to Jordan. He sneaks through the row of caregivers and goes right up to Chloe and in a tender way that would crack your heart open, he spread his arms as wide as possible to embrace her. I instantly recognized that he was sad and scared (although he was with us that day at City Market, he had not seen her pass out, as I had left him at the check out in order to quickly accompany Chloe to the restroom- as she thought she had to vomit). The way he put his body up to hers, and just knowing my son, I could tell that he was trying to extend to her all of the love and comfort he had. We all noticed. It was the most sincere act of love a 5 year old could ever make toward a sibling. Our nurse teared up. We all reacted with sweetness toward him. I empathized with him, “Oh Jordan, you’re worried about Sister!” and as I spoke to him I could tell he was about to cry. I put him on my lap, hugged him tight, and reassured him that his sister was going to be just fine. And I thanked him for caring so much, acknowledging to him just how much he loves his sister.

In the minutes that ensued post-fainting, Chloe seemed to be doing alright. She had lost her TV privileges for the day, however we really needed to keep her quiet. So Jordan joined her on her bed and they watched shows on the Disney Channel together (fainting prevention trumped lost TV privileges, in this case!). She did get some blood, an hour or so later. And by the time dinner was over (Brent’s place delivered taco dinners to us tonight), she was up and dragging her IV cart around the room, blood (transfusion) and all.

Teacher Jen was willing to teach both kids one morning this week.

It took a while for my heart rate to slow, after this event. We’re glad she didn’t hit her head. I’m so glad I was able to catch her. This fainting spell came out of the blue, and I am incredibly thankful that I was paying attention at the right time. Whew!!!

She’s doing fine. The transfusion will give her a boost for the next several days. After we were all settled down again, I asked the nurse if she had seen kids faint before (hoping for her to say, yes- it’s not uncommon). But she said she’d only seen it once or twice before. And then after a pause, she added, “Most kids are not riding their scooters around in the halls!” (meaning, most kids are not exerting themselves quite that much), and we both laughed. Chloe had been feeling a little TOO good for her own good! :) And so she overdid it.


Steph and Family


Dr. Stephanie is a chiropractor, writer, mom, and wife who lives and plays in Durango, Colorado. Her passion is empowering people to discover their truth and express optimum health.

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