The first thing that came into sight was me seated on a wheelchair and being carried to somewhere else. This was odd – first, I do not have or use a wheelchair. Second, I was certainly on my way to meet my friend at a mall a few seconds ago. As I tried to get a sense of what was going on, the person pushing me on the wheelchair explained that she works for the mall and received a report that a girl collapsed and is not waking up. Several other workers from the mall came, took me to the first floor through an employee-only elevator, and escorted me to an ambulance.
The hospital, however, was only able to detect mild hypotension after running a dozen of diagnosis. Thinking I must have been tired due to excessive schedules at that time, I believed a good rest would be enough to get me back on track. But it was not long until I realized I was naive thinking this would be my first and last time collapsing in public.
Simple exercises including running or jogging created chest pain. Walking on a slope road led to severe difficulty with breathing, to the point I collapsed when I arrived at the Ewha Centennial Library from the school’s back gate. Daily activities that I used to perform for granted became a huge burden. In these circumstances, taking a leave of absence for a semester was inevitable. I spent my time either at home or at the hospital for months. Even after visiting two renowned hospitals, I was unable to find out what was making my body weaker. Time flew by to Summer, and I started collapsing every morning as I moved out of bed. I extended my leave of absence for another semester.
Having to stay at home or at the hospital without a single sign of my health getting better was frustrating. But seeing my colleagues studying and going to work while I was stuck indoors drove me to edges. I felt worthless for taking a year off only because of my health when my friends were out there living a promising life. I was sorry for my parents to spend such a huge money just to find out there was nothing wrong with my body. During the second leave of absence, my health conditions became even worse as I was becoming mentally unstable as well.
Because the pain in the heart was growing just for staying up past 10 p.m., me and my parents made one more appointment as a last resort. After a tiring two-daylong diagnosis, I was able to find out a number of problems in my heart and body. The doctor told me weak heart muscles, a tilt in the axis of my heart, and overall malfunctioning in the autonomic nervous system was causing the frequent collapsing. The doctor explained that my nervous system was failing to regulate the blood vessels and heart movements. He elaborated that this failure shuts down my body in order to reset the nervous system functions. The surprising thing here was that the doctor told me there was no cure to this. I had to be cautious about the symptoms and ask for help if I feel like collapsing right away.
It has been three years living with such health distress. Only five seconds of jogging triggers dyspnea now. Caffeinated drinks are lethal to my body and slightest fatigue creates chest pain. Yet the difference is that I now know how to cope with these situations and schedule plans in consideration of my health conditions. I still feel frustrated from time to time thinking I wasted a whole year staying in bed and at the hospital, but I know I had done what I could do under harsh circumstances. Charles Dickens once said that it’s always something to know you have done the most you could. To students at Ewha who had a similar experience keep in mind that you always carried out what you could do best regardless of the result.