A Sunday Experience
(Please note: the following was written end of May/early June last year - 2022.)
Last week my husband and I spent 8 days in Hilton Head on a family vacation with his family. His sister and her family had all left by Friday so it was Lindsey, his Dad, and I in our villa for Saturday and Sunday.
This past Sunday, the 22nd, we were scheduled to fly home around 8pm out of Savannah. The three of us decided to leave Hilton Head in the morning and spend the day exploring Savannah before flying out.
We arrived in Savannah around 10:45am to nearly perfect weather and we started our adventure. After visiting a very old cemetery (that closed in 1853), we found a spot to park and headed down toward the water.
We made our way down the steep stairs and onto the narrow cobblestone road. We walked a little and then noticed a vendor's fair near the water's edge.
As we entered the area, I was immediately drawn to a beautiful soul and we visited for a few minutes. It was such a lovely conversation with this delightful woman named Charmaine. She shared with me about her transition into selling her handmade items and how she travels all over to sell her things. Of course I purchased an item that has the word "love" in it. We hugged as we wrapped up our time together.
Lindsey and his Dad were walking slightly ahead of me as I was looking side to side to see what else caught my eye. Looking to the right, I stopped as I read the letters "CBD". Pausing, I looked ahead and made a note of where Lindsey and his Dad were, knowing I'd catch them in a minute.
I looked back at the booth and the Veteran behind it. As I started walking over he said, "Hi! Are you familiar with CBD?" I told him I was and that I take a small dose and have also used it topically.
He asked about what I take and I explained the product and that it is a very small dose. He followed up by saying, (paraphrase) "Oh, I know that company. I love their products. I have a gummy that is the same dose as what they have." He continued, "I saw your family walk by so I won't take up your time. You can have a sample and if you like it, you can buy it online and I'll ship it to you." He pulled out the sample and handed it along with a card and a wooden coin to me.
I took it from him and asked, "Is this your booth? This is your company? And you're a vet?" He said, "Yes ma'am." Grinning from ear to ear, he told me his role and rank and I thanked him for his service. We shook hands and as I walked away, I turned back to thank him again.
I caught up to Lindsey and handed him the wooden coin and the card and asked if he'd put them in his pocket. Then, I handed him the sample and asked him to read me the ingredients. Familiar with all of them, I took out the gummy and popped it in my mouth.
The three of us finished walking through the vendor area and then passed by the big paddle boat and back to the cobblestone street. We crossed the uneven stones and Lindsey mentioned he was getting hungry. Up ahead was a placed called "The Cotton Exchange" that he had read about. It was an 18th century colonial cotton warehouse turned tavern and he heard the food was amazing.
We went inside and there was a big wooden corner table in the bar area that was waiting for the three of us. Lindsey and his Dad each ordered a beer and I ordered the peach sangria. It was perfectly peachy and not too sweet. His Dad then ordered a sandwich and we ordered steamed peel and eat shrimp, coleslaw and crab chowder. The food lived up to what Lindsey had heard. It was amazing!
As we were finishing our meal, I noticed that I felt a little 'wavy'. Thinking, "wow, that is a strong sangria", I looked at my drink. It was still over 3/4 full - I only had a couple sips out of it. That's strange, I thought.
Looking straight ahead, I could feel the warmth coming over my body. My heart started beating faster and the awareness hit me like a ton of bricks. It was the gummy.
In that moment, the wall on the other side of the room started to glow and move toward me. The room grew silent as the other walls started to close in. I leaned over to Lindsey and told him, "It's happening fast. It's coming fast and strong. It's the gummy - I was drugged."
He was clearly confused and uncertain of what to do. I knew exactly what I needed to say but I couldn't get the words out fast enough. And then suddenly, there was no more time.
My body took over.
Without any additional warning my body started violently convulsing. I was experiencing what I would later learn as a grand mal seizure.
The rest of the afternoon is hazy, at best. I had moments of clarity and awareness mixed in with approximately 30 seizures over not quite 3 hours.
Thankfully I had a lot of incredible support. I don't know every detail but I was told that the bar manager ran out the door to flag down an ambulance. What a blessing that they had just finished up a call just down the block and only took a few minutes to arrive.
I remember having moments of awareness during the seizures at the restaurant. At one point, someone was saying "shhhh" in an effort to calm me down. I was so annoyed because I thought I was calm. My body clearly wasn't calm but I couldn't help what it was doing.
Attempting to talk through the seizure, I explained that it's not hurting and that I can't stop my body. And just as quickly as the clarity came, it was gone again and I was wrapped back up in the confusion.
While still at the restaurant, after one of the seizures, I was able to sit up briefly. I remember picking my head up and opening my eyes. Everything was blurry and when I looked up, I saw Lindsey and his Dad standing up across the table from me.
In THAT moment of clarity I looked at them and burst into tears and said, "OH MY GOD. It's not a dream!?!" The looks on their faces may haunt me for a while. Lindsey shook his head "no" and in the next moment I was gone again, spiraling down into another seizure.
Eventually, the EMT's were able to get me onto a gurney in the restaurant. Looking back now, this was a much safer option as it would help me from unintentionally hurting myself. I don't remember them bringing me to the ambulance but I do have moments of clarity while in the ambulance as it was parked on the street.
Occasionally, the back door would open and every time it did there were people standing on the cobblestone staring in. Some of them were pointing, most were curious and talking, and I imagine a few even said prayers. Each time, though, I remember thinking it didn't matter. It felt like I was living the inside out of a dream. For the first time in my life, I truly didn't care what other people thought about me.
Even when I could see them pointing at me, I didn't care. There was a group of 3-4 people and it seemed like they were there forever (probably only moments) and it just didn't matter. I knew they were looking. I knew they were talking and wondering, and it didn't bother me. "Huh, isn't that interesting - look at them looking at me."
And in the next moment, the wave would come in and wash over me and I'd be gone again into the next seizure. It was this pattern of a seizure for 15-30 seconds and then I'd be exhausted and rest my eyes for a few seconds and then I would feel alert, aware and clear - even conversational - and then I could feel myself rolling down the hill and back into a seizure. Over and over.
Each window of clarity I had felt like it was over. It felt like it was done and for a moment I felt really good - as if I didn't miss a thing. Now, looking back, there are so many gaps in my memory.
While in the back of the ambulance, the cops arrived on the scene. Julie, my primary EMT, explained to them what had been happening and that I believed I was drugged. The cops went and found the guy and told him what was happening and that they needed to know what was in the gummy. They needed to know so they could help me faster.
He gave them the certificate (or whatever it's called) and while it seemed legit, later the toxicology reports would verify he was hiding something. What he told them he gave me was not confirmed by the samples at the Emergency Room.
A short bit later (after what seemed like hours upon hours to me), the cop came back in the ambulance and talked with us (Lindsey and his Dad were in there too) about going to the hospital. The seizures were still happening and it was clear I'd need some help in getting them to stop. She said that she couldn't make me go and that it needed to be my decision. I punted to Lindsey to decide and he punted back and together we agreed that I should probably go.
Before she left, the cop asked if we had any questions. I was having one of my moments of clarity so I asked her what her tattoo said. (She had a tattoo on the fleshy part of the forearm that I could see but was in no way able to read.) I don't remember word for word but it was basically about how the challenges won't keep me down and that I'll rise again.
The words are perfect and something you might hear me share. I asked Julie to high five her for me and the cop came closer and said I'll high five you. We attempted but I didn't have control over my hands. Instead of a high five I said to her, "My heart high fives your heart." She thanked me and smiled and as she did I dropped back into another seizure.
Just like the earlier parts of the day, I have pockets of memory on the ambulance ride to the hospital. I hadn't heard my EMTs share their names. On the ride I finally said, "Have you told me your name?" She said, "No, I haven't. I usually don't get around to saying it. My name is Julie." I said, "Nice to meet you, Julie. We've been so intimate that it's probably time I know your name." She laughed at that and then I was gone again.
I don't remember arriving at the hospital or going through the doors but I did have a moment as they were wheeling me to my spot in the hallway. The seizures were easing up some so I had my eyes open during one. As I was having a seizure we passed an older man on a gurney with a bandage around his head. He was eating something (looked like ice cream). After we passed him and my seizure stopped, I looked at Julie and said, "That old guy looked at me in a way that says he's grateful to not be me!" She laughed and agreed, "I think you're right!" I remember thinking I was so funny.
Once I was put in my spot in the hallway, B43, I met Bruce and had to say goodbye to Julie. Reluctantly, I said goodbye to her and hello to Bruce. He was very nice, kind and compassionate. He started an IV right away to help flush out my system.
A short while later I met the doctor. Our first meeting was memorable as I was having another seizure and my eyes were open. I could see him in his bright teal scrubs coming toward me. As he got closer he said, "Oh look! We have a salt shaker on our hands!" He put out his arms and did a little dance as he arrived at my side. He was also nice and not very concerned about what I was experiencing (not in a bad way, just in a knowing it'll be over soon).
After the doctor left and Bruce was finished, I was alone in the hallway with the side rails up on my bed and an IV in my arm. Just me, my thoughts and my seizures. They still came, although not quite as fierce and not quite as often. The waves had stretched out some so at least I was able to rest a couple minutes in between.
In my waking moments, I kept a watchful eye for Lindsey and his Dad. When he left the ambulance, he assured me they were right behind me.
Although I'm certain it was hours before they arrived, Lindsey has made it clear it was only 45-60 minutes. Everything felt long, extended and drawn out.
Eventually, on one of my lookouts, I finally saw them at the end of the hall walking my direction. I tried to pick my arm up and wave and I couldn't move it. My two angels were coming to get me.
Although I really wanted to go, my body wasn't ready to leave. I was still having seizures. At this point, we knew I needed some additional intervention. The IV was helping...but not enough. I was given a half dose (whatever that means) of lorazepam (ativan) to help treat the seizures. It is said that within 10 minutes of receiving lorazepam via IV, 81% of patients stop seizing. I don't think I was within that 10 minutes but it definitely helped.
Right before Bruce added the Ativan, I was able to use the bathroom (let's not talk about the bathroom shakes!) and give a sample. Through this sample, along with a blood draw, it was confirmed that the gummy I was given was not what I was told and it wasn't what he told the cops.
I was told that the gummy was similar to my very low dose of CBD. The information he gave to the cops showed that it was a much higher dose (8-10 times higher) than what he told me. That alone may have caused some issues.
However, it was also reported that I had extremely high levels of THC in my urine. What's very interesting about this is the THC did NOT show up in my blood. So... there's some added questioning around what else might have been in the gummy to mask the THC from the blood. There is some discussion that THC might not show up in blood, depending on how long it's been and how active a user of THC the person has been in the past. I have never (nope, not even once) used THC. Based on all of these pieces (me having never used it, the extremely high level in my urine, it having been only a couple hours) it not showing up in my blood is a red flag.
Additionally, and something that's not often discussed is how 'dirty' and contaminated the product might be. If someone is 1) knowingly lying to me and 2) when pressed for info, knowingly lying to the cops, I would guess that their priority is not focused on lacing gummies 'cleanly'. The potential contaminants in the gummy may have also added to the violent, fast and long lasting reaction.
The final nugget is that he shared a photo of the gummy with the cops. I didn't see the photo until the next day and it was NOT the gummy he gave me. Clearly there were a number of lies involved and I will never know the entire truth - and I don't need to in order to gain from it what is meant for me.
(Update added later: we learned that the gummy was also laced with fentanyl.)
At approximately 4:30, about 4 hours after the saga began, I was cleared to leave the hospital. The doctor made it clear, though, that I would not be getting on our plane at 8pm. I would need at least a day before flying home.
The three of us left the hospital and we brought Lindsey's dad to the airport. I started to get some sleep in the vehicle while Lindsey went in to get our flights changed and find us a hotel room for the night.
I don't remember the drive to the hotel or most of the walk to the room. I do remember noticing the dirty carpet on the floor. Lindsey said as we were walking to the room, I was a little afraid of getting on (or off, I can't recall) the elevator. He said there was a lady watching this unfold and she looked at me as if I were drunk - although I wasn't, I pretty much was! He shared that we were arriving from an ER visit.
Lindsey, bless his heart, got me settled in bed and went out to get some food. I couldn't tell you the kind of sandwich he brought back for himself but when he offered me a bite, I finished the entire thing. It was the most delicious food I'd ever eaten in my life! And then I slept for the next 12 hours.
The next day brought its own set of challenges as a day filled with travel. Although I slept a long time, I was still very tired and had some after effects I was dealing with. All thanks to Lindsey, we made it home safely and arrived to our house around 10pm on Monday night. He certainly deserves all the awards!!
(This was previously written, so the timing below isn't "yesterday" and there are even more lessons!)
Now what... many of you have asked how I'm doing now. I waited to share until yesterday because it was too much to use the computer. In small spurts, it's oaky but I'm not on for long. I can tell I'm getting better every day. I am still very tired and have bad headaches (it feels like it's magnified concussion symptoms).
I also feel like my limbs are gently shaking inside - as if there are light tremors constantly moving up and down my arms and legs. I saw my chiro on Wednesday and today and he said he can tell my body is different and that the nervous system probably just needs additional support.
While it's not significant, my hands and feet are a little tender and bruised - from hitting the bench and eventually the bars while strapped to the gurney and even the hospital bed. Overall, though, I can tell I'm improving every day.
Why share... I thought a lot about whether or not to share. I am very intentional about how I show up and how I contribute. I want to be someone that shines from a place of inspiration. I am also someone who chooses to gain wisdom and lessons from every experience. I know that's not for everyone and that's okay. For me, though, it allows me to be more present in the actual moment of the experience, whether perceived as "good" or "bad".
Of course Lindsey and I have talked a number of times about the experience and he knows I explore what I might gain from it. He laughed and said, "you won't be taking gummies from strangers anymore!" While he's probably right, I do believe there's a bigger lesson here for me.
A couple of them that I'm exploring:
1) it's time to really live my life (there is more context here that I'm keeping for myself for now)
2) it really doesn't matter what other people think of me if I like me (this came through very clear as I watched people watch me in the back of the ambulance)
3) more compassion, more forgiveness, more grace (I remain steadfast in my conviction that we can always use more of these three)
4) remembering different viewpoints (for the most part, I really wasn't frightened and can share from a place of nearly neutral - that is not the case for Lindsey and probably not for his Dad - my experience is not the only experience)
5) the guy and the gummy (I'm navigating this still - I spoke with him, I don't believe he's a bad human - I believe he made a bad decision and I pray that the cops sharing with him about my experience encourages him to rethink what he's putting out)
What's next... rest. Lots of rest, patience, and love. And when the times is right, I'll lean into the next chapter in a way that honors the lessons I'm embracing.