Not feeling up to par last Monday morning, I decided to grab my camera and take the electric buggy for a leisurely drive around the pecan orchard property. I had been on the computer doing research all morning and needed to clear my mind. Unfortunately, I had to accept that I would not get much done in the days to follow, and maybe not for a few weeks, as taking down-time to heal is not an aspect of life’s journey that I do very well with.
A couple of months ago, I was busy at the burn pile when I slipped on a small twig that rolled under my right foot, and the next thing I knew I was tumbling alongside the burn pit to the base of the hill. Somehow, I had been lucky to avoid landing in any hot coals, but I still hit the rough rocks along the pit and heard some horrible cracking noises in my right ankle as I stumbled further down hill. Then again, maybe I just felt the cracking but thought I actually heard it, I do not know. The odd thing, was that I actually felt better once I got up on my feet and began walking back up the hill. Shaking it off, I continued my work that day of gathering and burning the pecan wood debris, and even made a second trip back out to the orchard to gather another load for the burn pile. But in the weeks to follow, there were few days in which I did not have pain in my right foot. Fortunately, supportive shoes and boots helped a great deal, along with maintaining a much slower pace as I went about my work. Basically, I spent the summer dealing with a stress fracture, and there were many days in which I worked only a few hours, having to get off my feet when the pain became too much to take. So, to lessen my time on my feet, I crawled on my hands and knees in the garden to weed. I took advantage of the electric buggy more than usual. I let FD do the push mowing. I practiced anything I could to lighten the load on my feet. And my foot began healing, slowly.
So I was feeling fairly victorious and proud of myself on Sunday of last weekend when I finally managed to finish gathering and loading wood in an area of the orchard that I had laboriously worked on all summer, despite my injured foot. I felt such a sense of pride as I pulled my second trailer load of the day, stacked high with wood for the burn pile. As I worked, I could hear the hum of our tractor in the distance. FD had been mowing all day while I gathered and burned wood. It was a near 100-degree day, and the air was humid. But it had actually been pleasant working in the shade of the giant pecan trees. FD and I had been good to take frequent breaks, drinking lots of iced water from our old, Coleman water jug. Mid-day I made an apple and cheese snack for us that we enjoyed along with some salted plantain chips.
I had only managed to unload half of the wood from my trailer when, suddenly, I did not feel good at all. It was hot at the burn pile, and I had developed a headache while I pitched wood into the fire. But I kept drinking water and I kept working. All I could think about was getting that last trailer load finished and then I would get in the pool and cool off. However, by the time I chunked the last of the wood into the burn pit, my headache was throbbing hard enough that I knew I was in trouble. Quickly, I jumped in the buggy and headed to the pool. The water did help me cool my body down, but the headache still pounded. I was in so much pain I could not think and the hammering was deafening in my head. Was I having a stroke? The pain was so bad I thought I would black out… which got me to thinking, “What if I blacked out in the pool and drowned?” So I got out of the pool and went into the cool of the house. But the throbbing did not stop. I could not lie down flat or at an incline. No position I sat or laid in helped at all. The throbbing was intense. I finally contacted my sister Jules, who is a registered nurse, and I followed her instructions. Somehow I crawled to the freezer and got several iced gel packs – one for my forehead, one to place behind my neck, and another for the front of my neck. Within just a few minutes, the cool of the gel packs helped, and my sister’s words of comfort calmed me down. Eventually, the headache dulled in intensity, but lingered the rest of that day and into the night, and continued mildly for several days after.
So on Monday, I spent all day on the computer, doing research to understand why, despite being very hydrated, I still suffered from heat exhaustion. In doing so, I ran across some interesting information in a post at, Wildfire Today . These words, by Dr. Brent Ruby, made the most sense:
“The best approach [to prevent heat exhaustion and hyperthermia] is to know thyself and thy physical limits. Establishing a pace schedule that allows temperature to come back down in between periods of work that result in a rise in temperature. The factors of importance are pace, fitness level for the task at hand, hydration behaviors and simultaneously electrolyte concentrations in the blood.”
I wrongly had the idea in my head that simply keeping hydrated would prevent heat exhaustion. I also have a history of sodium (an electrolyte) imbalance and I did not properly replenish the sodium I was sweating out. And mostly, I knew that my sense of toughing out a job to the end was what got me. I had not paced myself at the burn pile. I just pushed myself because I wanted to get the job done.
The days that have followed have been quite frustrating. A mild headache does not hesitate to crank up if I do too much. So I move through the day slowly and carefully, like I have for the past two months with my foot. Now my right foot and my head are my guides to “know thyself and thy physical limits“. And I am learning to tread lightly…
© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…