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Drowning without Water

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pulseThink of yourself in a swimming pool or a lake, the water warm against your skin, and the sun is shining. Life is good. You’re enjoying a swim, and you decide to dive. Somewhere along the way, you lose your orientation, you’re deeper than you thought you were and you didn’t take a deep enough breath to comfortably swim to the open surface of the water. You finally get oriented, and you feel your pulse quicken, your panic is starting to set in. You swim forcefully toward what you hope is the right direction. At some point, your lungs begin to burn, to throb with intensity in time with your heartbeat and the longer you stay underwater, the harder that throb becomes and the faster too. You see the light, you realize you’re almost there, but before you break through the top of the water, your lungs now feel like they are on fire, your mouth is fighting not to open automatically and take in a huge gulp of water instead of air, you’re straining, moaning against the involuntary movements your body is trying to make to force you to breathe, not realizing you’re underwater though your brain is fully aware and that’s why you’re panicking so.

And then, at last, you break through the surface with a huge splash and the first thing you do is actually not breathe in… believe it or not, you exhaled rapidly, like you’re trying to clear every last bit of air out of your body so that when you take that next breath, the next big breath that will calm the panic, easy the pain you’re now feeling in your chest, stop the throbbing that has begun in your head and bring your vision back to you… so that you will get every breath, every ounce of oxygen, that your body needs. That’s when you gasp, and then you start breathing rapidly, hyperventilating yourself, gulping in air like a starving person who hasn’t eaten in months, drinking in the water like a dehydrated man wandering in the dessert might drink from an oasis. (more…)

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