Columns » Ranger Rich

I had amnesia — honest

Ranger Rich

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I recently spent some 16 hours — I am not kidding about this — in the psychiatric ward of our village's Penrose Hospital.

Among the tests on my cranium was an MRI, which showed four marbles, a handful of paper clips, a shoelace, lewd thoughts about Marie Osmond and a dozen odd facts I keep up there about Norway. (Example: King Harald V sleeps with his head flat on the mattress because as a child he placed a molar beneath his pillow and was savagely attacked by the Norwegian Tooth Raccoon.)

Oh, and in the back of my head they found 1,589 jokes about village Mayor Steve Bach.

Seriously, I spent the night of March 27 and part of the next day on the fourth floor at Penrose — home to stroke victims, detox patients and people with psychological problems. Frankly, it looked like a group photo of our new City Council.

The weirdness began in the morning when I wrote a long, thought-provoking and compelling Sunday column for the Denver Post ("Four Months Into the Era of Legalized Marijuana: I Weigh 586 Pounds and Can't Seem to Stay Awake"). I sent the column to the Post and then went to my old garage, converted into a gym, for a brisk cardio and weight-lifting workout, which I do regularly and habitually two or three times a year.

During a bench-press routine I felt light-headed, strange and unbalanced, which is how I imagine new Colorado Springs City Council member Helen Collins feels all the time. (Note: Helen is reportedly dating village icon and felon Douglas Bruce. Friends say it's serious and just a matter of time before Doug kicks the lucky bride over the threshold.)

Anyway, I drank some water and bench-pressed on, stumbling back to the house about an hour later and deciding to re-read my Post column.

I didn't recognize a sentence. Not a word. Not a name. Nothing. The column I'd finished only an hour earlier made absolutely no sense to me.

(Here you, my loyal readers, are probably saying, "Now you know how we feel every week. Both of us.")

I believed someone at the Post had substituted another column for mine — and put it back into my computer. I even sent a few crazy e-mails to my boss at the Post, e-mails I did not remember the next day.

I panicked. Our home blood-pressure monitor lit up with the numbers 190 over 140, a level at which eyeballs go skidding across the floor, I think. My wife called our doctor, who told her to get me to the emergency room.

Soon, medical people swarmed around me. One stuck an IV needle into my arm. One hooked me up to a heart monitor. Five others held me by my ankles, turned me upside down and shook until my health insurance card fell out.

A doctor asked me to move my lips to the left and then to the right, then to smile and finally make a big frown.

I struggled with the frown until I remembered that Steve "Is That Hair on My Head or Orangutan Fur?" Bach will be mayor for another few years — sneaking more $25,000 "bonus" checks to the rest of his city worker pals as our world-class village solves two problems at once by filling potholes with homeless people.

Anyway, the MRI showed no stroke damage. I had, doctors later diagnosed, strained and weight-lifted myself into an actual thing called transient global amnesia. The blood-pressure spike was likely a panic attack.

From the Mayo Clinic website: "Transient global amnesia is a sudden, temporary episode of memory loss that can't be attributed to a more common neurological condition, such as epilepsy or stroke."

(I think I had an actual stroke two weeks later when I got the hospital bill: $12,786.)

From the Mayo Clinic: "Transient global amnesia is rare, seemingly harmless and unlikely to happen again. Episodes are usually short-lived, and afterward your memory is fine."

Which is a shame. Because I'd really like to forget the image now stuck in my head of Helen Collins giving Doug Bruce a back rub.

Rich Tosches (rangerrich@csindy.com) also writes a Sunday column in the Denver Post.

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