Tag Archives: the effects of sleep deprivation on cognition

Word salad

‘The practice of stringing together words that have no apparent connection to one another–an extreme form of incomprehensible speech.’ (about.com)

Road salad

Alice (Dr. Shaw) called me at 4:15 yesterday after consulting the urine culture from Sunday’s visit to urgent care; the only antibiotics to which the infection was not resistant were ones to which I had an allergy. With no other option aside from IV antibiotics, we decided that I would try a cephlasporin. The last time I took an antibiotic in that class was over twenty years ago and my cheeks had immediately taken on the appearance of having been slapped; I have avoided cephlasporins since. As this had been a relatively minor reaction, we decided they were now my best option. The pharmacy is a twenty minute drive from our home and snow and sleet had been forecast. Having ¬†been awake for almost 60 hours now, I was eager to get this errand out of the way.

I got to the pharmacy shortly before 5 pm. They had not received my prescription yet; I called and left a message for Alice. After 25 minutes the fax with the scrip came in, but they didn’t have any of that particular drug in stock. If I didn’t want to wait until tomorrow afternoon (not an option) they could see if it was in stock at their other pharmacies. After placing a handful of calls, they found a pharmacy in Manchester that had 10 out of the 14 pills I would need.

I have a GPS system but it wasn’t in the car. The liquid crystal screen is sensitive to freezing temperatures, and I had brought it inside several days earlier. I set off with some handwritten directions, but I quickly realized I didn’t actually know how to get to the starting point, 93 north. Having pulled onto highway 293, I pulled off at a familiar exit and stopped at an urgent care facility for directions to Elliot hospital, which was adjacent to the pharmacy. And then I stopped at Elliot hospital and asked the receptionist how to get to the pharmacy (connect the dots…). I got to the pharmacy by 6:30, but even with my additional stops I was somehow faster than the fax machine, so I called Peter and told him he would need to make his own dinner. A little before seven, drug in hand, I was on the road home.

Or so I thought. Nothing looked familiar, and with a sinking feeling, I realized I had no idea where the hell I was. Taking an exit off the highway, I pulled into the parking lot of a grocery store and sat there and cried. Not knowing what else to do, I approached the customer service window, bawling like a little kid. I explained that I hadn’t slept in days, and that I was lost. I just wanted to go home. The very compassionate young woman took a lot of time to write out directions for me. No street names, just things like ‘and then you turn left at the green sign and go to the toll road.’ What toll road, I asked? The toll road. It was like an incomprehensible story problem and I simply wasn’t up to the task of deciphering it.

After asking her if I was in fact north of where I wanted to be, I thanked her for her trouble and did the only thing that made sense to my increasingly panicked and addled mind. I took 93 south. By the time I recognized where I was, I had a choice of heading south to Boston or east to Portsmouth. Having once again overshot my destination, I was far from home. Now crying with abandon and frankly scared out of my wits, I drove east, took the first exit, and turned around again.

I eventually found the exit I needed. As I drove the last twenty minutes down what should have been a familiar road, I struggled to recognize my surroundings. I also began to wonder if this was real or if in fact it was a nightmare. I had been gone for over three hours when at last I pulled into our driveway. Peter greeted me at the door, wondering if I was okay. I hugged him to me and told him that I was having a hard time putting my thoughts together. And that if I became more confused or unresponsive, he would need to call 911.

Obviously, I had no business driving, and we need to get a plan B in place pronto. What that means, I’m not yet certain, but I am fast approaching a place where managing on my own is sometimes not only impractical, it’s impossible.

Alice called to check on me at 9 pm. I had taken the antibiotic without incident and by 10 pm, something wonderful happened. I fell asleep.