Friday, February 19, 2016

Onward and upward to the observatory (and my recovery)

Griffith Park Observatory: Tumblrs

We had seen the intrepid hikers embarking on the steep path up the mountain toward the Griffith Park Observatory on our walks through Ferndell. We admired their determination, but knew I wasn't up to such a trek.
A pic taken on our first walk through Ferndell on a rainy January weekend in 2015.

Last Sunday, we finally decided I was probably strong enough to attempt the ascent. Our quest was complicated by the fact that we initially took the wrong path--we're both directionally-challenged. We therefore proved that I was strong enough to walk the tropical paradise of Ferndell and also hike to the observatory. I had been thinking that a walk to the observatory would make the lovely, but no longer challenging, Ferndell more of a work-out for me.
Entering the trail back to Ferndell in March of 2015, as people walked along the trail to the Griffith Park Observatory.
The first path we took was steeper and rougher than Ferndell, though far less lush. Though nice, Ferndell would've been more pleasurable. And shadier, too, on this summer-like winter day.

We finally reached the top, we weren't able to tour the refurbished observatory nearly as much as we wanted to. But it a good thing that Keith did his best to restrain my enthusiasm as we entered that famous building. (See Tumblrs for some pics taken inside, on the roof, and on the grounds. Bonus: Pics of the Hollywood sign--it's two icons in one!)

After our lunch at the Cafe at the End of the Universe--nice shout-out to one of my favorite authors!--we headed back down the mountain. We had barely started before my exhaustion flooded back. By the time we reached our car, I felt like I just might fall back into a coma from sheer exertion.

All in all, we hiked 3.7 steep miles. The hike was so hard that even Keith felt wiped out.

But we had reached a new pinnacle in my recovery.
A section of the very long path up the mountain.

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.