My 24 Hours at Burning ManSep 09, 2023
4 minute read...
These past two weeks, we were supposed to be at Burning Man.
On August 24th, we arrived on site and were well into the process of setting up.
And then the symptoms started.
A bit of dizziness, a bit of nausea, a bit of a headache. What could the cause be? First hypothesis: dehydration. So I drank some water and electrolytes. But that didn’t help. For the rest of that day and into the next morning, my symptoms remained.
So we made our way over to the medical tent. The amount of fluids and electrolytes I had since arrival weren’t sufficient for them to rule out dehydration, which is a relatively common affliction at Burning Man. But after another 72 ounces of fluids (water and electrolytes), the symptoms were still going strong. Time to move on to the next hypothesis. The nurse took my blood pressure, and here’s where we started to get some traction: my blood pressure was high enough to be labeled as a “hypertensive crisis.”
Yikes. That warranted a hasty departure from the medical tent and into Rampart, the on-site hospital at Burning Man.
Bye-Bye Burning Man
At Rampart, I was hooked up to an IV that delivered blood pressure and anti nausea medications. An EKG ruled out heart problems, other tests ruled out stroke. That was good news. But unfortunately the meds didn’t help. My blood pressure remained in the “hypertensive crisis” zone and my symptoms were still going strong. It was time to get me to a place with more expertise, technology and medications.
So instead of staying at Burning Man, I went on another trip, one I definitely had not planned for: to Renown Hospital in Reno, NV via an air ambulance.
After more tests and different IV meds, my blood pressure was brought out of the crisis zone, the ER professionals ruled out anything immediately life threatening, and I was released. Parallel to all this, my husband took care of what was needed at our camp and made the drive to Reno. He arrived at the hospital within 15 minutes of my release.
We spent the night at a hotel, picked up a blood pressure medication prescription in the morning, and then made the 2-day drive from Reno back to Phoenix. Bye-bye Burning Man 2023.
Moving Past Disappointment
From the onset of symptoms til we were back on the road, it was clear that I had participated in and observed several rounds of Assumption Hacking. Hypotheses created and then checked, and courses of action adjusted based on what was learned.
The last thing I expected was to spend less than 24 hours at Burning Man. So much preparation and anticipation preceded our trip. To say my husband and I were disappointed is an understatement.
But in all this, I recalled Eli Goldratt and Efrat Goldratt-Ashlag’s book, The Choice. In the book, they lay out 3 specific conditions that allow people to live a full, meaningful life.
They are as follows:
1. Have the stamina to overcome failures.
Danny and I made (and continue to make) a choice to not dwell on the disappointment of missing the annual amazingness that is a Burning Man. We chose to not wallow in sadness over missing time with our campmates and Burning Man friends. And we choose to not be angry that we missed out on experiencing the camp we organized and events we planned. Instead, we made (and admittedly keep making) the choice to redirect our thoughts and feelings to the questions: “what can we be grateful for?” and “what can we learn from this experience?” As it turns out, the list is quite long.
2. Have many opportunities available.
When we switched our minds and hearts from disappointment to gratitude, it wasn’t difficult to recognize the many opportunities that the situation opened up for us. We got a staycation, for starters. Just the two of us, going on spontaneous dates and staying pretty much unplugged for as long as we had originally planned. We adopted a new mindset for taking care of my health and we did things we had been putting off, like getting rid of stuff we no longer need or want. All this and so much more. And oh yes, I even wrote a newsletter or two in advance of publication! 😊
3. Have the ability to cooperate with others.
We get more done and our lives are more abundant when we do life with other people. Our campmates helped my husband take care of all the things he needed so he could take care of getting to me in Reno. Having worked on the camp together well in advance of getting there, I’m confident my campmates carried on with everything our camp needed and made it all that we imagined it would be.
Our daughter took care of our hotel arrangements, and she had the support she needed from her husband, our family and closest friends. All the professionals who took care of me – nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, our pilot – worked together and with me and each other to get me out of crisis mode and safely on our way back home. I am ever so thankful.
When it rains... we make the best of it.
Several days after we left, the rains came. Perhaps you saw one of the many news reports about it. First of all, don’t believe the stories of Armageddon. It was not declared a national emergency, and people are warned in advance about what happens to “the playa” when it rains and how to be prepared for that. Yes, the area did turn into a muddy mess that was impossible for driving or biking. But generally speaking, the people who were stuck there made similar choices to those that Danny and I made following my health scare.
Rather than be upset about the weather and about all the plans that would need to be changed, most Burning Man participants made the choice to not be overcome by disappointment. Even though the event didn’t go as planned, they chose to make the best of the situation. They seized opportunities to have fun in other ways – hanging out with campmates and neighbors, having great conversations, listening to music, dancing and making meals together. And stories abound of people looking after each other, the more prepared helping anyone who may have been less prepared. So many have told me that, for them, “this was the best burn ever”.
Til next time when we’ll get “back to business”,
PS. Oh yea, you’re probably wondering about my blood pressure. Well, it’s gone down and has been in the normal range since we returned home. I’ve been following up with my doc in the meantime. All is well.
Starting to set up our camp (only to depart the following day).
The Temple after the first of the rain storms. Photo credit: Jamen Percy.
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