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Travelling the World with Hera van Willick: …And Then I Collapsed

By Hera van Willick

On Saturday night at 11 p.m. I pick up my laptop to finish my blog. All of a sudden my sight gets blurry, I feel dizzy and think I’m going to faint even though I don’t understand why. Suddenly I ‘revive’ but everything seems to have lost its solid shape. The room is moving, mirrors itself, I see the floor, close up, light dark, it spins, when I close my eyes I’m home, when I open them I see a room lost in time and space.


Alarm bells are ringing in my head and I decide that I should find someone who can call for help. I remember where to find the door and stumble into the hallway of the apartment building. I knock on the first door, no-one answers. A man walks by and I see how my appearance scares him, I realize I’m on the floor. I knock on some more doors and finally someone answers. I try to explain what’s happening and sink back on the floor again. Suddenly a woman sits down next to me, takes my hand and calls 911..

We must have sat there for about half an hour. I try really hard to ‘stay conscious’, and not give in to the feeling that my head wants to go ‘black’. I shake my head to stay awake. I’m thirsty! All of a sudden my mouth feels incredibly dry and my tongue feels thick. But since I have no clue how I ended up in the situation (am I intoxicated?) I don’t want to drink anything before there’s medical help. 

The ambulance

When, after a police officer, ‘finally’ the ambulance staff arrives they start off by testing my heartbeat, blood pressure and blood sugar level. Nothing alarming there.

We stumble down the stairs, into the night and into the ambulance.


The hospital

While I’m waiting on a stool in the hospital I see some people (nurses) consulting about me, at least that’s what I hope, something needs to happen. I see myself as I’m sitting there on that stool and how I do the things you see ‘crazy people’ do. I touch stuff and I look around me with a hazy eyes while I see everything with immense intensity. I see EVERYTHING! Not just a wall with some brochures, but: 





I make sounds I can’t control and don’t look at all like the Hera I know.

And I’m aware of all that… but I can’t do anything about it.

The doctor

I’m put on a bed and told that the doctor will be with me soon. It takes to long for my likings and I feel secluded behind the curtain, so I stumble up and have a behind the curtain. I don’t want to be alone. I want to be ‘with the grown ups’ en see what’s happening. Luckily no-one pushes me to go back to the bed.

Not much later the doctor comes to see me and I have to tell the whole story of what happened again. I keep talking. My mouth says everything that I think or feel without my approval and when they install the drip I wail like a child. Finally I get to drink some water. The doctor says something about ‘dehydration’ and that he won’t be there this morning but he will be there again the next.


In a wheelchair they roll me to a different bed and soon after I drift off into a deep dreamless sleep (thank god).

Waking up

I wake up with a fierce headache and know immediately where I am. Apart from that everything is still hazy. I feel intoxicated, but the blood work proofs that that’s not the case. I’m not that scared anymore, probably the pills they gave me are to thank for that, but I don’t understand even the slightest bit of what happened. I act like a stranger, but I could tell my own phone number backwards in a split second and remember every bit of my itinerary of the last 4 months. In the corners of my eyers curtains are mountains, a bottle is a tower, until I focus on them and they turn back into their real shape. But also my humor is still there, I can make jokes. In the morning Shaun visits me, the cyclist with whom I would start riding the Icefields Parkway this morning. The only familiar face in Jasper. It feels good to hold his hand for a bit. I’m still there. He’s here, it’s real and it’s gonna be okay. ‘Will you take our picture?’ I ask him. Don’t ask why…

The day goes by in a whirl and because it’s ‘Thanksgiving’ there’s no care apart from the nurses.
The day goes by in a whirl and because it’s ‘Thanksgiving’ there’s no care apart from the nurses.
From the dirty window I see the snow topped mountains.
From the dirty window I see the snow topped mountains.
Exploring the hospital with my new found company
Exploring the hospital with my new found company 


In the morning Dr. Joseph is back. I’m ‘lucky’ to get to talk to the ‘tele-psychiatrist’ already in the morning through some kind of Skypecall. Later that day I get to talk live to a socialworker/therapist. This hospital is in the town of Jasper, within Jasper National Park, there are no specialists here.

That day I recover quite a lot and together we try to put the puzzle of what happened together to get to some kind of diagnosis.

Severe dehydration that led to hallucination and a severe panic attack.

In the cold weather of the past week I must’ve drunk to little water and too much coffee. Cold air dehydrates too, you pee but you don’t feel thirsty. Had I been 20 years older this degree of dehydration could’ve been catastrophic, dr. Joseph tells me. Apart from that I know my own mind and that I’m vulnerable for dissociation.

Catching some fresh air instantly feels good.
Catching some fresh air instantly feels good.

Getting dismissed… quickly please

During my second day in the hospital I feel more and more like myself again. Slow, tired, woolly, headache… but not as lost and hazy as I felt before. Apart from that, the financial catastrophic consequences of this situation were becoming clear.

‘Optimistic’ and maybe a little naive I thought it would be enough to be insured for 2x the Dutch health care rates. I thought that’d be quite a bit and I would take on whatever bit would be left…

It turns out: a hospital in Canada is about $4000 U.S. per night, while in Holland it’s more like $ 400. Add a ambulance ride at $ 400, E.R. visit at $ 580 and you start to understand why I was in a rush to get out of there. When dr. Joseph realised I would have to pay for most of this myself he said he wouldn’t charge me much for his work. That turned out to be $ 700 U.S. Later I understood that that is indeed unusually ‘cheap’.