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She Blinded Me With Science! Kind Of.

, , , , , , | Healthy | July 27, 2020

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains content of a medical nature. It is not intended as medical advice.

I am an exercise science major. For one of my classes, we have to perform a treadmill test on one student and use the data collected for a lab write-up.

The day of the lab, my class prior to this is also in the exercise science laboratory, so I am sitting in a chair inside when my professor walks in. She asks me to come and help her set up the lab because I did the same lab with the same professor last semester for a different class.

I go in and start to put together the headpiece that will monitor the subject’s breathing. The rest of the small class walks in — only five people — and they stand around talking amongst themselves until the professor asks them who is going to be the subject. They decide to use “nose goes” to determine who the subject will be.

I do not participate because I have gloves on to keep the headpiece sanitary — it goes inside of the subject’s mouth — and I kind of assume I am exempt from this because I am basically setting up the whole lab by myself. The only things that have to be done after this are connecting the headpiece to a tube and writing down the data that a computer collects for us.

The other students don’t care about this and tell me that I have to be the subject because I lost “nose goes.” I agree because I’m not a confrontational person due to my severe anxiety. So, the professor and one other student help me put on the headpiece. As they are putting it on, the professor tells me she is taking off my glasses to get it on, but she’ll put them back on before the test starts. The professor then gets distracted because my heart rate monitor is not working and forgets about my glasses.

This is a very big problem because I am almost legally blind with my glasses, and I try to tell her this, but I can’t speak due to the headpiece. So, they start the treadmill and I quickly realize how bad this is. The treadmill is all black, so I am unable to tell the difference between the belt and the plastic siding. During the first minute of the test, I step too far forward, partway onto the front plastic, and almost trip.

This sends me into panic mode, because I know I am going to fall, hurt myself, and completely embarrass myself by the end of this fifteen-minute test. I try to hold onto the sides of the treadmill for security, but the professor hits my hands away and tells me I can’t do this. So, I start to flap my hands, one of my stims that I use to calm myself when I get incredibly anxious. 

At the three-minute mark, another student holds a paper in front of my face to determine my rating of perceived exertion, or how hard I feel the test is at this point. I try to tell them I can’t see the words on the paper, but they take me gesturing towards the paper as pointing at a specific rating and then tell me not to talk so I don’t mess up the data.

I get seven minutes into the test. My vision is going black and my heart is beating so fast I feel like I’m about to have a heart attack. I later find out that I was way above my maximum healthy heart rate and the test should have been stopped, but the students were not paying any attention to my heart rate so it went unnoticed.

I finally decide that I can no longer go on with the test and give them the indication that I need to stop. My professor asks me to go “one more minute” but then notices my heart rate and tells the other students that I need to get off the treadmill immediately. The test is stopped, the headpiece is removed, and I am able to sit in a chair. I’m shaking and hyperventilating, still feel like I’m about to have a heart attack, and am incredibly embarrassed that I was unable to complete the test and that I’m having a full-blown panic attack in front of my class.

The professor looks over the data and sees the ratings of perceived exertion that were collected when I was wildly gesturing towards the paper. She asks me, “Why did you rate these so low; wasn’t the test hard for you? You were having a hard time.”

I manage to basically hiss out between my gasps for breath, “I couldn’t see. You didn’t give me my glasses back. I’m almost blind.”

The professor shuts up and the other students get me to re-rate the test. After this, I am able to go home, thinking that this will be the end of it.

However, the professor proceeds to mention how I was unable to complete the test every week, assuming it was because I was out of shape, not because I was having a panic attack. This is so embarrassing that I end up having minor panic attacks before I go to this class every day, fearing that she is going to mention it again.

I wish there was some sort of incredible ending to this story where I stood up for myself and yelled at the professor, but due to a certain illness outbreak, I ended up having to complete the class online and did not have to deal with that professor for the rest of the semester.

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