I have only fainted two or three times, to my knowledge. Each of these incidents was triggered by a breach of some kind. It is possible that the piercing of a membrane triggers my reaction.
The most significant time that this happened was when, as a 14 year old (or thereabouts), I watched a slide show of a cataract operation. A representative of a charity was demonstrating, through a narrative constructed of images, a remarkable new kind of scalpel. The new invention was a scalpel, with a diamond for a blade, attached to a fibre-optic cable allowing the tool to act as a light source for itself. Ingenious, and a great improvement on the traditional metal scalpels that cast shadows onto the surface to be cut. The charity representative wanted us to raise money for these scalpels to be bought in order that they could be used in the Third World.
While watching this slide show, from the first row, I passed out. I came round at home. It’s one of the great lacunae of my life. I’m not sure, but I reckon I fainted at the moment the tip of the scalpel pierced the cornea.
The other times I have been close to fainting generally relate to drawing blood. As a 10 year old I underwent a minor dental operation and in preparation for that, I had to give a blood sample. This was in the mid-1970s and the technique employed was a lot less efficient than the one used now. A nurse pierced my thumb with a scalpel blade (metal, not diamond), and placed a capillary tube on the cut. The meniscus of the blood, through capillary action, was supposed effect the filling of the tube. Perhaps, on reflection, my blood pressure was the agent here, but whatever happened, it didn’t work. The red liquid crawled up to about half-way. A second nurse took over and stabbed my other thumb – a violation, rather than a procedure – and filled the tube in moments. Afterwards, my vision closed in about me and I could hear my blood pumping in my temples. I was guided outside and sat with my head between my knees and slowly felt better. I remember vividly the concrete steps and brick walls of the tatty courtyard in which I came to.
The third, and strangest, of all my remembered fainting incidents was when a biology teacher (this must have been about the same time as the cataract episode), explained how an amniocentesis is taken. Like all science labs in the school, we were sat on high stools, rather than chairs and I recall lolling back to rest on the bench behind me. I don’t think I actually passed out completely, but I know that I felt strange, but not nauseous. No-one ever mentioned it, so perhaps my self-image of the reaction is exaggerated and wrong.
So, when a surface is pierced, I am likely to react. The action, which reveals something fundamental, seems a violation. I want the surface to remain intact and available for inspection in its recognisable form.