One minute she was driving on the motorway at 75mph. Then she passed out

Jill Foster
·5 min read
Alison Stockton was diagnosed with vasovagal syncope – fainting caused by certain triggers (supplied, Alison Stockton)
Alison Stockton was diagnosed with vasovagal syncope – fainting caused by certain triggers (supplied, Alison Stockton)

Alison Stockton was driving along the motorway at 120kmph (75mph) when she knew something was seriously wrong. 

"I was heading to a friend’s house as I’d offered to look after her little boy for the day when suddenly I knew I was going to pass out," says Stockton, who was living in Dubai at the time.

"Although I’d had something to eat and drink that morning, I felt really faint and the last thing I remember thinking was: ‘Oh ***! Oh ****!’ and then nothing.

"It must have only been seconds later but the next thing I knew, I was waking up taking huge gasps of breath and I could see a stranger in my car trying to help me.

"I was thinking: ‘What’s happening? Is this a dream?’"

Unfortunately, it was all too real. The mum-of-two - who was working as a personal trainer at the time - had blacked out and swerved off the road, hitting several other cars and driving her car into a concrete bollard.

Alison Stockton's car after she swerved off the road, hitting several other cars and a concrete bollard (supplied, Alison Stockton)
Alison Stockton's car after she swerved off the road, hitting several other cars and a concrete bollard (supplied, Alison Stockton)

"My eye had split open because I’d hit the gear stick and I’d cracked ribs but when I got to the hospital and the doctors checked me me over, I was incredibly lucky to escape with so few injuries and certainly very lucky to keep my sight and my legs," says Stockton, who is originally from Stoke On Trent.

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"Another lady – a French tourist – was also injured in the accident and hospitalised for 10 days, but thankfully she recovered and didn’t want to press any charges. If she had – or if she’d died – there was every chance I could have been spending the rest of my life in a jail in Dubai. It was terrifying."

Alison Stockton says she 'was incredibly lucky to escape with so few injuries' after she blacked out while driving (supplied, Alison Stockton)
Alison Stockton says she 'was incredibly lucky to escape with so few injuries' after she blacked out while driving (supplied, Alison Stockton)

The crash was a huge wake-up call for Stockton.

For this was not the first time she had blacked out. In fact, she had been fainting around twice a week before the accident and was later diagnosed with vasovagal syncope – or fainting caused by certain triggers, such as the sight of a needle or intense emotion like fear.

It is the most common cause of fainting and happens to both men and women in equal numbers. While not dangerous in itself, it can put people in harmful situations – as Stockton discovered.

Watch: 'American Idol' contestant suffers a seizure due to overwhelming stress

"I was in a very stressful situation with my ex-partner at the time and I didn’t understand what was happening to me so I never shared it with anyone and certainly didn’t go to a doctor with symptoms," says Stockton

"In 2014, I had to leave both my two sons due to the stress of the separation from my ex-relationship. It was causing increased anxiety and depression and that’s when I went to live in Dubai.

"It was incredibly upsetting and at times I felt suicidal with stress. 

"It was then that I started blacking out and falling to the ground regularly. I could be sitting in my car waiting at traffic lights and I’d suddenly lose consciousness. Or I could be walking to a shop and next thing I know I’d be on the pavement. 

"Sometimes, beforehand I'd experience what I now know is 'clinical deja vu' - a feeling of being present but not present. I was once in Sloane Square in London when it happened and although I didn't pass out that time, it felt like everything around me wasn't quite real. My boys had to stop me from falling."

Read more: 15 things I wish you knew about life with vasovagal syncope

Stockton had not sought medical help but the car crash forced her to face up to her problem. 

"For the first two weeks after the crash I had my own ‘pity party’, wishing I had died," she says. "But tests showed there was nothing physically wrong. 

"The doctors suggested beta-blockers to regulate my heart rate but I didn’t want medication as it might affect me as I have an autoimmune condition too. 

"I realised I could help myself by changing my mindset around situations and removing myself from stressful situations with my ex."

Alison Stockton says she realised she could help herself by removing herself from stressful situations (supplied, Alison Stockton)
Alison Stockton says she realised she could help herself by removing herself from stressful situations (supplied, Alison Stockton)

Using her experience, Stockton retrained as a functional medicine health coach, finding ways to help people find coping mechanisms for stress, anxiety and even depression. 

She wrote a book called Vibrant on the Inside Out and is about to take more coaching training to support other women dealing with trauma and PTSD.

"It’s been a challenge and I look back and see how much I was suffering from post traumatic stress but it’s also been inspirational to come through it," she says. 

"I’ve learned so much about myself and how people can handle stress and anxiety. Now I want to be able to help and support more women to stop them going through similar situations and truly help them to thrive."

Watch: Driver manages to stop bus full of passengers safely before he faints at the wheel

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