That’s short for “transient ischemic attack” — I had one. It was only 10 minutes of discombobulated confusion that ended quickly and went away, but it landed me in the hospital overnight. I got CAT scans, an MRI, heart monitors, the works, all while I fumed in a hospital bed because I had things to do, since classes start tomorrow.

All is well now, no detectable damage done, this was just a warning. I got a new pill and some dietary restrictions to keep it from happening again.

And now I have to play catch-up. Everything I was going to get done yesterday has to be done now.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    I had one of those more than 20 years ago, and so far no recurrence, so please take that as a token of hope.

  2. Jazzlet says

    Sorry to hear that PZ, glad there is no detectable lasting damage, and glad there is a pill to take to stop future TIAs. Hope you manage all that needs to be done without doing yourself further damage.

  3. marner says

    Class starts tomorrow? Then stress probably had something to do with it. How much longer do you want to keep on doing this? Any chance of professor emeritus so you can still play with your spiders?

  4. outis says

    Bloody hell. Take care, which means: should you be working at all? Please avoid taking risks!

  5. cartomancer says

    Well that was an embuggerance I guess. All good wishes, and good luck on keeping these sorts of things at bay in future.

  6. moarscienceplz says

    Best wishes, PZ. You know your situation best, but I wish you would consider taking some days off.

  7. says

    Glad it wasn’t worse!

    Every doctor I talked to said “lose weight and walk a couple miles a day” also blood thinners (asprin) and Plavix. It’s like they mean it.

  8. gijoel says

    Fingers crossed that that’s the last of it. I’m also glad you don’t have to drive to work.

  9. opposablethumbs says

    Be well, PZ, and take it as easy as you can. Any chance of your having some temporary volunteer minions around the workplace, just for a little while? Or even a bit of time off?

  10. nomdeplume says

    “[fuming] in a hospital bed because I had things to do, since classes start tomorrow” is, um, a recipe for repeating the experience.

    Look after yourself better PZ. You are much needed.

  11. ANB says

    Ditto to all comments above.
    I know the pressure of too much work that “has to” get done, but…
    It’s that “I’ve got better things to do than sit around resting” attitude that leads to even worse consequences unless you truly take care of they body (proper sleep, diet, exercise and built-in de-stressing practices).

    Yes, of course you know that.

  12. ANB says

    “About 1 in 3 people who has a TIA will eventually have a stroke, with about half occurring within a year after the TIA.” –Mayo Clinic website

  13. Jen Allport says

    Please take some time off, not just from work but from everything. You haven’t kept it secret that you have been suffering depression for a while, your body is letting you down in physical ways and you are obviously stressed to the max.

    I don’t know if it’s financial or just pride but I don’t want to log on to see that you have carked it and if you don’t give yourself a break I fear that is something that is going to happen soon.

    Take the hints your body is screaming at you.

  14. says

    Yeah, I know this event tells me I’ve got a target painted on my cranium.
    The problem is 1) my job is a lot of work & stress, 2) I like my job, and 3) I don’t want to quit. The solution would be for university administration to unilaterally reduce the worklooad for everyone, not just me. Who thinks that will happen?

  15. Jen Allport says

    It won’t happen, you will probably end up doing more. You have to decide if being proved right is worth a major stroke/heart attack or a complete mental break down.

    You know how ridiculous it is to be sitting in the hospital worrying about your job.

    I’m also not sure you do do like your job, I haven’t seen you say anything positive about it for a few years.

    Obviously I don’t know you and me posting like this is cheeky as fuck but you are lying to us or to yourself.

  16. StevoR says

    Yikes. First marcus then you. Scary and wishing you all the best for as speedy and smooth a recovery as possible. Please look after yourself and hope you get a chance to rest and.recovery properly.

  17. birgerjohansson says

    Ed Brayton was part of our little Internet community. Until he wasn’t anymore.
    You need to give your survival higher priority. Please.

  18. John Morales says

    Ouch. On multiple levels.

    Also, work-life balance is complicated enough even when one’s vocation is also their avocation.

    (Then, there’s the worrying about having to worry about these things…)

  19. Tethys says

    It’s ok to be selfish with your health, even if you enjoy your hard and stressful job.

    I think a TIA constitutes extenuating circumstances, and you should not be worrying about everyone’s workload. It is absolutely reasonable for administration to offer a long term valued team member some assistants to deal with some of that workload in light of the TIA.
    Over-worked is not sustainable for anybody!!

  20. flexilis says

    Holy shit! No prayers obviously, but plenty of thoughts and hopes headed towards you and your family. Take care of yourself first, everything else can wait.

  21. says

    Scary!!! Take care of yourself. Jen is right in some aspects you do need to look after yourself. As for her suggestion you don’t love your job, you clearly do. Its the administration you can’t stand. I was the same, loved my job and hated the admin but I enjoyed the small victories I had over them.

  22. bjnich2 says

    Glad you’re okay, and that you got medical attention right away. I had one a little over a year ago. A gray shade came down halfway across the visual field of my left eye. It was gone in less than five minutes, but went to the ER where it was taken seriously. A new med as well, an I’m more active. Take more and longer macro photo walks!

  23. Jen Allport says

    #37 The admin is the job at the moment, wouldn’t dream of suggesting PZ has lost his love of either teaching or biology but when does he get to actually share it with the students?

    It was presumptuous of me to say he doesn’t love his job though, I was out of order.

    Covid must have been a massive smack in the face to a lot of teachers, it showed them how little they, and the students, were valued, it’s hard to come up hard against the fact that you are worth $$$ to the bosses and nothing else.

  24. magistramarla says

    Glad you’re OK, PZ.
    I agree with others that the stresses of your job are getting to be too much.
    I’m glad that I’m no longer teaching.
    My husband is trying to hang on for 18 more months, until he reaches 67.5, which is the optimal time
    to retire for the DOD. He’s beginning to have memory problems, and that is stressful for him.
    He could retire today, but it would mean a little less retirement pay. We’re also trying to get some bills paid
    and get some improvements done to the house before we retire in it.
    We will be making decisions according to his health. I look forward to having him out from under that stress.
    Seems that you and Mary need to be having the same conversations.

  25. hemidactylus says

    I’ve got 8 years before retirement and I’m not going one second past it. I will try to bow out early if I can. As Murtaugh famously said: “I’m too old for this shit”!!

    There’s the honor of emeritus if that’s available to you, doting on your spider collection and writing that evo-devo book to revolutionize the field.

  26. chrislawson says

    PZ, I have decided to drop my teaching job from the end of this academic year due to a death spiral of increasingly disrespectful treatment of teaching staff and unsustainable (and prioritised for maximal stupidity) cost-cutting. I enjoy teaching and think it is hugely important, but it’s simply not a viable activity for me anymore. Although it is not the reason for me stopping teaching, I expect it will lead to health improvements as I redeploy mental energy.

    Having said that, teaching is a sideline for me and not my core income, so it’s much easier for me to drop it. Is there any other career path open to you? Maybe write a book or two?

  27. John Morales says

    chrislawson, you know PZ got sorta famous back in the day, and could easily have leveraged it into money.

    Kudos for that, PZ. Gotta respect principle.

  28. John Morales says

    … that said, PZ, you are an educator, you have YouTube experience, you can reach many people.

  29. Louis says

    Glad you’re okay (as okay as possible) after this horrible event, PZ. I wish you a speedy recovery and future good health after this shock.


  30. says

    I’m already all better! This was just a warning kick in the butt to make more changes. I’ve got a new pill in my medicine cabinet, and Mary is devilishly scheming to change my diet more — those are the terrible consquences of the event.

  31. says

    I just have to add that this is why good health care is important. I had stents put in and made major changes to my diet over a decade ago, before I had a heart attack, and now we’re catching this potential problem early, before I had a stroke. Watch for the warning signs and don’t put off seeing a doctor about them.
    I am fortunate to have really good health insurance through the university, so I can afford to be proactive.

  32. bodach says

    Get yourself a nice (huge) pile of old webs and snuggle up with some of your favorite spiders.

  33. says

    We wish you all the best of health, unselfishly. And, selfishly we wish you all the best of health. Because we value all the significant, positive contributions you make to this pitiful world. Your work is so prolific. Please, take the time and effort to keep yourself healthy.
    The entire OMNIGMA organization.
    p.s. thank you to all the intelligent, enlightened commenters here.

  34. birgerjohansson says

    If our kidneys are compatible, let me know if your current ones are giving up. I can probably get along with just one.
    Idea: the film Crimes and Misdemeanours shows it is useful to be related to a mobster.
    Maybe someone needs to have a little talk with the University administrators.
    As we all know, Minnesota is chock-full of crooks and mobsters. Some even vote Republican!

  35. birgerjohansson says

    Midnight at PZ’s house : Evil cat stirs, grabs a crayon between the teeth and scrawls REDUM, REDRUM all over the place.

  36. beyondhope says

    PZ – all the very best man. You’re one of the good ones. I remember your coronary issue a decade or so ago – hopefully the TIA episode is the first and final manifestation of that sort of vascular ugliness.

  37. DanDare says

    We all need you and care about your well being.
    I will refrain from uninformed and unsolicited medical advice.