The Church of Holy Syncope


If this post ends suddenly, it means that a lightning bolt has shot through the roof of my house and knocked me off my chair.

A 79 year old lady with an intertrochanteric fracture and a left wrist fracture.
An 81 year old guy with a bleeding goose egg on the back of his head.
The 88 year old grandma who busted her hip and her walker in the same fall.
The 87 year old lady who passed out in the pew but who was caught before she injured herself.

What do each of these octogenarians have in common? They were brought to the ED via ambulance straight from the Church of Holy Syncope.

After our fourth ambulance run in two hours from the local church, I discussed this phenomenon I have witnessed with one of the paramedics. Think about it.

Many elderly people don’t make it out of the house much. Maybe grandma will make it out one day a week to have her hair done. Maybe grandpa goes out to the Elks Lodge one night a week to play cards. But where do a lot of elderly people seem to congregate every week? You got it. The Church of Holy Syncope.

If you have trouble getting around with a walker, maybe someone helps you up the stairs and into the pew. Then you’re on your own. And no matter how old you are, you have to follow the rules:

Don’t eat anything before communion. That way, all the diabetics take their medications when they wake up and then go to ground during mass.

Kneel. Sit. Stand. Kneel. Stand. Sit. Kneel. Kneel more. Stand up and walk to the front to get communion so you can finally eat something when you’re done. Go back and kneel again. That’s more exercise than most octogenarians get all week. If they don’t pass out from overexertion, you know darn well that one of these kneel-sit-stand cycles is going to get them dizzy and make them DFO (“dun fall out” – as in “Doc, I dun fell out”).

What are the steps made from at the Church of Holy Syncope? Marble or concrete. Nice soft substances so that when people fall going up or down, they have a nice soft landing.

Oh, and if there happens to be an ice storm on a Sunday morning, not only do the poor old folks go to ground, but then they grab clothing and take the younger healthy ones with them. If we’re having a really unlucky day, we’ll get a “twofer” from one DFO.

I didn’t know churches had the ability to franchise, but our EMT Scott enlightened me. If you look at the business filings of churches, most are subsidiaries of the Church of Holy Syncope. You might think you’re going to St. Peter’s, but really you’re a member of one big corporate church conglomerate. Call me crazy, but I bet that the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has some kind of “in” with the Church of Holy Syncope and Sunday masses. I just know it.

Now pardon me – I have to go hide in the basement. I just heard a crack of thunder.


  1. I took care of a “two-fer” a few months ago. Both were admitted for various broken parts, and they were both in the same semi-private room. And I believe they were at church – although not the Church of Holy Syncope.

  2. When grandma gets dizzy on the choir risers and takes out a couple of other grannies on her way down because there’s nothing to hold onto but other LOLs: Mass trauma incident!

  3. If you’re really lucky you can pick up a patient from Our Lady of the Reflex Anoxic Seizure. Done in by a hypersensitive vagus nerve, or the hand of Satan? And first-time seizures are so much fun for everyone involved anyway…
    Don’t worry about the lightning; looking around at the world, I think it’s safe to say God has a sense of humor.

  4. LOL. I go to a church where there are no steps, everything is in a 1-level building, and we are a congregation that bows rather than kneels. The only ones I know who kneel are Catholics and Orthodox. I know, I used to live in a neighborhood with a half-dozen each different Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

  5. I’m pretty sure you’re not referring to any Catholic churches, doc, because not only are congregants now permitted to eat before communion (have been for several decades, actually), but those who have physical conditions preventing them from kneeling, standing, etc, are not required to do so.

    In fact, in every Catholic church I have attended, if a congregant has trouble making it to the altar, the priest will come to the pew and administer Holy Communion. It’s very common in parishes with a lot of older worshippers.

    No church, however, can do anything but gently discourage those who insist on continuing to follow forms of worship that they have followed their entire lives (ie fasting, kneeling, coming forward for communion), even if the individual’s health/age makes these actions unwise.

    It’s called free will. Or stubbornness, if you’re not into that religious stuff.

    This is interesting, because I’m Catholic and my family and I have been practicing this way all my life. I guess it isn’t something I ever thought to go and ask about. I have never seen the priests go to the pews. As far back as I can remember we were always told that we had to receive communion on an empty stomach. I remember that I always used to be bummed out because the apple fritters would be gone from the bakery by the time we got out of church. Dang.

  6. Yep. We’re right across the street from a huge catholic church and around 12pm we get a couple of seniors who have either passed out during mass or slipped and fell down the stairs.

    During the Jewish high holy days, we always get a bunch of little old Jewish men who pass out in synagogue from a combo of fasting and being in a stuffy, packed synagogue for hours.

  7. I had a Catholic physician friend who said only protestants passed out at church, ‘because they just sit there for most of an hour, then stand up and pass out, while we;re getting our exercise”.

    I would be an easy study to do for the numerator, but the denominators would be trickier.

  8. Myself, I prefer the congregants from the Church of Near Syncope…they might FDGB at any time, makes it more interesting.

  9. we dont’ use DFO in our ED. We use the previously mentioned FDGB.

    We had an 87yo FDGB who had a subdural and c6-7 fracture the other day. EEK!

    Plus, we had another FDGB who was younger, in her early 50’s, but had a traumatic subarachnoid that was only seen on LP.

  10. Where I practise, I see a lot of the Temle El Shivat Snycope as well as the church ones. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) there are almost always at least 2-3 doctors in the congregation to tell me that so and so’s patient is on their way in just having passed out during the Kator’s chant. End result is the same – more business for the cardiologists, neurologists, and orthopods.

  11. It used to be that Catholics couldn’t eat between midnight and the time of communion on Sunday morning, but thanks to the Vatican II council that was held in the 1960s, nobody does that anymore except for the pre-Vatican II Catholics who prefer to adhere to the older traditions.

    The same goes for fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; you’re obligated to do so as long as you’re in good health, but you won’t be struck down if you just can’t handle it.

    There are lots of little old ladies and little old men in my congregation who sit in the very back pew and have communion brought to them by the priest because they can’t make it up to the altar. Unfortunately, I’m only 17 and happen to be a devout member of the Church of Holy Syncope, thanks to a hypersensitive vagus nerve, uncontrollably low blood pressure, and wonky sugars. 🙂 What’s worse is that I’m an EMT, so I’ve gotta stay conscious to take care of the other FDGBs!

  12. I remember being a 12-13 year old altar boy and feeling all kinds of dizzy after not eating since dinner the night before. My dad is even post Vatican II, but we still never ate before mass.

    One of the most vivid memories of church that I have is of the preist keeling over on his way to say the gospel…he just stood up and then thud and there’s good ol’ father Ray in a heap in the right next to the altar. He was fine, just a little bit of the Holy Syncope. He still gives good sermons though and always prays for the Red Sox.

  13. I have an EMT father and a sister who was an ER nurse. We had 3 years in a row of Christmas Eve masses where someone went down near us. So they were the useful ones to tend to the unfortunate gomer and I was the one that was sent out to the car to get the jump bag. Nothing more interesting than trying to run across the icy church parking lot in heels with a jump bag in tow…

  14. I have major issues with churches and the elderly.

    All that standing up and sitting down. If you stay in your pew during communion then everybody feels the need to step over you instead of going out the other end. Plus the Pastor felt the need to let us all know he’d studied Greek and have a long thoughtful complicated sermon. If you can’t remember what you had for breakfast will you remember anything from something like that?

    God and I got much closer when we got MIL into Assisted Living and started going to church with her at their chapel. They cut out the chatter, ditched the standing up/sitting down, had a sound system that fed into hearing aides and never even considered parishioners getting up to get communion.

    To top it all off the service was short (’cause they all fell asleep) and they had rotating guest pastors who dusted off their best sermons which even a simpleton like myself could understand.

    MIL passed on last fall and I have to say that I miss worship at that chapel.

  15. As a Meniere’s patient that was raised Catholic (though I haven’t been a practicing Catholic–or anything else–since I was a kid) this post is amusing in multiple ways. I never had a problem with the Church of Holy Syncope, but every other division of Syncope, Inc. and I have had multiple confrontations. Plus, the sit-stand-kneel is spot on. :p Also, DFO is a better description of symptoms than FDGB, since I’m typically lucky enough to be near someone that could catch me!

  16. A. J. Campbell on

    In areas with large Pentacostal/fundamentalist populations, the syndrome is referred to as “TMJ” — Too Much Jesus.

  17. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Church of Holy Syncope | WhiteCoat's Call Room --

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