When I Died I Saw…

the_grim_reaper_by_irondoomdesignNothing.  Sorry.  But I changed.  I rejected the religion of my parents years before.  I wasn’t an atheist because life had to begin somewhere, and there were questions that couldn’t be answered.  After the accident I had no memories of being pulled into tunnels, or being greeted by previously passed persons.  However I no longer feared death.  I KNEW there was something more.  This was the beginning of my spiritual quest.  Dying made me a seeker.  It might have even softened my edges. Different story for another time.

My Deaths grim reaper

  1. Car accident.  As the story goes, I was unable to breathe due to a blocked passage (my kryptonite is vomit so I dance around visuals).  There was a guy with a red beard standing nearby praying.  I have a visual in my head that he’s standing there reading out of a bible, but I have no real memory of the accident.  Next a nurse appears from somewhere and clears my airway with a pen somehow.  This is the myth.  The other person there won’t/can’t talk about it.  He sued me & would later be my best man.  I’m left paralyzed from the chest down but that’s not very important till you get to #7 below.
  2. During a major surgery in 1995 (Bladder replacement; known as The Indiana Procedure) my family was told that “they lost me” for a while, but revived me easily, and the surgery was a success.
  3. October 2006 I had been severely ill for a few weeks. I was unable to eat much of anything other than ginger ale and ginger Altoids.  I was tanking and I knew it.  I had changed my ringtone to “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” 911 called.  I was feeling better during the ambulance ride and wondering whether calling 911 was unwarranted.  I was reviewing my current symptoms and medical history with an intake nurse.  He was trying to get me moved to a critical area, but kept getting “no” as an answer.  My vitals worsened and still he advocated to no avail.  Cardiac Arrest… as they finally wheeled me to the critical area, I managed to thank my nurse for trying tell him that no matter what happened, it wasn’t his fault.
  4. When I was revived, it was like I was simply being woken up.  Now, in the critical area, they began asking me all the questions that I had just answered.  No one thought it was a good idea to go grab the nurse that had all the information.  Instead they tried to extract it from the newly revived dead guy.  It was all very hectic, as my vitals were not bouncing back, and there seemed a great deal of urgency to get all of my nearly 25 years worth of medical history conveyed in 30 seconds.  I began attempting to meditate at this point, as it was becoming difficult to breathe.  20-some years of meditation was helpful in remaining calm, as this frenzy was playing out around me.  With a weird detachment I monitored my breathing, and was in the process of suggesting they might get this info from my first nurse, when I rudely interrupted myself with my second Cardiac Arrest.
  5. The medical records showed that I was given an epinephrine (epi) shot to bring me around again.  Again it was just like I had dozed off.  Only I couldn’t breathe very well.  I immediately went to my zen breathing, while trying to tell them to stop fucking asking ME questions and go get my first fucking nurse, right fucking now.  Apparently now that I had died on them twice, they were even more desperate for me to convey all the information that my first nurse (30 feet away) had.  My heart was not operating well enough to pump my lungs so they were filling with fluid.  So… this time I died of a Pulmonary Arrest.  When they brought me back they started with the questions again.  Fascinating right?  They were trying to move an x-ray machine to get a picture of my lungs when I realized I was about to drown again, and said “intubate me.”  One nurse wanted to wait and get the x-ray of my lungs.  Thankfully the other pushed him out of the way, and told him that if a patient actually requests intubation, you just do it.  Because no one, I repeat, no one, requests intubation.
  6. When next I awoke I was in the ICU, and  pleased to find I was not on a ventilator.  Apparently I went ahead and died once more, (at this point I’m just running the number up to compete with cats right?) but they caught it early with the monitors and everything, and just shot the epi into my IV.  I had evidently gained a reputation for dying when people asked me medical questions, so that had ceased.  They were debating whether I was septic (full body infection was how the described it) or had pneumonia, or both.  Or maybe something else completely.  They were going to get me stabilized and then remove my medications so they could get a baseline and figure out what was going on with me.  Which leads to:
  7. I saved the best for last.  (at the time of this writing.  There will be at least one more – I realize this) They decide I’m stable enough to be moved to “the floor.”  In the ICU the nurse:patient ratio is 1:1 or 1:2.  In contrast, the floor has a ratio of 1:4, 1:5 or 1:6 depending upon the severity of the cases.  I like to think of the ICU as this very lush oasis, where all the people and resources are all in the same place.  The floor is more like a desert.  That night I’m not feeling great, but I send my family home.  They’re exhausted from running back and forth.  All of them offer, and the girlfriend pretty much insists that someone will stay.  Nah, what could go wrong?  At 4 in the morning I push my nurses button, and inform the friendly voice that I don’t feel well, and maybe someone should get in here right away.  After about 10 minutes the nurse arrives, and I tell her that I feel like I did in the emergency room before I “tanked.”  I didn’t go over the whole “died 4 times in the last few days” thing because she had to know that right?  She checked the line they had inserted into my arm to make sure that my IV was okay, checked my vitals, and told me to “hang in there,” because the docs should be arriving to do their rounds in about an hour.  I’m an awesome advocate for myself.  I take shit from no one, and generally can get my needs met one way or another.  But I had no solid argument other than feeling “uh oh.”  So she left.

Grim-ReaperI began to have what I call rhythmic, full body spasms.  My stomach would spasm, then my legs.  Then my legs would contract.  Extend, wobble, contract.  I pushed the nurses button and managed to say “help.”  In the time I waited, my body is going through these contortions, and my best efforts to get my paralyzed limbs to stop going crazy did not work.  I called my family to say goodbye, and maybe they should come back sooner than expected.  I think they somehow managed to make the time to get ready and get there in 20 minutes.  The drive alone is 40 minutes.  My sense of time is off.  As the nurse finally enters the room, she sees this:  my head and knees come together in a sitting fetal position, then my legs shoot straight out and wobble.  POWERFULLY.  Then the process repeated.  This time, the line they have surgically implanted in my arm (that is attached to my IV), lodges in a crease in my stomach and legs, and as the legs shoot out it rips the line out of my body, and blood starts spewing everywhere.  I ask if maybe the nurse might now be convinced it’s time to call someone.  She pushes the nurses button and commences screaming for help.  I’m not clear on how long I was gone this time.  Many would argue long enough for oxygen deprivation to give me brain damage.  I have a rather dark sense of humor it seems.

When I came to, I had my favorite ICU doc straddling my chest.  Even in this state, that this woman was young and hot was not lost on me.  Ergo my favorite.  Men.  She took none of my crap so I liked her even more.  I was told I was being worked on by the intervention team.  These are the people who fly out in a helicopter to rescue people.  My family, and several floor staff were holding my legs to keep them from spasming.  My head was being held by the helicopter pilot.  He put his face next to mine, and calmly and quietly instructed me on how to breathe.  I told him I’ve meditated for 25 years and “I’ve got this” as a chorus of “your going to feel a poke” kept going on around me.  They had managed to get me alive, but to keep me that way, they needed to get a line back into me.  Apparently they wanted to quickly get all the medications back into me that they had formerly decided to stop.  Makes sense now.  The hot doc on my chest was considering going into my neck if needed.  She was sitting on my chest, and my head was being held in place, to keep me still enough to get a needle in if the others’ attempts failed.  I’m what they call a “difficult stick.”  That means that my veins don’t cooperate when even the most skilled personnel attempt to get a needle into my veins.  They were sticking me everywhere.  They managed to get into my leg near the crotch.  Any port in a storm right?  Orders were given, meds administered and slowly the spasms subsided.  My vitals, still not great, improved.  They managed to find the sweet balance that would be enough drugs to stop the spasms, while not so much that my breathing slowed and I needed to be back on the ventilator.  Go team.  Just then my phone rang.  The following video is Avril’s version because it has a bigger message, but the ringtone at the time was all Bob Dylan:

As the doc climbs off me she looks first at me, then my parents and says “he’s not right.”

I went right back to the ICU.  I was told that given the 2 cardiac arrests they estimated my heart would function at about 20% capacity, and I might never leave the hospital.  I would be transferred to the Cardiac ICU for further treatment.  That was incorrect.  My heart was great.  I would chastise my doctor (the head of the department) in front of his students and his team during rounds.  Discharged from there I was shipped to the physical rehabilitation unit, to get strong and try to figure out the cause of the spasms.  I would get stronger, my doctor would prescribe the wrong dose of a med and discharge me.  Due to him giving me a wrong dose of blood thinner, I would have two clots sailing to my lungs (pulmonary emboli) and end up in a different hospital the very next day.  Each of those clots had a 40% chance (I was told) to be fatal.  But they don’t count since I didn’t actually die, and the rest of these stories are for other posts. For now I leave you with a Tennyson quote:



12 thoughts on “When I Died I Saw…

  1. Thought I knew all of it. I didn’t know half. What you have been through is nothing short of crazy. I am very surprised that the hot doctor didn’t fall for that charm of yours though…lol. you are, as you’ve always been, my hero and my inspiration.

  2. Wow!

    I keep going back to #6 – “I had evidently gained a reputation for dying when people asked me medical questions, so that had ceased.” Usually, gaining a reputation has a negative connotation. Looks like a reputation was a good thing (until #7 came along).

    An amazing tale, I’m glad you’re able to share it with such clarity.

  3. Wow!

    I keep going back to #6 – “I had evidently gained a reputation for dying when people asked me medical questions, so that had ceased.” Usually, gaining a reputation has a negative connotation. It looks like a reputation was a good thing (at least until #7 came along).

    An amazing tale, I’m glad you can share it with such clarity!

  4. Im not sure if it’s the human fascination with tragic events that leads me to re-read your posts or just the fact that I find you truly remarkable! I think of and speak of you often and feel much gratitude to have been a part of your journey. I’m not sure the impact you have had in my life in the short encounters we have had and for that I feel blessed. Right time, right place I guess. Thanks for being you and being honest…. It is totally refreshing and a much needed respite from my all too stressful life. Warmly, Penny

  5. You DO have a dark sense of humour, which I could as a huge plus for any writer!! I really enjoyed this (as much as you can with one’s life at stake). And, you used Avril to make your point. Pretty close to perfect!

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