It is the end of July and I am writing this from Sunnybrook Hospital just prior to being discharged. I referred to the waterway and regatta in the earlier summary below and emphasize it again as the context seems to strengthen rather than become more remote. My earlier hospital illusions seem to coexist very nicely with the reality I am now very aware of. Sunny brook is not set on a waterway hosting regattas, but after five admissions in 2015, the concept of being supported and driven positively forward by professional teams and great people in smooth gliding boats/canoes seems so close to the truth – wonderful teams of medical staff, friends, family and so many others who have helped my during this difficult time. My sincere thanks to you all!
During this medical stay I benefitted from a medical procedure that, hopefully, should allow me to return home on a more permanent basis and resume my life and relationships in a more positive way rather than too often from a hospital bed. I look forward to resuming normal communications and catching up with so many kind people who have contacted me but (offline) I have been unable to respond to. Thank you everyone and looking forward to chatting!
LIFE OR DEATH – THE MOMENT OF TRUTH!
Sometimes the moment of truth is not truth at all – at least in the conventional sense. My claim to a 2015 moment of truth was when I died in the corridor of Sunnybrook hospital after being rushed in by ambulance. The moment of truth outcome was determined by superb medical staff that revived me and supported me as I continued to hover between life and death and gradually improved.
Some people asked later what it was like to be technically dead for that short period. I could not respond as I only learned later about what happened. I do not think I saw any white light (as often reported) as I walked from the land of the living to meet my ancestors. I remember nothing except at some point I announced that I could see my mother. That declaration had an eerie effect on my wife and others present, but was not really obscure as my mother often appeared in dreams and these early hospital days in February 2015 (coldest February on record) were dominated by dreams and illusions.
It was a strange experience, particularly at first, hovering between consciousness and the deepest level of sedation and governed by dreams that felt real but were not. The dreams provided, it seems, acceptable explanations about what was happening. They were not reality, but to this day continue to feel real, like an alternative reality that accompanied, protected and strengthened me.
The strangest persistent delusion was about the location of the hospital. It was actually only about 10 minutes from our home, but in my mind it was remote on a waterway that was somehow linked by treaty to Norway and although freezing, still host to water sports at an annual regatta. In an earlier dream flashback, I recalled attending voluntarily on an earlier occasion – an interesting form of authentication. My hospital room (in my mind) was in a towering building overlooking the waterway.
For a considerable time I was not aware that I was in hospital. I generally believed I was located on the waterway mentioned above. The scenarios seemed to start to merge from the time I started to switch from intravenous to solid food. I was introduced to my meal (green, brown and white pureed mounds) by a nurse (real) at one of the outer buildings. I was amazed and believed that this waterway territory must provide free meals to anyone in the region. I asked whether that was true and was only told that I was entitled to free meals. At that point I was not sure how much overlap there was between reality and fantasy, but it all fitted nicely together.
The most disturbing delusion was the link I made between all the medical lines, tubes etc. I was attached to and limitations placed on my movement. In very precise terms the limitations translated into a restricted area of precisely 10 feet square within which I could freely move but not go outside. This was incredibly frustrating as in this alternative reality I could not go where I “needed” to go. Probably why it is not surprising to learn that in those early days, when I was so heavily restricted and medicated, I was fighting constantly and trying to unhook all the attachments and get out of bed.
One aspect I became aware of later was the intense spiritual support that was given to me particularly during the early days. Prayers and blessings and particularly from Christian practitioners and Tibetan Buddhists we have been close to over the years. Whatever the religion, I believe I heard the prayers – another moment of truth – and felt the collective strength steering me. I make no judgment about the relative truth of different religions, but that true caring and messages of love will always be heard. That, at least, is my moment of truth.
Certainly February 2015 was like no other month I had ever experienced. The moment of truth came with extreme consequences (life or death) and thankfully I survived. There are many moments of truth that contributed to the successful outcome. If the ambulance had not been so prompt, revival may not have been possible regardless of the skills of the medical staff. I believe the battle for survival drew on strengths from so many sources, many of which I may never fully understand but will always be thankful.
I cannot thank the staff of Sunnybrook Health Science Centre and St. John’s Cardiac Rehab enough for their support and for dealing so capably with my medical crisis. I thank all those who provided loving and spiritual support. I felt their support and prayers in a very personal and strengthening way.
My personal moments of truth drew on forms of reality (dreams and illusion) that may not have been real but were real, I believe, in mustering all the power available to meet the challenge. Now the weather has improved, I look forward to rejoining life and enjoying normal activities that I took for granted for many years. My moment of truth is the opportunity for a fresh beginning and probably greater appreciation than ever before.
Thank you everyone for helping me face my moment of truth and for supporting my confidence in our international caring society. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.