Well, I have a story to share with you. A true story. My story.
It is far from easy for me to share this so publicly. As a matter of fact, hardly anyone knows about this most profound experience I went through. I kept it to myself for a while, terrified to open up to anyone about it. I needed time to contemplate the meaning & wrap my head around the experience itself. Plus, there is the fear of sharing it with people….’What will they think? How will I be judged? Will anyone actually believe me?’. The response from the few people I have slowly told has given me courage to get past those holdups. Their reactions have reminded me that even a personal experience can have a rippling effect in other’s lives. That no matter how hard, some stories are meant to be told.I am ready now. I hope you are too.
This is my story.
Nothing tears at a family quite like illness can. A year ago, some very concerning symptoms started happening to me. For a young, relatively healthy female, I wasn’t too worried at first. Until, the medical tests kept coming back negative & my symptoms kept getting worse. My doctors & I started at the bottom & worked our way up the ladder of every possibility, but to no avail. No test revealed a problem, no medication helped, and even minor surgical procedures didn’t stop my issues.
Stress wouldn’t be an adequate word to cover the feelings I had for months and months of not knowing what was wrong with me. My life was flipped upside down, in more ways than one. Not to mention that some of those months included unrelated personal heartbreaks that alone would have shattered a person. Things were not easy. I had to be strong & wear a smile as much as I could. Even when my own husband couldn’t look me in the eyes at times without tearing up because of the fear of losing me, I still had to be strong. I treasured every simple, happy moment in those long months.
Reluctantly, it was proposed that a hysterectomy would be an end to the symptoms. Surgery would also give my doctors a better look at what may be happening inside me and possibly answers. We scheduled the hysterectomy and prepared ourselves for a long, but hopeful recovery.
I had no fear going into the procedure. It wasn’t my first major operation. I knew the risks. I knew there would be pain. I knew it would be difficult not just for me, but for my family. So my total abdominal hysterectomy (I got to keep my ovaries, but one had to be biopsied) and a second aesthetic surgery proceeded like normal in mid May of 2013. I was quite comfortable afterwards, if you can call the feeling of being hit by a bus comfortable. While I was recovering in the hospital, I had a morphine drip that I could push every 30mins, my midsection was wrapped, and I had a very sexy drain tube coming out of my stomach. All of this was exactly as I expected it would be and I maintained my upbeat attitude. When the lab results came back of my uterus and the ovarian biopsy, we were all relieved to hear I was in the clear. Everything seemed fine. I was released after just two nights. Ready to recover at home and get my health back. Get my life back.
But that is not what happened.
Just a few hours into being at home, my pain started to drastically increase. I popped a couple of Percocet & chalked it up to normal post surgical pains. I have a very high tolerance, which has been tested numerous times before. I just settled into the comfy recliner my husband had moved into our bedroom and tried to sleep it off.
By midnight, I was on the floor of our bedroom in the fetal position, screaming. The pain was crushing. The only way to describe it is as if someone had ripped open my stomach with their bare fingers, pulled out my organs & intestines, shoved them in a blender, blended them on low power, poured gasoline on them & then lit them on fire before shoving them haphazardly back inside me. That still doesn’t quiet describe it, but its as close as I can get. I would never wish that torture on anyone or anything.
My husband, Sawyer, rushed me to the ER.
The physically gut wrenching pain was so intense that nothing else in the world mattered to me, except ending that pain. At the ER, I was seen immediately. Not a good sign. I could barely speak, I was on the verge of passing out, and all I wanted was an IV of dilaudid, a very strong painkiller. I remember them saying my heart rate was 185 (my normal is 60) and I had a low grade fever. I can’t remember what my blood pressure was, because I honesty didn’t care about anything except the excruciating pain.
I was readmitted into the hospital.
The CT scans showed that I had a paralytic ilius. A complication from anesthesia, in which my intestines had not “woken up” and were bloating. On a second look at my scan, it was seen that I also had a belly full of blood.
I was bleeding internally.
The next few days after that I can barely remember. I was sick, deathly sick. Doctors came in and out, nurses around the clock, medical staff, and visits from only family. Sawyer never left my side. Pain was all that existed to me. I was not allowed to eat or drink in case I needed to be rushed to surgery & also to help my intestines wake up. I was told to walk around as much as I could. Every step, every movement was sheer agony; even after an injection of my precious dilaudid. My doctor talked of surgery to locate the mysterious bleeding site, but another surgeon countered the idea due to my other complication, at least for then. We were at a stand still. I was stable…low, but stable. I was to continue to be closely monitored. During this time I received two blood transfusions and tons of antibiotics. My family fighting back tears when they were around me and my husband showing strength & empathy beyond expectation. It was the scariest thing that has ever happened to us as a family.
And yet, through all of it, the only thing I could think of was the pain. I hurt so badly. Pain was my living world. A level of pain that I could not imagine any living thing having to ever experience. I barley slept because I was so uncomfortable. When I did manage to close my eyes for a few minutes at a time, I dreamt of only of the pain & fear, usually scaring myself awake.
Except for one night….
My eyes opened and I was surrounded by white. No walls, no floor. Only endless misty, white space. I was standing up straight and tall. A feat which I had been unable to do since the surgery & the pain….the pain? To my utter disbelief it was gone! I was comfortable & warm, calm even. Feelings of which I had long forgotten about. My body wasn’t sick anymore. I felt light and smooth. Free. I was wearing a soft, simple white gown and I felt amazing.
In the distance, through the mist, I saw him, Anthony. He was sitting on a white bench and waiting for someone. It seemed as if time had stopped and there was a strange formality about everything. As I approached, he stood and turned to face me. I was so happy to see my long passed friend again. He smiled his famous smile at me & placed his right hand on my left shoulder. No words were spoken between us, but his eyes were locked on my face.
That is the moment I saw it start to appear. Behind Anthony and to my right, a brilliant Light. Small at first, but growing brighter, stronger. It was most glorious thing I have ever witnessed. Radiating colors & feelings that words alone could not ever possibly describe. Sparkling hues of golden blues & Love. It was brighter than the sun, but didn’t hurt my eyes to look directly into it. Heavenly. I could not look away. The feeling I had was similar to a feeling of seeing the person you love after being away from them for too long. That Light was pure, unconditional Love and I felt it. It was everything. Everything that ever was & ever will be. I wanted to be part of it. The urge to follow it, walk towards it, melt into it was overwhelming. I belonged there. It was calling to me, waiting for me.
I looked back into Anthony’s eyes, his hand still on my shoulder. I was overwhelmed with joy and love. The expression on his face confirmed what I knew. Yes, that was The Light and Anthony was there to walk me into it. He was there to take me home.
Somehow, I remembered Sawyer. I looked down below my feet, to the left. Through the fogginess of the white floor, I could see my husband sleeping on the tiny fold out couch in the hospital next to my bed. Feet and arms hanging over the sides & fully dressed. I felt a longing towards him. I wanted to go down there and lay next to him. Comfort him and tell him everything will be okay. I wanted to be with him.
It was as if I had answered an unspoken question without speaking a word myself. I looked back at Anthony and he smiled once more and squeezed my shoulder lovingly. My decision had been made clear without even a whisper escaping my lips. I wasn’t ready to go. My feet became as heavy as cement. I could only stand there and watch as Anthony walked toward that most glorious Light & it engulfed him, leaving me behind. Falling slowly backwards through the white space, the moment faded away from me.
I opened my eyes again. The pain. The pain was crippling. My body so weak and frail, there was nothing I could do but endure it. The rhythmic sound of my IV drip echoing through the room. A reminder of where I was, my hospital bed. To the left was Sawyer, sprawled out on the tiny pull out couch.
The next day and night revolved around my pain, just like all the days before. As the dilaudid would wear off, it was like a count down to see how much I could endure. Mentally I would be clawing my way out of my skin, wanting to abandon the suffering I had been tied to. Trapped inside my broken body. At the end of every three hours I would be crying, pleading for an end to it…every time. I tried hard to put on a brave face. Grit my teeth and bare it. Once the dilaudid was injected into my IV, the metallic taste flooding my mouth, the cycle would start again from the beginning. I know Sawyer wished to trade places with me, but I would never have allowed it, not even theoretically.
My body was wearing down. I was a skeleton covered in gray skin with a distended belly full of blood. My eyes glazed and dull, my hair oily, bruises from IVs covering my arms and multiple needle pricks from blood tests, hollowed cheeks, and cracked lips. I was breaking down, fragile. Life is so fragile.
The night following “my heavenly dream” was my miraculous turning point.
I hated waking Sawyer up every hour to help me get out of my bed so I could use the restroom. I had decided to let him sleep & try to do it on my own, which I proudly accomplished.
When I finally settled myself back into my bed, I felt wetness under my legs. Depressed that incontinence was now bestowed upon me, I reached under the sheets to check. I pulled up my hand and was horrified to see blood soaked fingers. I was sitting in a pool of my own blood. I could literally see it seeping through the sheets, spreading like spilled paint. The next 15mins were a whirlwind of controlled chaos. Nurses, my husband, my Mom, tests, and bleeding….so much blood. It was literally pouring out of me like a faucet and clots of it. I believed it was the end for me. This was it.
After an emergency call to my doctor and checking my vitals the nurse informed us that the doctor said this was the blood that had been sitting inside my belly and was being expelled vaginally through the internal stitches. The blood they expected my body would eventually reabsorb was suddenly being expelled. As long as my vitals remained stable, as stable as they had been at least, then I was okay. He would be there to examine me soon.
I passed over 2 liters of blood and well over 800cc’s of fists sized blood clots or larger, which the nurse said looked like my liver. This all happened in under 45mins. My room looked like a horror scene. And, as if by some miracle, my pain was dramatically decreased in that instantaneous moment. I finally had some relief from the agony I had been enduring for almost a week and only at the price of an unexpected blood bath.
The next 48 hours my heart rate finally started to drop from the 140 range down into the 90s. My blood pressure improved, my hematocrit remained stable, and my intestines were waking up. I was finally allowed to start liquids. Campbell soup juice never tasted so good! I was getting better. Two nights after the blood bath, I was discharged from the hospital. My doctor gave me his personal number for me to text him my heart rate and blood pressure stats every few hours. Of course, I was terrified I may have another internal bleed. He made himself available for any concerns and checked on me often. I still had pain. But this pain was the type I was originally prepared to handle. I could finally start my now very extended recovery.
Two weeks after being home, I had another bleeding scare which put me back in the ER but stopped mysteriously. For a month after that I basically stayed in bed and slept. Even now, I am still recovering. My incredible family took care of my children and my friends checked on me constantly. Then, there was Sawyer….no words for what he did for me through all of this. I don’t know what I would have done without all of them.
For months now I’ve kept this memory relatively private, but every day it has been on my mind. Just the sheer beauty of it still leaves me in awe. Prior to my NDE (near death experience), I had no real knowledge of them. Of course, I had heard of them, like many of us have, but never put much thought into them. To me, they weren’t relevant and I most definitely never expected anything like this to happen personally. It wasn’t a preexisting thought in my head and nothing my imagination could have ever created. The research I’ve done since has only confirmed my experience for me. Amazingly similar near death experiences and feelings from people all around the world. Some who have died and some who were also so close to death. There is no doubt in my mind that what happened to me was real.
This story is not meant to be “preachy”. I have always considered myself to have a healthy balance between faith, spirituality, and science. I have not changed my views, rather I believe it has solidified what I’ve always felt in my heart & soul to be true. No matter what religion you practice or if you have no religious faith at all; there is one thing that can not be denied, Love. I’ve always believed that God is Love and Love is the universal force that unites us as one. There is a greater energy out there that we are all bound to and I am witness to it.
I need no other explanations. What I am left with is a knowing. The existence of a higher power. A greater entity in whatever way you choose to believe in it or not to believe in it. Any doubt that I may have ever had about an afterlife or Heaven, has been erased. It exists. I no longer fear death. I fear pain, but not death. Death itself is the most beautiful thing you will ever experience.
I have stood at the edge of eternity & had the divine privilege to choose to come back. I made that choice for Sawyer, for Love. Even as I type that, I am tearing up. I no longer question the purpose of life. I feel more peaceful than I ever have before and more connected with the world around me. Although pain, selfishness, & brutality will sadly always be part of this living world, I know that there is a world of Love & Light beyond this. A place of peace beyond what our mortal bodies can comprehend and it is waiting for me and waiting for you.