Thursday, May 17, 2012

Near Death Experiences: Why I'm Thankful My Near Death Experience Kept a Little Distance

Yesterday was my second oldest son's ninth birthday. I can't believe he's already that old, and I also can't believe it's been three years since I survived my own near death experience--an event that is still as mysterious as it was when it happened three years ago on May 16, 2009.

The world is filled with near death experiences. My father once shared his own tale with me by claiming that he floated over his body, saw the doctors, but couldn't communicate. That event has since plunged him into an obsession with creating a device that would allow body-less spirits to communicate with the living.

There's my son, Jonah, who turned 9 yesterday.

For myself, I don't feel compelled to move in that direction, though that event has definitely helped guide many of my decisions since I fell down, quit breathing, and turned blue in front of my wife, my soon-to-be sister-in-law, and my youngest son (while watching Twin Peaks, no less).

My Near Death Experience

So, here's how everything went down. We were all watching Twin Peaks when my phone rang. I jumped up to answer and heard my mom's voice on the other end. We were all planning to head over to my ex-wife's house to celebrate my son's sixth birthday. Anyway, we said a couple things to each other, and that's when I started to feel tunnel vision and lost consciousness.

From my perspective, everything went black. There were no lights. There was no floating over my body. Just a big nothing. (Note: I want it to be known I consider myself a Christian, so I'm not arguing for or against the existence of anything. I'm just sharing what I experienced.)

Eventually, I began to hear a frantic voice. Then, I could see my wife, Tammy, looking into my eyes. I could tell she was very worried, and I tried to to get up--but I couldn't. In fact, I could barely move. It was like my entire body was paralyzed--or like it had fallen asleep.

Stop Breathing, Turning Blue

From Tammy's perspective, I got up to answer the phone. Then, I sat down on the couch behind me and in one motion laid down. Then, I started snoring loudly, which is what cued her in that something was wrong. Eventually my breathing stopped altogether and--right before her eyes--my skin was turning crayon blue.

My soon-to-be sister-in-law called 911, while Tammy worked on me to get me back breathing. While she didn't have a stopwatch out to "time me," both are pretty sure that I'd quit breathing for at least a few minutes. Brain cells begin to die within five minutes of no oxygen to the brain, so my life and ability to function normally were hanging in the balance while I experienced nothing.

Tammy kept blowing into my mouth until finally I started breathing again. Even then, my eyes were open, but I wasn't home. So she kept "talking" to me until I found my way back to her.

No Answers, But Still Thankful

Over the course of the next month, I was put through a gauntlet of tests in Ohio and Georgia by a variety of specialists, including cardiologists and neurologists. I wore a heart monitor day and night--calling in suspicious codes (even in the middle of the night) whenever it beeped. I intentionally made myself hyperventilate for a neurological test (talk about weird). And I went through more than a dozen other tests.

Three years ago, I spent the weekend in a hospital bed.

Cardiologists were convinced it was neurological. Neurologists were convinced it was cardiological. Eventually, I ended up with no answers and a prescription for extra strength Vitamin D.

Without any answers, I felt like a ticking time bomb. The least little jump in my heart rate could send me into a panic. But eventually, that passed. I've learned to move on with my life, and I'm actually very thankful.

That moment, as horrible as it was, helped me realize what I was doing to myself. I was pulling all-nighters, letting myself get overly stressed out about work, and staying locked inside every day. I was truly lucky that I didn't have a similar event when I was home alone (with my 6-month-old son). If that had been the case, this blog post probably wouldn't exist.

So when I start pulling my hair out about work or bills or "a million things to get done" in a short amount of time, I now have my near death experience to draw upon for strength and patience and perspective. Nothing's so important that it's worth killing myself over. I can take a deep breath, relax my shoulders, and remember I'm alive.


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Happycolors and Granny Gee... That's Me! said...

Hi Robert,

I, like you, have had several near-death experiences.

Like you, I didn't see or know anything... excepting the last time I came to smiling... I couldn't quit smiling that night.

Happy birthday to your little son. Sincerely, Granny Gee

Patricia Fargnoli said...

I'm so glad you made it.... you presence is a gift to the world.


Patricia Fargnoli said...

meant "your"

bec said...

You must of been so scared good for you that this experience has changed the way you think about life. life is so precious and can not be taking for granted. Your family should be so proud of you as you are a wonderful inspiration to many people me for one. Until i discovered your poem on Wednesday i would of only wrote for myself i would like to thank you.

JLC said...

When my husband (with COPD) stopped breathing, the 911 dispatcher told me what to do until the ambulance arrived. It never occurred to me to ask whether he had experienced anything other than unconsciousness because he never said anything. that was in 2004.

Oddly, he died March 16, 2009. A fateful day for more than one of us.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this and reminding us all that, sometimes, we need a good thonk on the head (or a near-death experience) to remind us what's important. And then we need to keep reminding ourselves.

Amy Miller said...

Beautiful post, Robert, and a reminder of the sweet precariouness of it all. Thanks for sharing it.

Jan O'Hara (Tartitude) said...

Yikes. So sorry you went through that, although it sounds like you've extracted the "lessons" from that day to cherish your present even more.

Elizabeth Saunders said...

Amazing story, Robert. I'm thankful you're still here.

Linda H. said...

Though my story isn't as severe as yours, I had an eye-opening experience almost two years ago. No more late nights and wasting of time for me either.

Thank goodness for Tammy! Make the best of every day with her and your family. Life really is too short.

Lara Schiffbauer said...

Life is precious and is so easy to take for granted. I'm so happy you came through the episode, and get to take advantage of the new wisdom you learned!

Dennis Wright said...

Once, when I was in my twenties, my friends and I went out to a beach on the ocean. Two of us went hiking along a path in the woods. I walked after my friend while she went along the path. We came upon a large boulder and I watched her climb to the top.

I tried to climb after her. I could get a toe hold, but could not find anything to grip and pull myself up with. I told my friend I would go around the side of the boulder.

As I started, the ridge I stood on was quite wide. It lead over a cliff that went straight to the ocean far below. This did not much worry me as the ridge was wide enough to walk safely.

Yet the further I went the ridge became narrow until I found I was hanging on to the ridge by the very tips of my toes. I thought of my turning around to go back to where I began. I knew I could go no further.

I saw my friend at the top of the boulder and tried to go straight up. I could not get a toe hold in the rock and knew I had to go back down to the very narrow ridge I had been on. I can recall looking over my shoulder, seeing the ocean. I thought "I am going to die".

It was an odd thought to me. When one faces the possibility of death one might be afraid. Perhaps one might well up a sense of courage to fight the fear. I had none of that and just realized matter of factly that I was about to die. It was a quiet realization.

Well, I slid back down to the narrow ridge and made my way back to where I was safe on land. I still could not climb the rock at the first site and returned to the rest of the group by the route I came. I found them while they sat on the beach.

We sat and talked a brief while and then the sun dipped under a cloud. This caused a temperature drop of ever so slight a degree. I found myself shivering thinking the drop in the heat made me cold. The cloud passed and the heat went back up. I still shivered all the rest of the time we spent on the beach.

I have thought of this near death experience often through the years. When I think of it I can still see that ocean below and feel the quiet knowing of my impending death. I still have a clarity in my view of the ocean and my knowing of my death just as if it happened today.

These days I do not feel the shivers. I get to that part of the memory and begin to think of other things. The other things have changed over the years, but I still change my thoughts the same way when reach the shiver part.

First I would get upset with myself. What would that have been for me to do to my friends? To fall from that rock and have them fish me out of the ocean? To have them call the police? To have them explain what I did? I then vowed to watch the chances I took as a way I could be a better friend.

These days I think of this event and then reproach myself somewhat less. Two of my friends who were at the beach that day have since died. Today I miss them and I thank them for enduring the risk I gave them. I vow now to watch the gifts I leave my friends.

And for me I know I only felt fear sometime after I found my friends on the beach. Such must be the way of fear. Fear does not come to then over take us while we act. It is in the stillness of time when our fear will arrive.

Susan Craig said...

Dennis Wright, I will remember those last three sentences for a long time. They are truth. "Such must be the way of fear. Fear does not come to then over take us while we act. It is in the stillness of time when our fear will arrive."

And Robert, it is a blessing to many that you are Still with us!

Laura I. said...

Happy Birthday to your son. I never had a near death experience but I am sure it is a life changing experience. Life is precious. Thankfully, you were surrounded by family. Thank you for sharing.

Gail Kushner said...

Robert, while researching my book, I interviewed 6 or 7 people who had experienced NDEs. Some people saw the light, saw their loved ones, and were told to go back to their bodies. Other people were just in the blackness with no experience, or found that they couldn't remember what had (or had not) happened. Several people told me that after their NDE, their intuitive gifts opened. So fascinating!

Let me know if you want to know more about what I heard.

Linda G. Hatton said...

Wow. Interesting timing that I read this tonight as my plate fills each day with more and more duties.

So glad you made it through. You have given so much to so many. I am thankful for all I have learned from you ... thank you.

Joseph Lalonde said...

Oh wow! That's pretty crazy Robert. Thanks for sharing the experience.

And happy birthday to your boy!

Nin Andrews said...

Interesting. I had a bike accident once--no clue what happened. I just remember looking up at the sky and thinking --How odd. The sun is turning black.

Later I woke in the hospital. A doctor had phoned my father at his office to ask if one of his daughters was missing. He wasn't sure, but he came to check.

Whoever hit me did not stick around.

Heather Marsten said...

I am so glad that you survived. You are right, near death experiences can help one keep perspective. Age and remaining years can keep one motivated. Great hurt and pain, a purpose. So many reasons. I guess we need to pick the one that motivates us and keep it in mind. Thanks for this perspective.

Sandy Green said...

What a powerful post! Thank you for sharing it.

Jessica said...

I remember how scary this was when it happened...

And just wanted to say that I'm still very glad you're OK. Thanks for the beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

Now I know your secret to such happy living despite anything!