By Don Penven
Near-death experiences are defined as: personal experiences associated with impending death, encompassing multiple possible sensations including detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light. These phenomena are usually reported after an individual has been pronounced clinically dead or very close to death. Many such reports, however, originate from events that are not life-threatening. With recent developments in cardiac resuscitation techniques, the number of reported events has increased. The experiences have been described in medical journals as having the characteristics of hallucinations, while parapsychologists, religious believers and some scientists have pointed to them as evidence of an afterlife and mind-body dualism. Wikipedia
What I will describe in this article is my own personal experience that brought me uncomfortably close to death.
Onset of a Urinary Tract Infection
The difficulty began to make itself apparent on a Thursday evening. Passing urine became a problem with a rather slow flow and a painful, burning sensation. I didn’t count the number of times I woke up feeling the pressure “to go” and felt my way into the bathroom in the darkness . There were many such trips all night long.
I am generally off from work Friday through Sunday and the problem persisted throughout all day Friday. My immediate thought was that perhaps I had developed a kidney stone and it was blocking the urinary tract. Friday night was a repeat of what I experienced Thursday.
Saturday morning I finally got out of bed, showered and dressed. I then asked my wife Margie to take me to the Emergency Room (ER) at Rex Hospital (Raleigh, NC).
The waiting room at Rex was deserted except for the two of us, so I was quickly sent to a Triage room. My blood pressure and body temperature were normal so I was led back into the ER. I had a good idea what to expect next—a catheter was inserted. In a few seconds I began to feel the relief as the stored up urine passed into a receptacle. I noted that the contents of the plastic bag exhibited a deep orange color, when it should be—under normal circumstances–a pale yellow.
I was given an antibiotic pill and a prescription to cover the next few days. The nurse who inserted the catheter said that she didn’t feel any blockage that may have been caused by a swollen prostate. That, she noted, was a good sign.
We drove home and due to my lack of sleep over the past few nights I decided to go upstairs and take a nap.
The Onset of Sepsis
I quickly fell into a deep sleep.
About an hour later I awoke feeling cold. I was actually shivering. I sat up in bed and my whole body began to tremble violently. I began taking deep breaths as I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I was suffocating. I made my way back downstairs and told Margie, “I think I’m having a bad reaction to the antibiotic.”
So off we went to the ER at Rex. Margie’s son Rob followed in his car. Margie is an excellent driver to begin with, but she did run one red light.
I was quickly ushered back into triage and I asked for oxygen. The nurse, who had already taken my vital signs, said my oxygen level was OK. “Try to breathe normally,” she said.
In the ER they again took vital signs and I heard a nurse mention that my blood pressure was 75 over 50-something. It’s a wonder I was still conscious.
Risks Associated With Two Options
The ER doctor on duty came by and explained what the next step could be. It was necessary to administer a much stronger dose of antibiotic, but there were side-effects to consider. The antibiotic, if administered into a vein in my arm could damage the blood vessels—to the point that I could potentially lose the use of my arm—permanently. The only other option was to insert a catheter into my jugular vein in my neck and pump the antibiotic directly into my heart. He explained the downside of this procedure.
“The catheter has a steel wire in it (to maintain rigidity), but if that wire were to touch the heart, it could stop it.”
My first inclination was to have the drug shot into my arm, but between the doctor’s assurances that he had successfully performed this procedure hundreds of times, and Margie’s obvious concern, I agreed to the catheter. It worked, and in very short order I actually began to feel a sense of relief.
SEPSIS–A Silent Killer
I was moved to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed where I spent the rest of Saturday, Sunday and part of Monday—when I was moved to a regular room. At some point during this ordeal, the term “sepsis” was mentioned. Margie looked it up on the Internet.
Here’s how Wikipedia defines the term: Sepsis: from Greek for the state of putrefaction and decay, is a potentially deadly medical condition characterized by a whole-body inflammatory state (called a systemic inflammatory response syndrome or SIRS) caused by severe infection. Septicemia (or septicaemia or septicæmia ) is a related medical term referring to the presence of pathogenic organisms in the bloodstream, leading to sepsis.
During one of her visits to my bedside while still in the ICU, my attending physician said that had we delayed getting to the ER much longer, I would have died at home.
Most people, at some time in their life, come dangerously close to death—most of the time we are probably unaware of it. It may be a near-automobile accident when someone runs a stop sign or red light; or perhaps it’s a bout with pneumonia or influenza.
Like all too many men, I have frequently put off getting medical assistance until the last minute. No… this was not a case of a “bad reaction” to a drug.
I recall a line of a poem I read many years ago. It says, words to this effect that, sweet are the uses of adversity, which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in its head…
My faith in a Higher Power gave me strength to survive this episode. You see, I had been a pack-a-day smoker for more years than I can remember. I write this article 3-weeks after my near death experience and I have remained smoke-free. Please say a prayer for this old codger.
If my story has been a benefit to you in any way, please look through the navigation list to the right side of this page for other enlightening topics for Senior Citizens. ===>
Here’s and introduction to this blog: The Lottery of Life