Friday, June 6, 2014

My Near Death Experience During Aorta Replacement Surgery

Near death experiences are usually referred to as 'NDE's and there are a number of references across the internet.  According to Wikipedia, NDE's are not rare, isolated events but rather quite widespread, with at least eight million Americans reportedly having experienced some type of NDE or other.

Mine occurred while I was having my first open heart surgery in the emergency room at Jacksonville's Memorial Hospital.

After driving myself to Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville (I know, I should have called 911 but I did not) and stumbling into the ER, the young surgeon on call determined my aorta was dissected root to foot.  He told me that he wanted to go in and replace the aortic valve and install a Dacron graft up to the aortic arch.

To do so I'd have to have my body cooled (hypothermia) and my body's heart put on bypass while they repaired the critically damaged cardiovascular system.

The entire  operation took about ten or so hours.  Recovery was difficult to say the least and I even had to go back through additional open heart surgery to mitigate subsequent heart infections.  Wearing the wound vac over my heart was tough, as was enduring the three months of 24/7 IV antibiotics and anti fungal medications.

This week I happened to catch a clip out of a Netflix series the teens were watching where the main character had been killed and his consciousness was wandering around the halls of a hospital.  He was shouting and calling out to all the humans walking around him but none of them heard him, nor did the humans pay any attention to the 'dead' main character.

What struck me was the empty, hollow feeling he was obviously experiencing, walking around calling out to all those other humans that could not see or hear him.  Obviously he was all alone.  Being alone can be extremely disconcerting and hopeless.

"That sucks",  I told myself.  But that was nowhere like my NDE.

While I was lying on the operating table during my aortic root and arch replacement my self awareness began to take a life of its own, separate from my body.

I can clearly remember what was happening, even to this day.  Unlike a dream that seems real at the time but fades from memory after a few short days, the NDE experience I had that day is as ever clear now as two and one half years ago.

I was so very aware of myself and knew exactly who I was.  My body however was on the operating table below with the doctors and nurses hovering over, cutting sewing and doing whatever thoracic surgeons and their teams do when installing mechanical heart valves and Dacron aorta grafts.

I did not call out to anyone like the main character in the teen's television program, but then again I did not feel like I needed to call out to anyone.  I was quite content, safe feeling and happy where I was, 'hovering' above the operating table.

Looking around I could see many people praying for me and sending me good thoughts.  This was interesting I thought, but I honestly was more interested in what I could see not in the operating room but in another part of my self-awareness.  There was an amazing place of really cool colors and sound I was witnessings.  I could fly, soar and felt very, very at home.

After the entire experience I felt somewhat guilty at not worrying about those people left behind on the earth while I was partying in the afterlife.  I knew my wife and kids and family would be OK.  I did not worry about them what-so-ever in my NDE state.  

I did not even think of calling out to the doctors and nurses.  There was no doubt my body was on the operating table and I could see much of what was going on.  

During my NDE I  was a self aware 'spirit', yet I had form too.  My form was not so much a preoccupying factor though as I 'hovered' in the air above the table.  I know my self awareness had form because I was bumping against the ceiling as I floated upwards.  When I'd bump the ceiling my form would float back down towards the other side of the room.  The floating up, bumping the ceiling and floating back down repeated itself over and over until I began taking notice of this occurrence.

The whole bumping into the ceiling thing really pissed me off.  Not because bumping hurt or anything, but because I was aware of an amazing array of new sounds and senses I was catching a glimpse of and I wanted to explore more.  There were so many beautiful colors I'd never seen before and sounds and scents and hues and textures and stuff I can not even describe.  There was a new existence out there that I was tasting and I wanted more of it, a place where I felt immense love and acceptance and belonging.

So many were there with me too.  This place where my self awareness was, was a very good city or town or wherever- whatever it was.  I did not want to leave.  As soon as a beautiful new form would pass by and I felt drawn to it, the bumping would start again.  That damned ceiling!  

The bumping meant I was not going to die.  I knew this as I continued to bump, and it disappointed me. I wanted to stay and explore this new place full of wonder and beauty.  As I floated up, bumped and floated back down I kew that if I were going to die I'd float straight through the ceiling, out into this place of wonder.  The bumping meant I was going to stay.  My earthly body was keeping me in the room.

During my long recovery period I revisited this plane of self awareness several times.  Two and a half years later I do not see this land so much anymore, except for those once-in-a-while nights where deep sleep takes me there.

Having my heart disconnected from my body and being cooled to hypothermia levels gave me a chance to see different things.

I do believe I almost died.  I also believe I caught a glimpse of what happens beyond our present self-awareness.  I am really glad I am here today to see my teens raised and spend days with my wife, friends and family.  Looking forward to many more years here before I drop dead.

But get ready for a cool adventure when it is your time to go.  Been there, done that and it is amazing.


Tickle said...

Amazing!! I'm glad you're still here. I feel very fortunate to know you and of you. Thank you for sharing Kevin :)

Kevin Songer said...

You are welcome, Tickle!

Caren Burmeister said...

I've also had dreams, like you described, where my spirit was floating up to the ceiling and I couldn't penetrate the ceiling or walls. How fascinating that this was your experience while under surgery. May God bless you and every moment you are still with us.

ashleyrae7787 said...

My husband died in a car accident almost three weeks ago at 29. He left me and our two kids. I found your story by googling aortic rupture and near death. Though I miss him terribly, your story has brought me much comfort. I know he's more than happy in a place beyond anything we could imagine--and he's loving every second of it I'm sure. I cannot wait to join him someday.