I was born on the 6th of February 1947 and I died on the 9th December 2012.
I) Before December 19th. Death never scared me, at least not my own. I even think that I was prepared to it, due to the few experiences that brought me close. In the Army, at the firing ground, a soldier, while leaving the shooting range, did not respect the protocol. One bullet remained in the rifle barrel and he fired. The bullet passed between my ear and my shoulder and crashed in a wooden post on which I leaned. Still at the firing ground, another bullet rebounded and scratched my neck. On the highway with my motorbike driving at 180 km/h I blew a tire while overtaking a truck, another time my motor was exploding (literally) in the fog. As a scuba diving instructor, a colleague of mine died during a joint dive. In 1990 in Marrakesh, at the begin of the first Gulf war, a maniac, excited by the intervention of Europeans against Saddam Hussein, held a knife on my throat, then was stinging me slightly in my belly. Fortunately, it was only a threat and the edge of the knife was to the outside. So I have been ready to die several times, what was making me a bit distant during the unfortunate experience, which I am to describe. From a uniquely medical point of view my heart is, since about a decade in atrial arrhythmia, despite medications, the five interventions: ablation of flutter, of fibrillation and an electroshock. These interventions are done in an operating room worthy of the control station of a power station, with a ‘papa-mobile’ for the intervening doctor, in order to protect him from the X rays. Few or no anesthetic, so that the doctors would know, according to my reactions, where the catheter with the incandescent end, which was introduced in my heart, is located. I can and have to talk to them. However, one should say that despite the very positive statistics of these interventions, (four deaths for 10,000 interventions, but none at the hospital center PRINCESS GRÃ‚CE of Monaco), I always underwent them with a little apprehension. A medication, which could have helped to regulate this arrhythmia, was prohibited by my cardiologist (hypothyroidism), whose result was another fibrillation, which could be handled only by a cardio-version with electric shock, in other words an electroshock, which was organized at the hospital and planned for the 19th of December in ambulatory.
II) Wednesday 19th December 2012 Coming in at around 9:00 am at the hospital St. Georges of Nice, with Patricia my wife, I am taken along around 10:10am. Undressing and preparation. The anesthetist doctor welcomes me…puts me to sleep… Around 11:00am, my spouse understands that an abnormal excitement is happening in the unit, the Dr. R. is coming to tell her that things are going very bad, that he had the SAMU (emergency medical service) transport me to the CARDIO THORACIC CENTER OF MONACO. He asked her to come and see me. She is finding me blue-violet, in a death rattle, I tell her that I have much pain in my heart (I have no memory of it). Understanding the catastrophic situation, she asks Dr. R. to bring me in a specialized unit, which was confirmed to her, but the Dr. R. is also telling her that I had a very low chance to get there. During the intervention, I have had several instances where the heart is closing in on itself, like an old TV that is imploding. My heart was only beating at 10%, which necessarily brings about death or serious cerebral problems. My chance had been that those episodes started while I was in the operation room, surrounded by cardiologists. They placed me an intra-aortic balloon of counter pulse and foresaw that I was placed on circulatory assistance upon arrival in Monaco. I remember asking Dr. R., while being in the ambulance of the SAMU, that he should come and visit me there ‘where I will be sent’, I believe that I saw the disintegrated face of my spouse. Through the shaking and the siren of the SAMU, I knew by reflex if I was in Nice or on the highway. I also remember that on the highway, the doctor asked them to stop, so he could treat me. I believe that I was vomiting. At the arrival in Monaco, I was accepted by the reanimation team, especially by the Dr. E. and F.! Dr. F especially ‘humane and listening to patients’, explained my arrival to me afterwards. She presented herself, I was smiling at her, and she said ‘what a beautiful smile’ and turned away. Lying on the gurney, one arm free, as I had been vomiting, I caught her by the only part at my height, her lower back to tell her: ‘I don’t feel good, I’m leaving again’. This sent the whole team smiling who meant to understand that I wanted to return to Nice. In fact, I felt that my heart was failing again; it was the beginning of the fourth episode of my heart closing in on itself. Except some very short moments of lucidity when I was conscious of what happened around me, I only really and totally woke up on Saturday 22nd of December in the afternoon. My memories are episodic but of an especially impressive intensity and precision. What’s coming after is medical techniques. I was catheterized, perfusion in one arm and in the aorta, on artificial respiration, attached, drugged, eyes closed, a feeding tube pumping a blackish fluid in my stomachâ€¦.
III: HALLUCINATION I’m getting a bit more conscious on Friday and I can ‘converse’ through signs, with the nurse. Each nurse, being present 24/24 hours, is taking care with only one patient! I was immediately confident as soon as I understood everything what I asked through signs. Palm of the hand up ‘what’s happening or what am I doing here?’ Closed fist, except the index finger that I’m turning clockwise: ‘and next?’ She answered all my questions and prepared me each time following the therapies. My cubicle being in front of the place where all nurses met and where telephones were; I heard the conversations and especially when my daughter Belinda called on Friday to check in on me, I lifted a thumb to signal ‘I’m well’! The nurse was seeing it and told her. This particular Friday, Dr. L., cardiologist from Nice came to see me and explained my situation to me, which was confirmed by Dr. R., cardiologist who came the next morning. I noticed his tears when he explained to me that outside of a medical environment I couldn’t have survived. It was this health chain and the cardiologists that saved me! My thanks to them, thanks to the SAMU, thanks to the doctors and the whole team of the Cardio thoracic Center of Monaco. Patricia, Belinda and Harry, have been present all the time, Philippe and his children came, also. When seeing them, Patricia emaciated and ‘gray’, Belinda livid, it was there that I ‘decided’ to appear positive. In case of a negative issue, I would have left them with a good memory. So from Friday on, I resumed consciousness with a phenomenon, that was, for me, incomprehensible. When I was able to open and close my eyes, with open eyes I saw what was surrounding me, with eyes closed, I saw special images appearing. As an example, it was a descent on New York. I was immaterial in an absolute silence, NY in complete blackness, without a living soul, except the streets, being a bit less black. Moving my look under my eyelids, I was moving from the right to the left, always flying above the city. When I froze my look, for a few instances, on a distinct point in this very dark picture, the center deformed and was appearing as the face of G. Depardieu (a French actor)! There was a lot of talking about him going on at this period. Other pictures were more bucolic: still seen from a height, Ireland, green and blue with millions of migratory birds invading my field of view. Or in a corner of an immense hall, a sculpture that was made of wet and dried leather, representing very finely, dozens of very beautiful caryatids or female busts, and there again I could open my eyes and as soon as I closed them again, these sculptures appeared again. Insisting on this vision, it deformed and G. Depardieu appeared just a few features of his face, a bit hidden in the folds of the clothes. On other times, it was a big draped fabric like a curtain at the side of an immense window. Another time in the corner of the previous hall, there were Christmas baubles and garlands of an ocher color.
IV) COMING OUT OF REANIMATION As of Sunday, I was thus treated in a room where every morning around 11:00am there was the visit of the doctors and nurses. When asking during one of those visits to explain to me, without any bafflegab, my real situation, one of the doctors who had accepted me in the emergency room, the Dr. E. happened to be pedagogically correct, as I had been hoping. Here is what he said: ‘First of all, Sir, you have to understand that you have been dead and that you are a miracle man, resuscitated, with no cerebral or cardiac after effect’. You are the only such case since our opening, 30 years ago. Followed some more technical explanations, but to finish with a little humor he asked me: ‘Up there, you who have seen HIM, how is he? As we are also interested in HIM!’ I answered in the same tone: ‘I only perceived Him very little. HE found me too kind and sent me back! On the other hand I promise you that next time I will write down everything I see and will bring it back to you!’ So I’m part of those who died and came back.
V. THE ‘TUNNEL’ EXPERIENCE
You were able to read accounts about a dark tunnel with at its end an intense light, for me no tunnel. I saw myself heading upwards, face turned towards the ‘bluish sky’. I know that I left behind, rather below, something dark what seemed to be my past, and I felt good. Like in the hallucinations, I had no body, no intelligence, no noise, nobody around me and I was advancing in this ‘cotton wool void’, with farther away a space of bluish cotton wool. This cotton wool space opened partially, something or somebody, rather a beautiful old man with a white beard, clothed in this cotton wool, very quickly said to me: ‘YOU, YOU ARE TOO KIND! GO BACK’. There my out of body experience ends.
V) CONCLUSION More than a year after what is remaining? Have I changed? I’m left with questions without answer, many questions: What did I ‘see’ or imagined? Hallucinations, normal syndromes bound to medical treatments, or reminiscence of what impressed on me in the preceding days or months, or consequently of this inexplicable passage towards elsewhere? If I changed? Yes, more detachment in relation to the people surrounding me. First there are those, Family or friends who actually came to see me, and thus those who didn’t come. Then there are the doctors, all the doctors and their teams who have been making the good decisions, who treated and healed me, I admire them. There is also this almost UNAVOWABLE impression of being more intelligent? A doctor interested in this phenomenon, which he knew about, gave me one explanation. He explains it by comparing the brain to a mega computer that during this experience is freaking out like a bug. The computer specialist restarts the computer and reformats it, thus the installed useless programs are eliminated. There’s his comparison, the brain ‘turned off’ and restarted, cleaning up the useless connections. The computer is becoming more performing, the brain also?