These notes are from my medical notes, my own recollections of the experience, and the descriptions given by my family and my medical team having undergone two years of follow up treatment and neurological therapy. The medical staff and my family verified the sensations and things I heard as things that did happen, or they could remember saying.
I was taken to the hospital with suspected meningitis in June 2014, having displayed some of the symptoms of the disease following what was originally thought to be just a bad cold. I have a very good medical history with no previous major concerns.
Having felt very unwell for some days, I was very agitated about the problem and was not getting very good responses from the medical team in the hospital. They decided to sedate me and I was taken to the Intensive Care Unit.
A brain swelling, thought to be encephalitis, was detected. So they kept me sedated on Propofol. Unfortunately, I suffered a reaction to this drug that is known as Propofol Infusion Syndrome. This resulted in my muscle fiber being dissolved, and the resultant uric acid build up caused kidney problems. As I had also been intubated on an artificial respirator, the stress on the body became so great that I started having low blood pressure and massive pulse variations. It seems that the drugs given to me to stabilize my blood pressure also caused my heart to race. Then they gave me some more drugs to slow down the heart and that caused my blood pressure to fall. They were also taking lumbar punctures, and giving me drugs to treat what they thought was the onset of meningitis.
During all this time, I could hear and sense where I was. I felt a particularly horrible sensation from the intubation tube. I had very vivid dreams and experiences from the moment I was sedated, which I spent many weeks writing down.
I sensed something wasn’t right, as I felt nauseous. But I couldn’t wake myself up as I can when I am sleeping. I could hear my pulse and thought I was talking to my wife to try understanding why I couldn’t awaken. I could hear the nurses asking her to leave. I could also hear the constant beeping noises from the drug pumps and their associated alarms. There was considerable noise and activity on going. My wife told me that nearly all the duty doctors were attending to me. She later told me that they warned her that things were not looking hopeful, meaning there was a possibility I could die. The intubation tube had also caused a lung infection, so I was coughing like crazy. I was told later that I had picked up a chest infection, and that they had to tickle my lungs internally to stimulate coughing so I would not contract pneumonia.
I went into a very weird state. I could see the whole room as if I was looking down on myself in the bed with all the doctors and nurses around; it was very busy. I was wondering why on Earth I was not waking up, and a maelstrom whipped up, like a storm. I suddenly found myself on a small sailing dingy with a massive storm swirling around it. I was desperately trying to figure out why I could not steer the boat. The tiller seemed to be fighting me and the rudder was just too hard to control against the stormy water.
I was desperately trying to steer the dingy back to shore where I could see my wife and two children. They were all hugging each other and crying, with my wife pleading with me to get back to shore and telling me that they needed me. The sea between the boat and the shore was very wavy, and it seemed impossible to get back. On the other side however, the water was calm. I saw the very calm water and very faint silhouettes of people in the distance and on the horizon. I sensed I knew these people.
Above the boat, I could hear my mother’s voice telling me not to be afraid and head to the calmer water. She was like a mist that was heading in the direction of the horizon where the silhouettes were. But also swirling around the mast was my granddad’s voice encouraging me and telling me that I could beat this. I had a problem believing what my mother’s voice was telling me, as she had been quite a religious woman. It was as if I shouldn’t trust her, that she was making this all too easy, almost as if she was being selfish and taking me away from my family. My granddad, however, I did trust. He was being honest, positive, assured and constantly reminding me that I could get back to my family. He kept telling me to look at them and know that they needed me.
But, no matter how hard I tried, I just could not steer this dinghy and I felt drawn towards the horizon more and more. It felt like it would be an utter relief just to take the easier calmer water. It felt very tempting just to let go of the tiller, which I knew would let the dinghy head towards the calmer horizon. The wind was making it impossible to get back to shore and my family seemed to get further and further away as the dinghy was forced towards the calmer water. I sensed whom the silhouettes were, particularly my Nanny and other relatives and friends who have died. There was a very calming atmosphere where they were, no sense of pain or anger or anything, just a very relaxed atmosphere.
I really felt like giving in and just succumbing to the overwhelming sense of hopelessness, but something triggered and a massive sense of love for my family came over me. My heart felt like it was bursting. This was a feeling I don’t think I’ve ever experienced in reality. I was gripping the tiller like crazy and determined to get back to shore. Suddenly, I zoomed over the boat so that I was looking down at the boat drifting off towards the horizon and then the whole scene went dark, and this next bit was a lot scarier.
I was now just a misty figure, almost without definition, with one or two other columns of mist around me. I sensed these columns of mist were other people in a similar state as me. There was a small low-level barrier in front, like a white picket fence but too small, to be any use as it could be easily stepped over. I was then aware of a very formidable presence on the other side. It was like a hooded figure but I couldn’t see a face. It had no real form other than being a dark column. I was a light column, so I felt this column was the opposite of me. I could sense that it was Death coming for me. It didn’t need to speak because it was almost like telling me telepathically that he was here for me, and was coming ever closer towards me.
It wasn’t scary in the classical image of death; it was just intimidating and seemed confidently powerful just to decide that I would go with him. I sensed it was male although it was just a dark form. I was adamant that I was not going with him and told him that I was ABSOLUTELY not going anywhere with him. I was almost shouting at him telepathically, despite being quite fearful wondering if he had any greater power. Emboldened by that feeling in my chest, I was repeating that I was not going with him, despite him now floating over the small fence and heading ever closer until he was almost in front of me. I held my ground and refused to be intimidated even though I did feel like it was probably a foregone decision. The presence then quickly veered to the right of me and I saw it, and another white presence, then move off to the left into a blacker void.
Although the scene was already dark, I felt that everything then closed in on me. I then had a vision of being isolated on a boat, not a dinghy this time. I was now on a fishing trawler, in the hold, surrounded by fish, feeling wet, icy cold, very nauseous, and hopeless. I sensed there was no one else on the boat, and in the hold were various plaques riveted to the metal walls giving instructions on how things worked. At this point, I wondered if I had given it all up. I had a dreaded sense of lost hope and isolation that came over me and I felt really miserable. I thought I had done something good to win over death and not be going to go into the void. So why was I alone on a boat totally isolated? I kept having experiences of floating way above it and realizing that this boat, like the dinghy, was in the middle of an ocean with nothing around.
This feeling of being trapped on the boat went on for what seemed like days, until it all went cloudy and white. Then I found myself in another set of dream experiences.
In all, I spent 10 days sedated or artificially comatose. I finally woke up after having a tracheostomy to allow me to avoid the irritation of the intubation tube. This was something that was stopping the doctors from resuscitating me. I later learned that I had been given the maximum possible dose of sedatives, but they still couldn’t work out why I was still fighting the tube. My heart had stopped twice, after racing to over 110 bpm, and my blood pressure had fallen to below 20. MRI scans later showed that Call-Fleming Syndrome, a spasm in blood vessels that shut my brain down temporarily, caused the brain inflammation.
Once I had the tracheostomy a week later, I recalled and sensed the whole episode. I actually felt a lot better and knew I could make sense of the weird dreams and would get better, although I still felt trapped in not being able to awaken myself. I did finally come around when my assigned nurse guessed that I didn’t like the fuss when they were trying to bring me out of sedation. She very slowly lowered the sedative dose on the drug pump, until I calmly woke up being finally able to breathe for myself having had the tracheostomy.