At some point after open-heart surgery on Sept. 15, 2011, there were some ‘big bleeds.’ I’m not sure but I think it was in my nose and throat. When I ‘crashed’ on Sunday, Sept. 18 and had to be resuscitated, it was determined that my lungs had filled with aspirated blood, I was told. On the afternoon of Sept. 18, I was re-intubated, and, after I yanked the tube out, they put me in wrist restraints. I was sure that ‘they’ were trying to ‘do me in.’ I was told that I also took a couple of swings at the nurses. To give my heart and lungs the best chance of recovery, I was also reconnected to the heart-lung machine. I am not sure if the NDE occurred when I ‘crashed’, was resuscitated, reconnected to the bypass machine, or when I was put into an induced coma.
My dear friend, Fran, was a nurse who was in the end-stage of colon cancer at the same time that I went in for surgery. My husband and I had gone over to her home the day before my surgery to say good-bye. After the ‘crash’, I remember the door to my intensive care room being brightly backlit by a hallway. I was in darkness but it did seem like I was in the hospital room. Fran appeared beside me, dressed in raspberry pink scrubs with her nurse’s identification tag hanging around her neck. She came to the rail of my bed and asked, ‘Are you coming with me?’ I thought about it for what seemed like a minute or two, and then replied, ‘I don’t know yet.’ Fran smiled, patted my hand on the bed-rail, turned around and was absorbed into the bright light of the hallway. I drifted off.
When I was aware again, Fran was approaching my bed with the same backlit from the bright hallway as before. This time, she leaned over the bed rail and asked if I was coming with her? Again, I thought about it, and said ‘I don’t know. I’m not sure.’ I drifted off once more.
When I opened my eyes, the room was flooded with bright light. The hallway was dark like a tunnel behind Fran. She was once more beside the bed; I couldn’t move or reach for her and I remember trying. Fran asked, ‘ARE you coming with me?’ This time, I answered, ‘No, I don’t think so. Not right now.’ Fran smiled, said, ‘OK. I love you!’ She turned from me, and was absorbed into the darkened hallway. It was like a dark tunnel, and I could not follow her. I regretted telling her ‘No’.
About a week later, I was moved to the telemetry floor, and then got to go home on September 28. Fran died on October 3, five days after I went home.
To this day, I am convinced that my beloved Fran ‘hung on’ to be sure I was out of the woods and safely home again before she left. I definitely felt her presence in the hospital, both in the intensive care unit and in the telemetry unit afterward. I feel that, for a very little while, we were at the entrance to that dark tunnel together. Fran left, but I stayed.