After a normal and relatively easy childbirth, I began hemorrhaging uncontrollably. I had to have emergency surgery to remove my uterus, but that didn’t stop the bleeding. The medical term is D & C. I lost so much blood that I went into cardiac arrest and had seizures and a stroke. CPR was performed, but at one point, I was no longer responding and was pronounced clinically dead. My family was notified.
That was part of the experience. After I came back to life in this world, I was still very unstable, still bleeding, unconscious and needed a second operation. The doctors needed a special window of opportunity to present itself before surgery could be performed with at least a 50% chance of survival. I was kept alive and eventually had the surgery, but was in a coma with the prognosis as not good. Several times, I had no brain activity at all. I had several separate experiences during this time. I had at least four different, separate and distinct experiences of clinical death that I remember. I don’t know what medical conditions surrounded which experiences.
I coded at least twice. At least once, I was pronounced dead and unable to be resuscitated. My family was informed that I had passed. After I came back to life, I was in a coma for several weeks. I believe I had some of my experiences during the times I coded and during the coma as well. I was hemorrhaging faster than blood could be transfused. My blood platelet count, which normally should be at 800,000 or so, was down to 80. Every part of my body was bleeding out; therefore, there was no blood oxygen to get to my heart, brain, or any vital organs. I’m amazed and humbled that I’m even alive today.
I coded twice; at least once, I was pronounced dead after efforts to revive me failed. I went into cardiac arrest, had strokes and seizures, and I was in a coma several weeks after that. Because of my fragile condition, there was no way for doctors to know how much damage my brain, heart, kidneys, and other organs had sustained. They estimated that IF I ever woke up from the coma, I would face at least daily dialysis, some measure of brain damage, and that I could expect to be in the hospital rehabilitation for at least six to eight months after waking up. That is if I woke up.
The amazing thing is that when I woke up from the coma on December 7, 2001, and could undergo testing, everything in my body seemed healed. My brain functioned; my organs kicked into gear, and on December 12, 2001, I was released from the hospital with a clean bill of health.
Another amazing aspect was that my soon-to-be ex-husband from whom I’d been separated for seven months, was still my medical surrogate and had tried to have my life support terminated so he could have custody of our two young daughters. All around the medical trauma was unbelievable drama. He kept taking my sons, siblings, and mom to court while I was in the hospital fighting to stay alive! It was madness, but I was thankfully enjoying life on the other side.” “I had just turned 40 years old and was giving birth to my fourth child. My husband and I had been separated for the second time, this time for seven months. It was a rough marriage. There was a restraining order against him, but the terms were relaxed for the impending birth. He had only supervised visitation with our first daughter, who was 20 months old at the time. My daughter and I had been living with my mom, along with my 16 year old from a previous marriage.
All my childbirths had been easy, with relatively short and mild labors, natural without anesthetics. This time was expected to be an easy birth too. But some odd things happened before the birth. First, it was in the name of the baby. I looked at several names and pick out a few, but none of them seemed quite right. Then a couple of months before the delivery, out-of-the-blue, the name ‘Faith’ came to me. It was a solid and definite feeling about the name. I was to name her Faith. No discussion, I was certain she had already been named Faith, and it was to be her name.
Next, I went to look at the hospitals and decide which one of the hospitals my doctor practiced at that I would give birth. I had chosen the other one for my first daughter. This time I was urged by some other force to get the run-down on security, because, my thoughts said to me, ‘if my ex’s mother comes down and they try to take the baby, I won’t be able to get in touch with my lawyer to stop them.’ It was a bizarre thought, because his mother wouldn’t be likely to come down from Chicago, and if she did come, all it would take to contact my lawyer was a simple phone call from the hospital.
The third event was that I had moved from our home and had found a new one in which to move. I paid the deposit and moved in some things. Oddly, though, I went grocery shopping and bought canned foods and non-perishable items to last at least six weeks, because something told me that I wouldn’t be able to shop for at least that long. So I bought enough food to last two months.
The fourth and fifth oddities happened the day of delivery. I went for a check-up and was told that I needed to go straight to the hospital as I was already in labor. I wasn’t feeling a thing, so I asked if I could stop at home first and pick up some things. I was given an emphatic ‘NO’ from my doctor and went straight to the hospital. I hadn’t eaten lunch and was starving. My mom had always told me that it was wise to eat before going to the hospital so you’d have strength to get through labor, and I’d always done that before. So after I was settled in at the hospital, I asked my ex to get me some food. He gave me a banana and went off to look for something more substantial. I started to eat the banana and called my girlfriend, Susan, to tell her where I was. Then the nurse came along and snatched that banana right out of my hands, telling me I couldn’t have anything to eat! Boy, did I think of some choice words for her (I didn’t say any of course). I couldn’t believe it. I asked her why I couldn’t eat the banana and she explained that everyone coming in to delivery was a potential surgery and could asphyxiate if they had food in their stomachs! Well, I’d never heard that one before with three other children and told Susan the same! So I told Susan I’d have the baby by 11:00 p.m., and would be eating a pizza afterward. I thought that maybe the nurse was just in a bad mood. As it turned out, she quite possibly saved my life by taking that banana away.
When I’d checked into the hospital, I had to fill out the usual paperwork which asks if something happens, do I want to donate my organs. I had always answered ‘yes’ to this question as I believe in the practice. This time, however, my late father’s words resonated inside me. He had said that he never wanted to be in the position near death or at death and they might not resuscitate or try as hard if the organs were needed. I’d never considered it before now even though I’d heard those words long ago. But this time I followed my gut and didn’t sign DNR and didn’t sign for organ donor. It was unusual for me but again something I strongly sensed I had to do: it was like Dad was sending me a message.
So here were five strong, undeniable, yet inexplicable messages out of the blue that later I realized were all connected and pointing to and preparing for, the traumatic events that were to occur following my daughter’s birth.
Back to the delivery room: I was pretty much in pain-free labor and it came time to break my water, as was normal for me. Afterward, the baby came quickly, but my ex was contorting my body in difficult ways and I was becoming angry, possible pushing harder than I should have, and expelling the baby in what seemed to my body, a rush down a tubular slide. There she was.
Everything happened fast after that, and I didn’t quite understand the dire situation in which I was. Immediately following delivery, I began to hemorrhage. I wasn’t paying much attention, and I think I called my sister Alison to let her know Faith was born and in good health. I felt fine, so I wasn’t bothering about what the doctor was doing. Apparently, he treated me with drugs to stop the bleeding and contract my uterus, but they didn’t work.
Next step: emergency surgery to remove the uterus. I guess I was already going into delirium because I didn’t seem to get the word ‘emergency.’ I told Alison what the doctor proposed and asked her if she thought I should get a second opinion. While we were discussing this, I was being prepared and wheeled down to the operating room on a gurney. The doctor was alarmed and frazzled. When I asked him about a second opinion he answered, ‘Sure you can get a second opinion, but you’ll be dead by then!’ I was scared to death that I would die under general anesthesia because I’d always had that fear, so I asked him if I could just get local anesthesia like I’d seen done when women have c’sarian section. I argued with him because I’d seen it on TV when women can be awake and conscious during childbirth with a c’sarian but he won the argument. I must have passed out after that.
The surgery was performed, but the uterus was contracted like it should be. The doctors couldn’t figure out where the bleeding was coming from. A blood count revealed that my platelet count was down to 80, a normal platelet count is 800,000. I had a condition called Disseminated intra-vascular coagulation (DIC), which resulted in both micro-clotting in vessels and exhaustion of my blood platelets. After my surgery, I was still bleeding heavily and taking blood transfusions every half hour. I was sedated and strapped into my bed.
I was delirious and going in and out of consciousness. My organs began shutting down. I went into cardiac arrest a couple of times and also had at least one stroke. I don’t know which times I had which NDE because I was not aware what was happening to me medically in this world. I know that after the first surgery, I was still bleeding and the medical team was desperately doing everything they could to keep me alive. My primary obstetrician took my mom aside and explained to her that they had done everything medically they could do, and the only thing left to do was pray. She told me that he drew a picture on the wall with his finger, to explain a prayer tree that had started for me. The doctor called his wife and asked her to call her church friends, and others did the same. I learned from my brother, months later, that an unknown person had even put the word out on the internet and unknown people all over the world had prayed for me. That in itself is incredibly humbling to me. I am overwhelmed even now by that response by total strangers.
I had periods of lucidness and periods of delirium, periods of unconsciousness and consciousness, and twice I coded. Once, I was pronounced dead. I had an out-of-body experience when I was coming off the effects of the morphine. I was trying to get out of my restraints, and thrashing about. I was screaming that they had no right to tie me down. Suddenly, I was out of my body and looking at myself in the face. I said to myself, ‘Jennifer you look like Lynda Blair in the exorcist!’ I stopped screaming, laughed, and fell back into unconsciousness as I re-entered my body.
I think the first NDE I experienced was when I was suddenly wide-awake. My thoughts were lucid but I was definitely not in this world. I didn’t exist, actually. I was aware that I existed only as a thought, and I quoted to myself, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ I thought about Descartes and wondered what he knew when he said that, and that I understood now what it meant. Wherever I was, it was neither black nor light; it was perhaps a void. I fancied myself like a genie as I hovered there. I was perfectly lucid in thought, but was aware that I was nothing more than thought! I considered it as being curious. I was not afraid; everything was peaceful beyond understanding. Then it ended as suddenly as it began.
Another NDE I had was very different. I was in a space this time. I pondered that I had known of stories of NDEs where people had floated above their beds and saw their bodies below them, or had seen a bright light and the figure of someone beckoning to them. I was aware that behind me was a light and an entrance of some kind that was like an arbor. I couldn’t actually see it, I was simply aware that it was there. I pondered that if I ‘turned around’ then I would be able to ‘see’ the light; I knew it was there for me. I use quotation marks because I had no physicality, no shape, and no form. I still had thought but with no eyes or body. For a split second, I was curious, but that is as long as it lasted. In the same instant, I knew immediately that if I looked I would not come back. I yelled at myself, ‘NO WAY! I’m not EVEN curious! I’m only 40 years old. I have WAY too much to do!’ I wanted back and then again, I lost otherworldly consciousness.
Yet another time, I was aware of being combined with all the other thoughts or shapeless and infinite souls of every person or creature who has ever lived or died, or been, or is, those waiting to be born and those who have already lived and died. I was aware of suddenly having infinite knowledge. I knew all languages, ALL languages at once, and all religious thought, all everything. I was one with the Creator and with Creation itself. I was the Creator. We all were; those who haven’t come back still are. It’s impossible to describe.
I was aware that my earthly body, my container or vessel of my soul had been shed, and I was so much more. I knew all things. I was God along with everyone else, and yet God was still there in superior existence, too: A universal power that was gentle and kind, humble and pure. God lives in me; the soul of God was breathed into my dead body when I chose to live. I had individual thought awareness of one being, yet was one of the whole, without definition or separation away from each other. We were in, through, and with each other. It was incredible, humbling, beautiful beyond beauty, and powerful in the most gentle and kind of ways. It was loving and peaceful in a way that transcends all understanding.
The other NDE I had was when I found myself in my late Uncle’s operating room in Pennsylvania. Unbeknownst to me or my mom, his sister, or any other of our relatives in Florida, Uncle Bill had gone into the hospital for routine elective surgery to remove some polyps. He wasn’t ill so it was supposed to be an easy routine operation. I found myself together with him, hovering in a corner of his operating room, watching his medical team cover his dead body. We didn’t speak or look at each other really. He didn’t wear glasses as he had in life, and it’s the only NDE in which it seemed I had a shape or form, as did Uncle Bill. We communicated, without speaking and without words. We communicated a meaning that conveyed a knowing. I don’t really know how to express it. We watched them cover his body, and then we turned and left the room. That is all I remember.
I don’t know in what order I experienced these, except it seems they were probably experienced in the order I’ve just now explained them.
Back in the ‘real world,’ my soon-to-be-ex-husband was causing all sorts of trouble. My sons, mom, and siblings learned to their horror, that since we were not yet officially divorced, my ex was still my legal medical surrogate. He was deeply hostile toward my family, and me and hoped to implement my demise. He ordered the medical team to operate on me when there was no chance of survival and without consulting my family. He banned all of my family from the room and forbid them to have any contact with me. The hospital followed his directions.
He contacted his mother in Chicago and had her come to the hospital. My ex-husband took the hospital band from my wrist that identified me as the mother that matched the ID attached to Faith. He gave it to his mother to wear. She told the nursery nurses that Faith was her baby and demanded to see and hold ‘her baby.’ She threatened to take the children back to Chicago with her. My ex-husband went to court to get custody of both children while I was in the hospital fighting to stay alive. Our 20-month old hardly knew who he was, and had lived only with my mom and me. My family and he had three emergency court hearings in the course of as many days.
My entire body had swollen to three times its normal size, so badly that my rings cut deep into my fingers and had to be cut off my fingers. My skin was discolored to a purplish-blue. I had wires and tubes coming out of me from every place imaginable. My sons later told me I’d looked like something out of a sci-fi horror flick. I desperately needed a second operation to find and stop the bleeders within my body, but there was only a narrowly defined window of opportunity for there to be even a 50% chance of survival from the surgery. I had to be kept alive in hopes that my platelet count would raise enough and my blood pressure would drop enough at exactly the same time so surgery could take place. The time was getting short.
In a rare moment of awareness, I grabbed the nurse’s arm and said, ‘Help me, I’m fading.’ She started to say, ‘No, your vitals are ok,’ but I coded in the middle of her sentence. I owe my life to all those people on the medical staff those days. They were determined to keep me here. When the nursery brought the baby down, and they saw her name was Faith, it changed their lives. Late in the afternoon of November 28, 2001, the window appeared and surgery was successful. After transfusions of 48 units of platelets, plasma and red and white blood cells, the bleeding was slowed to a manageable and non-life-threatening pace. I was now in a coma, having suffered severe blood/oxygen deprivation to my brain and other vital organs. I had suffered at least one stroke, and several cardiac arrests. Because I had machines operating all of my vital organs, there was no way for the medical team to assess the damages. They had to wait.
Once while in the coma, I woke up and could hear my mom, sisters, and sister-in-law, Joan, in the room with me. Joan was saying, ‘Jen, if you can hear me, squeeze my hand.’ She was repeating it over and over as she held my hand. Funny to think about it now, I had no feeling anywhere: yet I was aware she was holding my right hand. Maybe because it seemed her voice came from there? Anyway, I seemed to be aware that she stood on my right and my mom and sisters stood on my left. I don’t know how I knew that, because I couldn’t open my eyes. I heard her saying that, and I thought to myself, ‘Are you kidding me? Am I really that bad off?’ It seemed surreal. I had no idea what I’d been through. But she kept saying it and I couldn’t feel anything and I couldn’t open my eyes or my mouth or move anything. So I thought as hard as I could on squeezing my hand, on willing my hand, that I couldn’t feel, to squeeze, and finally she excitedly said she’d felt my hand squeeze hers! She was sure! She was saying, ‘Call the nurse! Call the nurse!’ and I heard the nurse come into the room and Joan telling her I’d squeezed her hand. The nurse was sympathetic but skeptical, and all I could think was, ‘You have to believe her. It isn’t wishful thinking; I really did squeeze her hand!’ Joan, thankfully, would not back down, she knew what she’d felt, and then I fell back into nothingness.
I awoke on December 7, 2001. The TV in the hospital room was on, and the doctor was sitting in a vigil by my bedside, head drooped, shoulders rounded in exhaustion. He rubbed his eyes as I raised my head to look around. Then he jumped up quick as a flash when he saw my head raised and eyes open, and began spilling out a series of typical assessment questions. ‘What’s your name, do you know where you are, do you know what day it is?’ At this question, I looked at the TV that was running a Pearl Harbor Day documentary, with the date stamped on the bottom of the screen. I answered correctly December 7.
After I’d answered those and a few more questions, he started rambling about all the drama with my ex-husband, how he’d tried to have my life support terminated, and all the rest of it. I remember just lying my head back down on the pillow and thinking, ‘Can I just go back to sleep for three more days?’ Instead, a battery of tests was started. I’d had a feeding tube so they had to test my swallow reflexes to make sure that part of my brain functioned okay. They had basic problem-solving to do. They did MRIs. They took me back and forth between hospitals for advanced testing of various things; all kinds of things that we take for granted and never even think about. I passed all the tests. Then it was walking. I walked okay, too. Everything functioned. They’d thought I’d probably definitely have kidney damage. I didn’t. They’d estimated that if I ever regained consciousness, I’d have to be in the hospital for at least six to eight months for rehabilitation. But everything seemed to be in working order. As I got stronger, I noticed people creeping past my door in the hallway, peering into my room to get a glimpse of the ‘miracle mom.’
I soon became aware of a presence in my hospital room. I couldn’t see it but I knew it was there. It seemed to be Uncle Bill. He stayed in the chair by my bed for three days and nights. I think when he was satisfied I was going to be okay, he went on.
When I was transferred to another room and out of the intensive care unit, I still didn’t realize how sick I’d been. I was confused about my relationship with my ex, though, and he was acting like a doting husband and father on one hand, and a ghost of a presence on the other. I had a tree outside my window in the hospital room, and I communicated with it the whole time I was there. I knew it by name, for I had touched and been one with its soul during an NDE. I can still feel it along with the sister wind that caressed its leaves and branches. I was seeing with the heart, through the heart, in and of the heart. Our hearts are where the soul originates, and all our sense and essence and flowing and being. A week later, on December 12, I was released from the hospital with a clean bill of health. It really was a miracle.