|Guy Thomas and Nicolas Clements (one of his best friends)|
As I walk down the street, it feels good that nobody can see what happened to me close to a year ago. I guess I now look just like the average passer-by. What a relief that fate must not necessarily leave its mark like a permanent tattoo, a signpost along the road to near-disaster. Yes, few have been there, looked at mortal fate straight in the eye. It is strange to think that nobody can know where I have been to. A treasured unique experience of leaving life on earth, almost for good, if not for something that is difficult to describe beyond calling it a miracle.
I felt lost when I was gently woken up from my coma, a pipe down my throat, cables and wires criss-crossing my body, a screen with zig-zagged lines, feeling heavily doped and almost paralysed. My blurred view barely identified the silhouettes of surrounding faces. Come to think of it, the heart can beat about 2’635’776’000 times in the life of an 80-year old. But it can also stop very suddenly and unpredictably, often painlessly. And that is usually it. Chances of survival after a cardiac arrest are slim, very slim.
It occurred to me in the course of the weeks to follow that I had been somewhere humans usually never return from. It is commonly known as death and is associated with darkness or the end of the road. Yet that was not the case while I was being resuscitated. It was an experience that is hard to put in words and can perhaps be best associated with peace and bright, glittering light.
Looking back to 13 July 2015, at about 13h, is like recalling a death sentence. I am not superstitious but 13 was prominent on that day. What had happened was brought back to my mind 10 months later when I met the lady who took me in her arms after I had collapsed – as a dead person, she assumed. She had propped me up in her arms when I slumped on a seat at a train station and a railway official immediately sounded the alarm.
I spent two days in a coma – after being resuscitated several times. Impairments of the brain or body or both were likely consequences of the cardiac arrest. However, the chain and veil of good fortune extended along a drawn-out path of hospitalisation, rehab and renewal – a veritable process of re-birth, so to speak.
There is something strange about returning to life under such most extraordinary circumstances. For one thing, I was most fortunate to have been seated in a busy public space when it happened. But it could just as well have been my turn to bid farewell. What was strangest of all, however, was returning to consciousness from a place and state of being I miss now and shall never forget during life on earth. The experience with death was a truly rewarding eye-opener.
I am grateful to offer this brief account through my much loved friend Kiki who has shared many a precious moment and discussion along the road towards a future, a road marked by an extraordinary tale of the unexpected. I now look ahead with another pair of lenses and, above all, a revitalised heart.