It was a normal Tuesday, a day like any other. Little did I know that it was a day that would change my entire life.
I went home at about four o’clock and felt extremely tired. I wanted to take some time out and rest, when I suddenly experienced intense heartburn unlike anything I’d ever felt before. I gave birth to three children and yet I had never felt pain like I did that day. I felt like someone was putting a burning cloth on my heart. I got up from the bed and told my husband and my helper, “I’m having a heart attack.” My family looked at me as though I was losing my mind.
I went to sit outside and my helper brought me some sugar water to drink, but I was still experiencing excruciating pain. I got into our car and put my hand on the hooter so that my husband could see how badly I needed to get help. I experienced a strange feeling in my arms and toes and I felt like I was slipping away.
My family then realised the seriousness of what was happening. You know how, when we get a fright or something awful happens, the first words most people say are "You gave me a heart attack!" I think my family thought I was joking but when my husband looked at me in the car he realised I was dying.
I still don't know how he got me to the hospital in five minutes, but I remember telling him that if this heart attack wasn’t going to kill me then his driving would. We got to the emergency room and I clutched my heart and almost fell out of the car while my husband shouted for help. I saw the medical staff running towards me and I collapsed. I woke up a little while later in the ER. My daughter was standing over me and I told her to call the rest of the family and my manager at work because I was experiencing the pain that I had had at home again. But this time it was fatal.
The next thing I remember is waking up two weeks later in the ICU.
I learned later that I flatlined and was dead for 45 minutes. A blood clot had shot through my heart during the first attack, and in the ER another clot caused my heart to stop. The medical team spent almost an hour resuscitating me and managed to bring me back.
I didn’t know anyone when I woke up, not even my family. I had what they call ICU trauma. I saw many things that were not real. Later, my memory returned and I could identify and remember some things.
I could not walk or talk or eat. I had to learn to do these things all over again. My mom came to stay with me. She bathed and fed me and I slept in her arms like a baby. My husband and children also looked after me like I was an infant. I still have no idea how that trauma affected them.
To the other side and back
When I left this earth for those 45 minutes I experienced death and what happens after you die. I went to an unfamiliar place where the grass was so green and beautiful that I wanted to run and roll in it. There was an unusual light all over the place. I was scared but curious. I knew I shouldn't be there but I wanted to know what this place was. I saw a silhouette of an entrance and thousands of people walking towards the light beyond it. Many people did not manage to go to the light, but walked past it. I saw good and I saw evil.
It was like watching myself in a movie, and although I knew it wasn’t real and I had family, friends and people that I loved, I couldn’t remember them. All I had was there and then and what I felt in my heart.
I felt free and relaxed, liked stepping into a cool stream on a hot summer’s day. I knew where I was, but not where I had been. Where I was then was peaceful and painless.
While my heart was stopped, family, friends, churches, colleagues and people on social media were praying non-stop. I could feel the power of prayer. I felt a hand lifting me to bring me back and a light formed around me. Kind of like a whirlwind. The light was the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. It lifted me up.
Before I woke up I had the privilege of seeing family members who had passed on. All the loved ones I had lost were keeping me safe and protecting me before I was returned to my family and sent back to the world.
I have changed. What I have been through and what I have seen is sacred to me. It is something that I want to tell the world about and shout with joy over, but I also want to keep it pure and protect the memory of the place I experienced.
One of the realities that I live with every day is that I have experienced good and evil. I have experienced the actual other side. I know what it feels like to be gone from this earth. The feeling is unique.
Finding purpose again
It took about six months to heal and become self-sufficient again.
Emotionally I asked a lot of questions about why this had happened to me. I never got those answers. I had to pick myself up and get back to work and start my life again. I had to forget about the pain I experienced. Most days I cannot concentrate too much on it because people depend on me. I can’t feel sorry for myself because then I would end up crying. I am coping just fine.
Our problems are only as big as we make them. I fully understand the anger, the disappointment, and the hurt that comes from traumatic events. I understand the heartache and the loss. What I understand best is how we must work these emotions into our daily lives and carry on. I could have decided to stay at home and not go back to work, but I love my job and I have a passion for it.
I do it to the best of my ability and I get satisfaction from my work. Besides the fact that it pays the bills, it stimulates me. I also don’t want to sit at home and do nothing. I want to get up every morning and feel important because at work there will be people and colleagues depending on me which is also why I want to go home at night. To know that there are people waiting for me at home who depend on me.
I want to feel that I make a contribution to this world no matter how small it may be. Don’t ever underestimate yourself. Life is here to be lived and to be enjoyed and to appreciate. Life is not here to be miserable. You cannot feel that you have no purpose. You are here for a purpose and I am here for a purpose and I am here to tell you that life needs to be lived over and over again.
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