IN MY TIME OF DYING
We all know it is in bad taste to have an in-flight movie that deals with a plane crash, and it most certainly has been a weird thing to hear a about a movie that has been postponed due to the fact that the subject matter is about some horrible event that has taken place or is similar to an event that has taken place in real time.
That is why after my cancer surgery I was horrified to find a story about a woman who was pronounced clinically dead and as the surgeons were about to harvest her organs she awakened.
According to a chilling story found in the Independent, Colleen Burns had been pronounced clinically dead by medical staff following an overdose of Xanax and Benadryl.
I don’t know if you can imagine the pain and terror as I was reading this story after I myself went through a harrowing eight hour surgery to remove what turned out to be three cancerous tumors and a rearranging of my liver and intestines in order to avoid a huge hernia.
The story went on to say that after arriving at the St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Centre in Syracuse Colleen Burns was declared a victim of “cardiac death”. Doctors had notified her family and they agreed to switch off her life support machine and donate her organs.
The 41-year-old had in-fact slipped into a deep coma as a result of her drug overdose and her condition had been misdiagnosed as irreversible brain damage.
When Ms Burns was wheeled into surgery where her organs would be removed for transplants, her eyes opened in response to the bright lights in the operating theatre, causing doctors to immediately call off the procedure. The mother-of-three was discharged from hospital two weeks later.
According to Ms Burns mother Lucille Kuss, not only were medical staff at the hospital unaware that she was alive and demonstrating signs of brain activity, but doctors never explained exactly what had lead them to incorrectly believe her daughter had died.
I am a person who has been under the knife at least three times for Cancerous tumor removal and it has always been my biggest worry --- in fact a nightmare to ponder, How would you know whether you slept through the whole procedure? How would you know if you came close to dying, or have you died and they just don’t tell you. How many other people have had lives that have been so over the edge that they have had experiences where they know they should have died but by some grace of god or a higher power they have always survived and given the opportunity to improve their lives?
I have had discussions about this before with people and I have always heard some very harrowing experiences that can only be described as miraculous.
Reddit, the online information source for anything raw and candid, even held a “Ask me anything” question and answer session with an anonymous surgeon. The question was “What is the most harrowing experience you have ever had in the operating room?” Of course the Internet gives the cover of some anonymity and so the surgeon candidly said that the most harrowing experience was when a woman awoke on the operating table, her chest wide open and attempted to move off the table.
Apparently the woman had no memory of the event; however the doctor said that he felt that the attempt at moving off the table was interesting and impressive especially when the heart was outside the chest.
Then, of course, are the stories of many people that tell you during some deep discussion over coffee about the time they almost died. This happened to me one time with a good friend who told me that he went and visited a relative who decided to book a river rapid adventure for everyone who came to visit.
It was his first time hitting the rapids and the tour guides assured everyone that the river run was not treacherous and that it would be a breathtaking experience. It turned out to be almost life taking as my friend related that he and his wife who were both in their early 60’s were tossed about on the river run, and that the only thing hoe could remember was how many times he went under the water as a freak wave hit their tiny raft and took out the entire river running crew.
The only thing he remembered was how he kept going under the water, two or three times, blacking out and then winding up onshore curious as to where his wife was. He did manage to find her, but didn’t recognize her because her body was badly beaten and bloodied on the rocks.
It was so bad that he really didn’t recognize her.
We have all heard about those who claim to have had near death experiences that always seem to have the spiritual afterglow to them, but the processes of death are very real and the close calls are life changing.
In fact, I found that statistically speaking many people would find it a bit odd that patients with a religious faith were more likely than nonbelievers to ask for aggressive life-saving techniques in their final days.
I find this statistic to be incredible. In the meantime it has been encouraged that there need not be any worry about the final moment, however I have always said that I believe that we are now living in times where there are many ways to prolong life and there have been a few people that have told me that they would draw the line if it came to perhaps having to use a machine in order to survive.
It was announced recently in health news that through the miracle of science and a three day operation that it is now possible to actually do a full head transplant on a human being.
The cost of the procedure could cost up $8.5 million. The news comes as a welcome surprise, however, since the procedure had previously only been done on monkeys there is now the opportunity to have it carried out successfully on humans.
The year 1970 marked the first time that American neurosurgeon Dr. Robert White was able to transplant the head of rhesus monkey onto the body of another.
This breakthrough was announced along with the news about how we all stand a chance of living healthier and better lives because science has now created genetically-engineered mice with artificial human chromosomes in every cell of their bodies, as part of a series of studies showing that it may be possible to treat genetic diseases with a radically new form of gene therapy.
Researchers in the US and Japan are already well advanced in making “mini” human chromosomes called HACs (human artificial chromosomes), by either paring down an existing human chromosome or making them “de novo” in the lab from smaller chemical building blocks.
This type of research and breakthrough once again brings on another nightmare and that is the idea that this is all part of some Frankenstein blasphemy against life and or the plan of God. I have always contended that these sciences if shown to improve the way of life should be used as a way to ensure a better way of life and perhaps longer life.
We need to ask if research and breakthroughs such as these s this the ultimate irreverence? The heretical tampering with creation? Where is it that you draw the line?
I don’t think people would have a problem with human hearts being grown inside pigs after all, if it saved the life of a loved one we may put our prejudice aside. What if they were to find a way to cure Alzheimer’s disease by taking neurons and placing them into the brains of mice or monkeys? Are those firing neurons really the human soul?
This is where we must stop time for a moment and ask ourselves where are we now? Who are we really? Were we created at random? Are we quantum echoes that somehow exist like ghosts on a magnetic matrix? Are we some miraculous creation of god or are we a creation that has been forgotten by a god that didn’t have the decency to tell us his name or even give us direction? Is the consciousness or soul that we all claim to possess just the illusory byproduct of synaptic activity in our brain?
When scientists begin to figure out the essential features of mentality that distinguish us as human beings and place them into other bodies animal or human in order to save that mentality from dying will we accept it or reject it because of traditional fears?
All I can say is that life is fragile, and yet it is so worth living, and with the knowledge of how we are who we are and how we react to our mortality perhaps we would learn the true value of a human life.
We should not limit ourselves to the debate of its worth at the time of conception. It is what happens after conception and how we treat the human body as it lives through this existence.
We are given this life as a gift and I am, once again am proud and happy to be back after my surgery to continue to share some of the more interesting things and peculiar things that make this life interesting and adventurous.
If I couldn’t do it, I don’t think life would be all that fun.