Go West


In my blog, “Danielle” I promised you a great story about my Near Death Experience. I always keep my promises. Catch us wacky writers on a good day and we can usually shoot out a killer tale as fast as Lee Van Cleefs’ Remington in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. The number 13 is one of my favourite numbers so July 13th is a good day for a story. However, unlike Hollywood, my memoir needs no embellishments, no fancy lighting, no added bells and whistles. It’s a true story about life. My life. It’s also a story about my near death. For me, everyday that I’m alive is a good day, because unlike a dusty old Western where the cowboy’s found sprawled out on the saloon floor, this cowgirl got a second chance to get back up. Others weren’t so lucky. 12 people died that summer.

Cut to summer 2005. I had just turned 30. Getting older yes, but life was normal. Then it wasn’t. One morning I developed a rash all over my body. Chicken pox at my age? No way. I’d luckily managed to avoid getting that ridiculous kiddy bug up to this point and wasn’t going to entertain that for a second. Google. This rash didn’t even look like chicken pox. Allergic reaction? It was summer after all, the time when I usually fantasize about popping my allergic eyeballs out from my sockets and dipping them in a bucket of cold water, or ripping my sneezing snout off my face once and for all. No, my intuition was definitely telling me that this was different. This wasn’t an allergic reaction and it wasn’t the chicken pox.

I’m a stubborn goat and figured I would wait a day or so to see if it cleared up, but truth was, I was getting worse by the hour. By that afternoon, with a high fever and a splitting migraine that wouldn’t ease, my girlfriend took me to see my doctor. I didn’t like the woman. Never had. My family doctor since childhood and someone I would only go to see in case of emergency. Why didn’t I like her? I’ll tell you. Besides the continuously long line of wrong diagnosis and oddly condascending comments, when I was 18 she told me my knees were fat. I mean really, who says that in the first place-and about someones knees to boot? Sure lady, I’m 5’4, 115 lbs, fit as a fiddle, and a former dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, but my knees are obese. What a total moron. My left knee has one scar on it from having some rocks removed surgically one day after a particularly rough day of sliding into base as a kid, but other than that my knees are perfectly normal thanks and goodnight. For most of my adult years since that day I held a knee grudge and boycotted her completely, much preferring the peace and quiet of resorting to my own natural Eastern remedies. This was different. I needed help. Every inch of my body was throbbing. I could hardly keep my eyes open, and the pain in the back of my skull was getting so intense that I could hardly speak. My head was inside a vice. It really hurt. I usually have a high pain tolerance, but this was excrutiating. Pain like nothing I had ever felt before. I knew I was in trouble. I would have to go and see the ignoramus.

Doc Moron’s solution? Flu medication. She had no idea what it was. Typical, and exactly the reason I’ve never been much of a fan of pharmaceuticals. Never any concrete answers. Don’t treat the root of the problem, just mask it with a pill and away you go. Ka-ching. Helpful diagnosis ignoramus. I’m sure it will do the trick. Not. At least she drew some of my blood for testing. Ok, i’ll give her some points for that one and crank up her status to semi-ignoramus.  Unfortunately I was about to discover that my extreme distaste for Doc Moron was really the least of my worries that day.

By the time I got home from the doctor I knew something was very, very wrong. Here’s where it gets interesting. I got much worse-quickly.  It was late afternoon. The events of that day are foggy at best, but they’ll be with me until the end of time, like watching the reels of an old movie. My condition wasn’t good.  My fever was sitting at 105.5. Something was wrong with my ears but I could still hear the deep worry in my girlfriends voice. I remember that scared me. Was I really dying? It sure felt like I was. She was on the phone with her mother desperately trying to find out how to cool me down. After fluctuating between 104 and 105 all night, my fever had now moved up to a toasty 105.7. The situation wasn’t good, and she couldn’t drive me to the hospital because she was medicated herself after having had wisdom teeth yanked out the day before. She hadn’t anticipated doing anything that night besides nursing her sick girlfriend back to health.  I was so much worse now. She later told me I was in and out of consciousness. I remember my dog looking worried, cuddled up to the side of my body, probably wondering why I was as hot as a boiling kettle, writhing around in constant pain. Such intuitive creatures. I remember the sound of hearing myself moaning. I had never felt anything this painful in all my life. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t talk. Opening my eyes was akin to running the New York Marathon. All I could do was moan. Unfortunately, moaning didn’t bring any relief either. I could hear myself making awful primal noises and I wondered when it was going to stop. It didn’t. Imagine the worst migraine on the planet and then amp that up about a million degrees. My head felt like it was exploding from the inside. Chuck in that fever of 105. 7, a pools worth of sweat, involuntary body convulsions, extreme difficulty swallowing and breathing, and severe muscle spasms, and you’re at a point where you just can’t take it anymore. This was no chicken pox. My entire system was under attack, and as hard as my body was fighting back, it was shutting down and losing the battle.

Then I noticed something really weird. I wasn’t lying on my bed anymore. I was looking down at myself, and I suddenly had a completely different vantage point of my room. I was looking down from a weird angle in the top left corner of my bedroom, hovering up there at the intersection point of two walls, looking directly down on my body. I could see every detail of the room, complete with a view of my loyal little dog lying there on the bed beside me. I got it. I was dying. So this is what it’s like. This was it. That time when we ultimately face our mortality and float away into another dimension entirely, leaving behind the burdens of our earthly body and all the associated pain that goes with it. I was 30 years old and I was dying.  I was happy where I was. I felt peaceful. The pain was there, but muted now and paling in comparison to what I was experiencing in this moment of detachment. I was hovering there on the very edge of life. I was transitioning to a place where there was only peace, comfort, and love. I felt completely surrounded by goodness. Leaving this place of pain now. I remember some of my thoughts. I will really miss my friends and family. I bet they’ll be sad to see me go, but they’re a strong bunch of bananas, they’ll survive, and i’ll get to see them again someday. I’ll really miss all my pets, but I know my girlfriend will take good care of them, and she’ll be just fine too. So sad that I have to leave her so early in our relationship, but I know she’ll find true love again. She’s my sweetheart and deserves it all. Life is about love in all its forms. It was all clear to me in that moment. I know where I’m going next. I’m ready. We all have our exits, and this is mine. Adios muchachos-Que Sera Sera.

One problem. Somewhere deep inside I knew that I somehow still had more to accomplish back on earth. Something was holding me back. If it was my time, why was I lingering so long and thinking so deeply about the people, events, and emotions that made up my life? I realized in that moment that I was being given time to think. As much as I wanted to let go and fly away, there was something telling my soul that I just wasn’t ready to go. Not yet. How would I even get back to my body? Probably impossible now.  I was up here, in the top corner of my bedroom, just floating there like a freaky casper, completely suspended in time and space. I didn’t know how to get back to my body. I was much happier up here  without that awful pain anyway. Then it hit me. If I wanted to go back I would have to talk to The Source. The very reason I was up here in the first place. I knew from the very beginning of my experience that it was this Source that was enabling my out-of-body experience. I was surrounded by Its power, like a million fractals all coming together to create perfect harmony, and I felt so grateful to have experienced Its beauty.

I was completely seduced by the tranquility of this wonderful place in space, and now I would have to leave it behind. I didn’t want to go back, but I had to. Imagine feeling so lightweight that all you have is pure thought. No earthly weight of any kind. No need for wondering because you automatically know things telepathically just by thinking them. No need for explanations here. Everything was understood. No pain, no stress, no anxiety. There was only peace. Then another thought hit me. You can’t die at 30. What a copout. Get on that horse again cowgirl. That’s the exact moment when I decided I was going to live.

I didn’t know it yet, but I had contracted the West Nile Virus, transmitted from the bite of an infected mosquito, and more specifically West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease, a life-threatening condition that effects less than 1% of the cases, where the virus attacks the central nervous system. As a result, I had encephalitis and acute inflammation of the brain. This was going to be one hell of a fight…


7 Responses to “Go West”

  1. Totally brilliant (not the illness, obviously – the telling of your story:) ).
    I just realised how I was craning forward towards the screen to read on.
    Thank you for sharing the story and I can see why every day is so special now – what a gift!

    • Thanks so much, I just laughed at your “craning towards the screen”-loved that. Hope all is well in Glastonbury these days, anything exciting happening in my favourite spot I’ve never been to?! 🙂

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