My memory has wiped itself clean.
“Don’t you remember?” asks my wife
“You don’t remember that!” adds my daughter with some consternation
“What was it like?” ask friends and colleagues.
I don’t know. I don’t bloody know. I don’t know what it was like because I wasn’t there. A week in an artificial coma then I woke up like a new person or I woke up like me and since then nothing has seemed the same because nothing is the same and nothing can be the same again.
Like those bad science fiction B movies where people wake up in a parallel universe and everything is the same but it isn’t.
I fell off the sofa and my heart stopped and it was a full eight minutes before it started again and from the moment my heart stopped to when I woke in hospital it was a full week and I was …
What was I?
Lucky? Yeah certainly lucky but I’ve got no idea about the rest.
Now, months on, I look around. I look at people, what seemed to make sense before is now nonsense and what passed for intelligence before now seems as stupidity. I seem to have lost the plot, if there ever was one.
I know this is full of clichés, the clichés of a revenant
And in all this, I discover a hierarchy of revenant importance.
The guy who was out for three weeks with Covid.
The man whose heart stopped ten minutes.
The bloke with three stents as opposed to my one stent.
It’s like, “I’ve come back from a darker place than you.” or “I was far worse than you were and I’m getting better quicker than you.”
Ah yes, there are cardiac friends from hospital who had bigger and better heart attacks than me and now they are back at work and they look at you as if to say “WTF is up with you? I had it worse and now I’m better and you are still on sick leave. ”
From dead man to malingerer.
Next comes the suffering, worry and anxiety you have put other people through. People are glad you have pulled through. “I’m glad you’re alive but …” BIG BUT. “but now is the time for you to feel guilty for everything you have put us through.” I can hear it in your voice. You never say it at the start but as time goes by and you get the PTSD thing, and you try to explain…
PTSD?? But it was only a heart attack and you survived.
Yeah you get post traumatic crap – like feeling you’re not where you should be, like coming to terms with what has happened, like coming to terms with being alive. I still haven’t sorted it and possibly never will.
Yes you survived, and now we have to look after you and you are becoming a burden, and we worry about you, which gives us stress. Were glad you’re here but …
It’s a lot simpler when you die. For sure, you are a short term dead nuisance, but when everything is sorted, you don’t need looking after because you’re dead. When you are still around, you become a lifelong worry for others, as long as you live.
Someone did ask me if I saw light at the end of a tunnel and did I touch the hand of God in those minutes that I was almost no more. I answered quite frankly “I haven’t got a bloody clue. I never made it to the other side because they didn’t want me.
I guess I can understand the guilt of the survivor.
So, try and explain this to others. I can’t.
“WTF is the matter with you now? You’re alive. Stop complaining, or next time we’ll just leave you.”
Thanks to my daughter who found me and called the ambulance, and thanks to my wife for the improvised heart massage. Thanks to the ambulance crew and the paramedics. Thanks to the nurses. Thanks to everyone. I couldn’t have done it without you.
Spent most of 2020 physically rebuilding and in 2021 I’ve got to get my head together, knowing that the “old me” is dead and I’m still discovering the new me.
In those eight minutes something in my head switched off, shut down and put itself beyond life. There’s bits missing that I’ll never remember and there’s slices of old life that never seemed important that are taking on new significance.
I don’t what I did before and I don’t know how I’m going to do what I do now. I’m going back to living the before like someone who has never been there.
I wrote this to get things straight for me, which has probably meant my confusing you. I’m confused too. It’s like driving somewhere you used to call home that still is home to the ghost of you former self.
And that final question, am I really alive or is this my afterlife?