Tuberculosis, hystoplasmosis, psoriasis, sticking my upper body through the windshield of an Austin Healey, thanks to John Elliott – cracking my skull open on the bricks of my front porch, multiple serious auto accidents, . . . and the last time, a perforated colon, a rotten internal bleeding from a decaying, rotting gall bladder, and 7 bleeding ulcers – I’ve weathered those. I died once – not due to any of those. The nurse brought me back – she told me what she’d heard that day. God had told her not to let me go. I remember watching her turn my shoulders and hang my upper body off the edge of the recovery table, screaming at me to cough up the blood and take a breath – my floating above her, mad her voice sound as if it were a block or so away – all that had come after she’d been pounding on my body below, and slapping me.
I was detatched, floating it seemed, about 30 feet above her while she was holding my body. As she turned my body back onto the table, she propped me, turned partially on my side, so the blood would drain out of my mouth as she attended to other duties; it was so the blood would not choke me. This scene was repeated many times during the time I laid on that steel table, in that cold recovery room.
I’d crashed a hang-glider, broken both legs and shattered my jaw. That year, more people had died and become disabled than any other year of the sport. I’d gotten into (atmospheric terms) the backside of a mountain rotor; pure and simple, it was a downdraft – the Santa Ana Winds had just begun and I found myself just wrenching my body back and forth, just to clear the stumps and brush; I was blowing along at about 50 mph and as I came over the 1,000′ cliff, I was in a downdraft. After reaching out with my toes, to try and touch the ground when I hit the ground cushion of air, I was inches from touching down, but I shot straight up about 300′ and the nose of the metal kite hung up on the massive power-lines that traverse the desert on their way to San Berdo.
I slid along the wire, toward the tower . . . . knowing the lines were carrying millions of volts, as I approached the tower, I knew I was about to be schorched to a crisp and the only response that worked was to turn the kite totally upside down; that sent me toward the cliff I’d just come over. I put my legs out and came to on the ground with my fingers twisted in the tall grass that somehow kept me from sliding down farther.
The helicopter that came in to get me off the cliff got caught in the same downdraft. I remember seeing it flying sideways instead of “upright”; they survived and ended up descending by rope to strap me to a board and haul me out. I’ll not describe the pain when I came out of shock, but God has designed us so that when we cannot take it, we pass out . . . . over and over. All that, was May 10th, 1974; a friend that came to see me, in the hospital, brought me the picture of another hang-glider that same day . . . it was the front page of the L.A. Times and he was hanging dead in the same power lines – so, . . . it could’ve been worse. I’ve often thought of researching that and framing the picture it – a picture, for my office.
It was a few days later she entered my room and asked how I was doing . . . . I didn’t recognize her as we talked . . . . not until Skip stuck his head in the door and asked her a question. When she turned her back on me and looked up at him, it hit me. I recognized her from when I’d been out of my body. As she turned back to me and said, “I guess I’d better get back; just wanted to check on you . . . how you were doing”, she saw the tears in my eyes as I asked, “You’re the one, aren’t you? You’re the one who brought me back.”
She too welled up with tears in her eyes and re-sat back down in her chair. She shook her head ‘yes’, and told me “God told me not to let you go.” She stayed and we talked, I’m not sure how long, but parts of that conversation are fixed in my psyche, never to be forgotten! I explained how I recognized her and how I’d watched her pounding on my chest, making it so I could breathe, etc.
I wish I had her name, to tell her that I’ve tried to justify my existence, how grateful I am, . . . . how I’ve lived. A near-death-experience does that. This traumatic, accident and what I’d go through from then on, changed my life – the worst thing that had ever happened to me, had turned into the best thing . . . . a common comment from those of us who’ve had this trans-formative experience. (A side-note, a result of this, I could never wear a watch; within a day or a couple of days, they’d quit – evidently, it’s a common symptom.)
I went through 5 years of operations after the malpractice that was done on me – they knew I couldn’t survive and used my body to teach the interns procedures that they never got to see. Yes, there was a malpractice suit, but it got messed up and the lawyer stole most of the proceeds; he got busted – he co-mingled the trust funds – but became a doctor so he could testify against the doctors . . . . . He should have been disbarred, but . . . . the fact that his firm went bankrupt seemed to assuage my anger; he blamed me; so did my lawyer friend, but they never heard my side. They were all about money, like most lawyers; I was more concerned that the HMO was going to amputate both legs – not something, I wanted to go through.
I’ve put 120,000 miles on my two touring Goldwing motorcycles (I never rode, until I was sure I had that need to live on the edge of life well out of me. I still carry a lot of pain but I’ve walked another 35 years; the anniversary, 13 days from now, even at 67 years old now, I’m hoping to paddle with the Orcas . . . . second thought, maybe I’ll wait until the water’s a bit warmer. I’d like to hang glide again; as incredible as it was, it’s not worth it. Life is not over yet; other than my pain, I still think of myself as 35 – 40 years old; strange, I know . . . same thing my mom told me she felt in her late 80’s.
Guess it’s appropriate I quote Jerry, “What a long strange trip it’s been . . . .”