Three and a Half Hours of Anesthesia: A Personal Experience

my near death experience
I saw an illusional reel at the operation table that I called dying, until I came back home and nobody called me dead.
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The nuanced suffering of a vehicular accident can only be imagined by someone who has been through it; through not only the horror of the event but also afterwards in treatment.

Like any other road lover, the beginning of my journey that particular day was also relaxing, almost promising me an escape from the overall tightness of the day. Almost, until a dog darted out of a bush, and my save-animal instinct kicked in. I grabbed a fistful of front brake, and the last thing I remember before sensing I have landed in the emergency ward of a hospital, is the shrill barking of the supposedly traumatized dog. I still hear it sometimes in my sleep.

The sudden brake must have resulted in a crash of my bike; that eventually fractured and dislocated my jaw among other minor injuries. I lost my consciousness for two hours after the accident.

As I was rushed from one hospital to another wearing my favourite riding t-shirt that was blood soaked by then, the feeling of being in trance intensified. At one point, the only distant vibration and beeping my mind could translate were of CT scans and X-rays, until even those faded away and I was sent to the operation theatre for metal implant surgery to fix my fracture.

I was already aware of the panic people have about medically induced unconsciousness in the whole body, but the torturous pain I was already enduring left no respite to worry about it then.

“How did this happen?” the doctor asked casually while being busy arranging the surgical instruments.

My bloody, broken mouth replied uttering its very first words after the accident ,“Bike accident”

“But isn’t bike accident a very man-ish thing?”

My feminist hopelessness had just cranked up with his reply when another doctor came quite hastily and poured some sort of a liquid in my nose. And, that was it.

The chemical substance used was to have me passed out and the doctors do their jobs.

I do not remember the most part after it, of course.

But what I do remember is the overwhelming journey of coming back to consciousness.

Unlike most common people (including me before actually experiencing it) might describe it, general anaesthesia is much more a deal than just getting ‘switched off’ by doctors for some time.

Figuratively speaking, I would describe it as the way a night transitions into the infant rays of the morning; only not this pleasant. This ‘night’ is stormy, longer than usual and the light comes with a lot of chaos.

My operation was completed in three and a half hours.

The earliest memory of my sensory rebirth was hearing this loud beeping sound of the OR.

Now when I say hearing, it was a lot different from the usual vibration, clarity, intensity with which we sense sound. These beeping sounds were blur, as if coming from a distance and not from the same 120 square feet operation room where I was laid, well at least part of me was.

I tried hard to process the status of my life – honestly, “Is it there or gone?”

 Because 1) I didn’t feel myself breathe 2) I, a born Hindu girl has listened to this idea of death all her life, that says your ‘atma’ (the soul) travels to heaven once it departs from your body. I, a general non-believer of Hinduism was sensing as if I am floating in the operation room, right above where my body is placed. So, has my soul started its journey already?

Just after this, I believe I gained some more negligible decimal percentage of sense. My very vague surmise was that something had gone wrong, because I could sense the doctors move hastily and in anxiety doing one thing after another. In the moment next, I felt one of them rubbing the left part of my chest very fast. They were talking among themselves, which came to my ears as loud, unintelligible chaotic flow of a war like distant, haphazard sound. (I wish I had more words in expressing this.)

After this better half of the minute when I could feel a hand on my chest, I was gone again. This time, direly wanting to come back.

‘I’ started floating again. Or maybe, drifting? like a leaf carried here and there by unsettling air till it gets tired, wants to return home.

I too was actually “carried” to my dear ones as I drifted and drifted.

I started dreaming that my dearest ones are just around my operation table, everyone dressed in white for some reason. I never knew the intricate biases that we are fed all our lives can leave their impression even in such a time when our brain hardly works – all my life I have seen Hindus coming to funerals wearing white, hence the intense colour decision.

I do not trust myself of being able to fully convey the intensity and realism of the dream to the readers but I can only try.

 So, all my dear ones surrounding my operation table, are in the happiest of their moods. All wearing white, decorating corners with flowers that even carried real smell into my nose. Everyone in gay and rainbow as if nobody cares if I die.

I saw myself asking to them, “What would happen to all of you if I have to go?”

They responded in unison, with the happiness uninterrupted, “We will go to the Chinese restaurant after you leave. These things happen, some of us come, some go. You can go, no problem.”

Immediately after responding, they went back into talking among themselves not including or worrying about me.

I now asked everyone individually, “Will you be doing just fine without me?”

I received same comforting response from everybody but their gestures were different depending on what kind of relationship I share individually with them. Some hugged, some kissed on the cheek, some caressed and so on.

The ‘floating’ me was equally relieved and pained. Relieved because whenever we consciously think about our death, we start looking at the corners of our home and imagine those without us. In the process, consciously or subconsciously we are highly empathetic to our loved ones, trying to imagine what would they be like without us sitting on the other chair beside them, what would they talk about if they don’t have to console us about the way our boss behaved the other day? Who would they cook a new recipe for? Who would they come to when they need a shoulder to just lean on? Who would they be as persons if we are not in their daily lives?

These deep-rooted concerns got imaginary positive assurance.

And pained because somehow in the dream I wanted more attention if I am finally going.

The dream continued to the part where with everyone’s consent, I finally turned back and took one step, in front of me lies as if a vast Nothingness. I was contented, as if leaving nothing behind to ever want to be drawn back to. No sadness, no guilt, no unfinished word. Same noisy voices guided me as I walked, one of the blur voices asked, “is this why they call it the Ultimate Rest?”

This is where the dream stopped and I started feeling more like I was going to wake up from sleep.

As I type these now, sitting on my usual sick-bed, after twenty-five days of the episode, this is triggering.

I slowly came back to my senses. First, I could see – although blur. Then I tried moving my finger – of course I couldn’t sense it  but it is there still, as a living part of my own body. With great difficulty and hazy sight, I tried looking horizontally downwards at the rest of my body so as to ensure it’s still there, attached to my head. For the first time since I am born, I couldn’t recognize my body. It resembled that of a dead person, laid on back, arms perfectly straight, feet falling symmetrically open to either side, zero tension in all of the muscles.

This was the moment when my two selves did the final talking to each other –

“Did you just come back? Did you just make it into living again?”

“I don’t know, I think I did”

“You won’t leave, right?’

“Not sure right now, let’s see, I am okay with both.”

One of my fingers moved suddenly in the middle of the ‘final talk’! So did my one whole arm, then the second and leg, and…

I had gotten my body back.

The body that was cut and stitched and stapled here and there, but at least present.

I was carried to the general ward where I could see my parents, sister, uncle – who just bid me goodbye in white clothes a while ago. Wish I could make someone understand how overwhelming it was to see them, again, after almost believing I wouldn’t.

The doctors reported some sort of a mild respiratory depression that made me experience the bumpy journey from an otherwise safe anaesthesia to consciousness; everything started making sense little by little with this report. Till now, if I think about it, it unfolds one or the other new thoughts and emotions in me about the three and a half hours.

Life does happen in mysterious ways; as long as it happens…

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