When I nearly died last year I was surrounded by panic and haste, a sense that something very wrong was happening and that I was about to commit some atrocity. . Everybody else was in a panic, yet I felt calm. As I was wheeled down the obligatory brightly-lit corridor by a ranting medical team with blood coursing out of me I remember wondering what all the fuss was about.
For most people death is such a scary thing. And of course it’s only natural to be frightened and fight for our mortality when the need arises. And when our loved ones die we are terribly bereaved as the recent deaths of Heath Ledger and Paddy McGuinness have demonstrated.. But the hysteria that surrounds death really doesn’t help us come to terms with it, which indeed we all eventually must. The medical team that surrounded me that day were in such a state of apoplexy, screaming at each other, shouting into my face that it’s a wonder I didn’t respond in kind and cark it there and then. They were asking me to calm down. When somebody yelled at me that the general anaesthetic was about to be administered, I remember feeling enormously relieved as they had all become highly irritating. Sounds ungrateful doesn’t it? I’ll always be thankful for what that wonderful team did that night. It’s just a comment on the whole societal pressure put on us to not die, as if it’s fundamentally wrong. I mean, if the medical team is freaking out I knew I must really be in the shit. But to my mind the attitude is all wrong. Many non-Western cultures don’t carry on like this. Take Korea for example. At the time of a loved one’s death they silently and peacefully wait for the moment of fate (the wailing comes afterwards). That sounds good to me.
In hospital they called me the miracle woman. I was visited daily by a myriad of specialists who would stand at the foot of my bed and whisper to each other. At night a midwife with a gold cross suspended around her neck asked in a whisper if I had had a near-death experience (I hadn’t) and if there had been any light (there wasn’t). It seems everyone wants to get closer to death, but only as a spectator. Why else would all the medical dramas on television be so popular? if you’re definitely going to die and it’s more than likely not going to be half as exciting as it is on ‘ER’. And even if it is, trust me, you’re probably going to wish they’d all just shut up so you can get a bit of rest.
But before I tell my little tale, just a word to all the pregnant women out there who are about to read this. Don’t worry about this happening to you. It was a one in a bazillion thing that happened and as I was the bazillionth, you’re off the hook. Gynaecologists who had been gynaecologising since Mary was in a manger scratched their bald pates when they saw me and proclaimed they’d never seen anything like it.
I was giving birth. And it was all going swimmingly well. My baby was out, a perfectly red eight pounder who was enthusiastically exercising his right to yell. The doctor looked at me. Frowned. I heard him murmur that there was a lot of blood. Then I heard a ‘Code Blue’ being announced over the PA system. As I worked in the hospital sector in a previous life I knew what that meant. Oh crap, I thought as a seething mass streamed into the room and fell on me. But I wasn’t half as worried as they appeared to be. There was no pain. My baby was out. Why were these people panicking? Finally I was unconscious. When I came to I had so many tubes attached to me I could barely wiggle my toes. And I was in another room, heck, I was in another hospital. Still no pain. What had happened? An inverted uterus followed by massive haemorrhaging, five litres of blood and four hours of surgery resulting in an emergency hysterectomy. Pretty impressive really. I am the miracle woman. And I never did feel any pain, even when days later the nurses realized they’d forgotten to open the valve to my self-administering pain relief. I lost my fear of dying that day and a magnificent little boy came into my life. A good day’s work really.