At this point in 2020, I think it's appropriate I finally write about the two different times I've been seconds from death. Both of these instances of near-fatality were due to respiratory complications.
You can see why I'm very serious about masks, sanitation protocols, and staying away from people now, yes? Let me reiterate - I've almost died twice now thanks to breathing. The irony of a pandemic that kills us through a virus of (primarily) the lungs has hit me mentally, and anyone who's been through what I have, like a truck.
When I was 21 to 22 I lived in an apartment that had a well hidden, but very serious black mold problem. Having zero respiratory or other underlying health issues my whole life until moving into that apartment, I had no idea that I was slowly becoming more asthmatic every time I slept in the bedroom there. I only lived there from June to December of 2005, and that amount of time caused what follows.
The bedroom was in the basement level of an historic train station, however by the early 2000's it was made of brick and mold more than anything. I moved out from that apartment with a cold that wouldn't quit, and feeling like I was getting tight in my chest every time I'd try to go to bed or fall asleep. Yet, with zero asthma in my life or medical history, I didn't know what it was I was experiencing, and it wasn't severe enough to even think to see someone about it.
Flash forward to April, 3 months after moving out of the moldfest, living temporarily with a friend (no breathing issues there), and then moving home to my parent's house. The mild cold symptoms I'd had at that moldy apartment had evolved to a full-on flu. I moved home while sick, and was feeling on the mend by a few days later when my parents asked if I'd wanted to come outside and help with yard work. Being the generally lazy, late-sleeping, college grad I was, I felt obligated to help and so went out back of the house and used the leaf blower to round up Spring piles of rotten leaves.
Well what's in those leaves in April? Mold. Lots of it.
I breathed in enough of it, by that evening I felt a strange pain, a soreness in the entirety of my shoulders neck and chest, and a strange sensation that felt like Rice Krispies when I pressed on my skin. That seemed new and unnerving, but when I showed my mom she insisted I had pulled a muscle. I hadn't pulled any muscles and hadn't exerted myself severely at all. I held a leaf blower, that's hardly "yard work". By late evening I was gasping for breath, sitting alone in my bedroom while my parents went to bed around 10pm.
You have to be wondering what my mother and father are thinking at this point, I'm sure. Why did I not tell them I thought something much worse was going on and I was getting scared? Oh folks, I wish I could Hollywood reenact this scene, it's almost impossible to believe. My parents, my intelligent, college educated parents DID NOT BELIEVE ME. I've never been overdramatic, or melodramatic, and I often react quite emotionally, it's not with unfounded reason. My mother has a fear of doctors which is very real, and very detrimental to her and ultimately in this case, my health. And my life. This was in 2006, cell phones existed as flip phones and mine was dead, across the room from where I sat on a futon, breathing with my arms up over my head, and wondering how long I had until I'd pass out, or this "episode" would pass. I had no idea what was happening to my body, keep in mind. No one in my family ever used an inhaler and asthma was an abstraction at that point.
When I say I couldn't even get up to get the phone, to charge it, plug it in and call 911, I mean I was that fatigued and my breathing was that labored, I could. Not. Speak. A. Sentence. I sounded like the wheelchair-bound boy on Malcolm In The Middle, and that's no exaggeration. My parents were asleep by 2am as I continued to sit in my room, their reassurances long past and my terror amplifying exponentially as the minutes ticked by. I have never felt the fight or flight feeling so strong and so visceral as I did at 3am when I finally decided I have to get up, get to my mom's room, and get them to take me to the hospital.
I couldn't even cry, or scream, or express any emotion, as it took the wind out of me even more, but I conveyed that I'm not okay and they...relented? I suppose? I don't know if you've ever had the wind knocked out of you before, by accident, by falling or getting hit so hard you lose your air - but if you have, imagine that feeling, but CONSTANT. Terror doesn't feel like you imagine it would. Fear of dying doesn't feel like you imagine it would. That fleeting instant of realization you acquire just by imagining the plight of someone else's terror - that does not scratch the surface of the feeling of immanent death. I don't have the words to fully articulate that.
My parents drove me to the ER of St. Peter's Hospital in Albany, NY at 3am in the morning. I was so close to passing out and losing oxygen to my brain, the doctors wondered why I hadn't arrived at the ER sooner. I heard a nurse yelling at my parents over the severity of what was going on. Basically, I was within minutes of losing consciousness at any point and going brain dead. As in, life support until someone decides I need to go. As in, maybe never waking up. I spent a week in the ICU with subcutaneous emphysema - a condition usually diagnosed in patients over 75 years old. It's basically holes in the lungs. My skin felt weird and sore because it was full of the oxygen leaking out of small holes in my lungs over the course of that day and evening. Yes, I was diagnosed with asthma after that and treated successfully and efficiently. I've since been un-diagnosed, as it were, due to taking care of myself and not, you know, breathing in mold spores.
I almost died.
And that was the first time.
I was conscious through all of it. While receiving O2 at long last, I was told at one point to prepare for a possible chest tube (while conscious, I cannot express to you what I would have done to fight that process), and terrified of dying. I can still describe and recall the feeling of fight or flight. It's a rise in adrenaline that does not abate like being startled. That sudden rush of chemical when you hear a loud sound? Imagine that - but it doesn't fade and your body doesn't calm down. It's what propelled me off the futon in my bedroom and into my mom's room, it's what kept me breathing in the car to the hospital, the longest 15 minute ride of my life. It's what kept me upright in the waiting room of the hospital - yes, they made me wait because I was so sluggish they didn't realize I was already several hours into drowning in my lungs.
Dying from an asthma attack can take a long time, and you feel every millisecond.
I'll discuss the second NDE next time, and give the insight as to why each of these experiences, nearly a decade apart, changed the way I thought about the paranormal.
WEAR A MASK! VOTE! BLACK LIVES MATTER!
Thanks for reading,