I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation in January 2017, following a routine physical examination.....I was completely asymptomatic on diagnosis.
I was a healthy, active middle-aged professional with no previous history of chronic conditions. Unfortunately, my cardiology team was having difficulty finding a single medication to bring my heart rate below 100bpm.
On September 3, 2017 we began a trial of two medications to attempt to reduce my heart rate.
On the morning of September 4th, I collapsed at home and was transferred to our tertiary cardiac centre, where on admission my heart rate was 18 bpm and O2 saturation was 79%. I was in complete cardiac failure, and other vital organs (liver and kidney) were shutting down. My husband was told there was slim chance for survival and that the cardiac team was on standby to put me on a heart-lung machine while awaiting a heart transplant.
During the ambulance transfer and the first ~20 minutes of care in the ER, I was highly distressed, not able to breathe and imploring to the staff to "help me." During this time I remember vividly all of the interactions with the staff and medical team (exemplary) and the interventions, but at one point while I was stabilizing, I obviously lost consciousness and experienced the following vision:
I was quietly observing a beautiful early morning fall day ... there was a bit of ground mist shining through beautiful golden sunlight...There was a vast forest of birch trees where the wind was gently blowing. I remember observing the beauty and tranquility of the vision....it was reassuringly peaceful.
Then everything went dark. ....As I gained consciousness...everything was black and murky... I had a pleasant sense of effortlessly and powerfully swimming to the surface of a deep lake. Once to the surface, I had an incredibly overwhelming feeling of serenity and tranquility, like nothing I've experienced previously.
I was sent to ICU and CCU to recover; once stabilized on medication, I was discharged within 6 days. That said, it’s taken me a year to even begin to fully process what I experienced...The day I was discharged from CCU, I immediately went back to work...within a week of the incident I was travelling and presenting at a national palliative care conference; moreover I did not readily share my story with colleagues.
With further reflection this past year, I made a decision to resign from my position and will be taking time to reflect and pursue my passion and interests...No surprise that hiking is high on the list.
I have also begun to talk to colleagues and acquaintances about my health crisis - though I definitely do not include the near-death experience. Frankly, the notification of the IANDS NDE speaker in Vancouver was the catalyst for submitting my information.
Lastly, I am very curious to know how my experience resonates with other individuals who have had an NDE.