On 10 June 2021, I was sitting in my lounge chair watching the evening news when, by some mysterious process, I found myself in a lovely and very comfortable place.
However, my memory has been completely erased as to why I liked it so much, including all visual and sensory recollections, except the very distant but recognizable voice of my wife, Carol, saying "Charles, wake up." I decided to ignore her since I didn't want to leave this wonderful "wherever." Carol repeated herself, and I heard her more clearly. Again, I chose to ignore her summons. She repeated herself a third time and I thought to myself that I better do as I was told.
I came to my senses finding my arms moving up and down and my head shaking. I promptly willed my body to stop these strange spasmodic movements characteristic, I have been told, of a “situational clonic seizure.” Incidentally, during my period of "unconsciousness," which lasted only about a minute or less, my eyes were open but rolled back so that only the whites were showing. I might add that this was the only seizure I have experienced in all my 82 years.
Now that I was lucid, Carol asked me how I felt. Naturally, I said I felt fine, just as someone who falls six feet off a ladder might automatically, but falsely, reply. Nonetheless, there was no ambiguity regarding our immediate decision to head to the emergency room at Keesler Air Force Base Medical Center (15 minutes away).
Luckily, I was able to be seen immediately. As my pulse was only 30 beats per minute, the screening nurse freaked out and before I knew it, I was being wheeled into surgery with a presumed complete heart block (the heart's natural electrical pacemaker [SA node] inside the right atrium had run amok and was not conducting regular impulses to the lower ventricles). On the way to the operating room a physician asked me if I wanted resuscitation in case they "started to lose" me. I meekly replied: "Yes please." However, in all honesty, the concept of returning to that mystical and delightful place was very appealing.
The next two hours were a blur of painful cardioversion shocks, catheters entering my vascular system and heart, lots of morphine and slicing into my left upper chest. Total anesthesia was not medically appropriate. Finally, when I was wheeled into the intensive care unit close to midnight, I had a brand new titanium pacemaker flawlessly lavishing my formally chaotic heart with reliable impulses transmitted in the mid-sixties range every minute.
Apparently the operation went flawlessly, and I was complimented as being a model patient. They let me out of the ICU the next afternoon. The pacemaker has been designed to function for at least 10 years, but I will eventually need a new unit as battery replacement is not an option--should I be lucky enough to live long enough to need a swap-out.
I saw my cardiologist soon after the surgery, and he assured me that I can resume all normal physical activities to include sports, not that I have any such activities that need
resuming. Currently, I am fine and do not feel encumbered in any way. Travel is not a problem, though I have the documented privilege of bypassing all metal screeners.
My only question is, where was I during that mysterious minute on the evening of 10 July? A near-death experience? I am convinced it was.