My Brush With Death

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Gregori Rasputin
Grigori Rasputin

Last year I had a severe bout of pneumonia, combined with a staph infection which caused my heart to go into an irregular rhythm called A-fib. I wrote about it in an email to my friend VJ:

There was an incident during my two weeks of intensive care that I thought might beĀ  of interest. I had lots of electrodes taped to my body and a monitor that I carried around on my walks, which registered wild fluctuations in my heart rate– 80, 120, 150, 100, 110. And if one of the electrodes came off, the guys in some room somewhere would tell the nurse and she or he would reattach it.

The A-fib altered the vocabulary and the architecture of my dreams. Dreams have a vocabulary, tho it cannot be translated into any human language, and an architecture — hallways, streets, tunnels, and elevators – which become familiar to the dreamer over many years. Mine was completely altered and I felt I was going mad. I awoke one morning convinced I was on a battlefield of the Revolutionary War, and I urged the nurses to go help others whose need was greater.

My only link to reality at times were certain tv shows with familiar characters and theme songs.

One day I met a nice old Scottish gentlemen volunteer who took me by the arm as we walked about. His kindness moved me deeply, so that I almost wept.

The boys in the backroom told me later that while I walked with him, my heart reverted to a normal (sinus) rhythm.

Anecdotal evidence of the power of kindness.

This reminded me of how Rasputin was able to control the bouts of internal bleeding of the Tsar Nicholas’ hemophiliac son, which is pretty well documented. He reassured the boy, as the old Scottish gentleman reassured me.

On one occasion, Rasputin even stopped the tsarevich’s bleeding over the telephone, telling Tsarina Alexandra that the boy would be ok. Perhaps he reassured the mother, who. because of her faith in Rasputin, was able to reassure the child. All this is from Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie, whose son suffered from hemophilia.