Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Saturday 19 November 1994 - the day I nearly died

Snappy title for a post, eh? I should explain I am a devoted stalker of Belgian Waffle and her post of 10 March dealt with a ludicrous what-you-should've-done-by-a-certain-age article in The Times. It was agreed that the list was crap and Ms Waffle made her own suggestions and us stalkers added our own. I included a few things that have happened to me (I didn't include the stealing stuff, getting tattooed and busking for money in the streets - my father was shocked and deemed it 'begging'; we called it getting paid to practice) but more information has now been demanded. So I chose the most dramatic of my list - nearly dying.

At the time of the incident I was separated (but not yet divorced) from my first husband (The Artist) and living with my future second husband (P or The Husband) and, for the first time in my life, I kept a diary for a couple of years to document what I knew would be a time of upheaval for me. I'm quite glad I did because now I can just type in the entry without having to remember it - and there's some stuff I'd forgotten.


Sun 20 Nov 94

I owe my life to P today. He literally saved my life yesterday. To explain - yesterday was the first Saturday or Sunday in ages when it wasn't raining. The landlord has to come over before we move out to check it over so we can have the deposit back but the grass really needed a good cut so we got the Flymo out. I pointed out to P the crap arrangement that the landlord had wired up. There was like a 2-pronged half which fitted into a female half. On the male half is actually embossed into the plastic "to be fitted to the appliance" (which, of course, it wasn't), it was attached to the mains. I finished off doing the lawn - although it wasn't raining the ground was soaking wet. I pulled the 2 parts apart & one of the metal prongs touched my hand.

I felt it fizzing and of course by the time I realised what was going on and that I was being electrocuted, I couldn't let go, my hand had cramped up around it. All I could do was shriek. P said he looked up [he was trimming the long grass at the edge with shears at the time] and saw me going over and realised it wasn't a gag. I felt it fizzing in my hand and going up my arm, it passed down the left hand side of my body and into the ground. My body went completely rigid, although I could still cry out, which I did constantly while falling down and lying on the ground. I couldn't stand up any more and was literally just poleaxed, fell rigid, like a plank, down. Landed hard on my bum, bruising my coccyx and cracking the back of my head open on the corner of a low brick wall on the way down.

I was still shrieking while lying on the wet grass, still attached to the mains lead. I remember P running by me and whipping the lead out of my hand which stopped the fizzing and intense cramping. I lay there for a bit, wondering if I was still alive or if anything hurt. P came to me, asking if I was alright, if I was hurt. I didn't lose consciousness, just trying to gather my wits about me really, feeling very, very shaky, aware that I'd cracked my head badly but that I was all in one piece and still alive, a bit stunned and more than a bit shocked but still here.

P asked me if I felt dizzy or sick, which I didn't, but I told him to put me into the recovery position for a moment, which he did. I lay there for a moment, quiet. P said to keep talking to him, I told him I was fine, I was okay.

P gently helped me to sit up and asked if my head was bleeding - I could see something dripping onto my legs, put my hand up to the back of my head and it came away red. P said, "yeah, you're bleeding, we'd better get you to a doctor - can you make it to the car?" I reckoned so. He helped me up and I found I couldn't walk properly, my muscles had cramped up to such an extent that my calf muscles - especially the left one - was completely solid and knotted up, I couldn't bend it in order to walk, I could only hobble. I sat on the chair in the conservatory while I got P to pack me an overnight bag just in case the hospital wanted to keep me in overnight. He got a wet towel to hold against my head to staunch the bleeding. I got into the car rather gingerly, still feeling somewhat blasted and dazed, and P belted down the Hog's Back to get me to A&E at the Royal Surrey. Funny - I wasn't in any kind of pain, the electrocution itself didn't even hurt, it was more of a very strong sensation really. It all took about half an hour - got sparked at about 1.30 and we got to the hospital at around 2.

We registered with the receptionist who took my details. A male nurse came along within a minute or two and took some more details of exactly what happened. Forgot to mention that I got a burn on the palm of my left hand that they confirmed was full thickness. The nurse tapped it with his fingernail and I confirmed I couldn't feel anything - this was because the nerve endings had been cauterised, which was quite good really as far as I was concerned because burns can be very painful. He then took me through to the treatment room, with P, and put me up on a trolley with the curtains pulled round. There was some poor old duck opposite who, I think, must've had Alzheimer's or something because she was bibbling away but she'd done something to her leg and was howling whenever they tried to move her.

The male nurse looked into my eyes to check them out, they were okay. He said they wanted to do an ECG because electric shock can alter the conductivity of the heart. The doctor would then come along, he said, check me out and then they'd look me over, check my head wound, etc. They then left us alone for a bit. My coccyx started to ache now and I felt uncomfortable on the trolley. I told the nurse earlier that my muscles had cramped big-time and he said I'd had the equivalent of four pints of adrenaline pumped through me so it wasn't surprising. Someone came into the cubicle next to us who'd been transferred down from Basingstoke who'd taken a hit in the face and suffered a fracture of the eye socket - nasty! Someone else next to me had cut himself on a brand new Stanley knife blade.

Eventually a machine turned up to do my ECG - unfortunately it didn't go 'ping'. The machine that didn't go 'ping'! I had to take off my top (which was pretty heavily blood-stained) and my bra. Half a dozen sticky pads were attached on various parts and wire with crocodile clips were added. The machine ran for about 15 seconds or so, printing out a trace (of which I have a copy) [lost now, though] and off they went. I put a gown on and got P to put a blanket over my feet 'cos they were so cold. I was pretty uncomfortable and leaving a lot of blood stains all over the pillow.

A doctor turned up, looked at my notes, confirmed the ECG trace was okay, looked at the burn, said she'd get a nurse to clean up my head wound (after looking at it she said it was quite small and wouldn't need stitching or anything but the nurse may want to glue(!) it). A nurse then came along and cleaned it up and looked how deep it was. Said she'd glue it. I found out from The Artist later [who had worked in a hospital in a previous existence] that they actually use Superglue now! Stung a tiny bit when she put it in but, frankly, I've had more painful acupuncture.

The nurse let me have photocopies of my notes and the ECG and we left. Took 2 hours altogether. Hobbled back to the car, came home, phoned my mum to see if she'd 'picked up' anything from me [my mother has always, all my life, somehow, psychically known when something bad has happened to me - it's weird]. She said not specifically but she'd been bombing around unexpectedly on adrenaline all afternoon and just before I rang she'd been wondering why she felt so stff down her left hand side! She was very concerned when I told her what had happened but I said I'd still come over later to see her, as arranged. I wasn't in any pain other than a sore head and quite a lot of immobility due to muscle stiffness. I then rang The Artist and left a message on his ansafone telling him that P had saved my life. I then went upstairs and climbed into bed as the adrenaline was wearing off and I was starting to feel very tired.

[After a kip], we then went off to my mother's and got in through the door just as my brother and his [then] girlfriend had told her that the girlfriend was 4.5 months pregnant! They didn't know about my accident as mum hadn't had the time to tell them yet. Poor mum - 2 big shocks in one day - the near-loss of a daughter and the announcement of a first grandchild!

Then the lottery was announced and both me and my brother had won a tenner each!

I spoke to The Artist from mum's and he was very shaken by what had happened to me. He said to offer his thanks to P for saving my life - I'd have definitely died if he'd not been there if, for instance, he'd been making tea, having a nap or on the loo.

Overall, quite a remarkable day. Obviously it wasn't my time to die. P asked me, when I was in Casualty, whether I was frightened. No, I wasn't at all, at any time. I wasn't frightened in the hospital because I knew it was the right place to be and I was in safe hands, I had a full complement of limbs, everyone said the head wound was small so I knew they weren't going to stitch it, I landed first on the grass so I knew my coccyx was unlikely to be broken, just bruised, and my heart had felt okay even before the ECG, so I knew I was going to be okay.

I didn't feel frightened while I was being zapped, more helpless than anything. It didn't hurt at all. The only way I can describe the sensation was 'familiar' for want of a better word. It was not dissimilar to what I had felt when I fainted [which I had done once before a couple of months previously] - a kind of fizzing that moved along the body and built up - an intense pins and needles sensation. Both P and I were very calm throughout the whole incident, there was absolutely no panic. P said afterwards that it'd worried him and while I was gingerly bending over the bath rinsing my bloodied clothes and the towel in cold water, he came up and give me a big hug from behind and said he was glad I was still here.

I'd by lying to myself if I said it hadn't shaken me at all, because it has, although I don't know how yet. I know I could've died if the situation had been different, but I don't know quite how close to death I was. I'm just glad that someone up there likes me at the moment.


And that, dear hearts, concludes the tale of how I nearly died. Congratulations if you read to the end. I was fortunately left with nothing worse than a small circular scar on my left palm (the white arrow is pointing to it and, yes, there is a large black and white cat in the picture as well, just for added interest) and a tailbone that still aches every now and then.

Now, anyone else want to share their near-death experiences???!????


Calico Kate said...

Kerricky! Well done the P for being there and not elsewhere.

velocibadgergirl said...

Wowza! That's a crazy near-miss. I posted my nearly near-death experience over on Whoopee, since it was nearly the same story as hers, but with less lovely teenage boys and beautiful countryside ;)

livesbythewoods said...

Blimey. I thought my "slicing through the cable of the hedgecutter" story was bad. Glad you survived it.

SE said...

I was the third person the Mayo Clinic put on a new drug, just approved by the FDA.

It was so strong, they measured my hear beat every 8 hours to see how long my heart beat was and if it got longer than 500 miliseconds, they would half my dose. It a heart beat takes too long to complete, it will eventually (sooner rather than later) trip up, spin out and then stop forever. This drug causes a particular spin out called Toursades des Pointes, a ventricular arrhythmia.

I hit 503ms and they backed down my dose. But the next morning, the team of doctors arrived by my bed to say that they wanted to try again b/c they didn't think half would work for me. My heart rate 497ms and we cheered. I went home.

A few weeks later, I accidentally took two of them at the same time. Double dose. I called my cardiologist and she said go to the ER (urgent care in the UK I think) packed a bag, ate a sandwich, called my husband who was out of town, and took a cab the 8 blocks to my hospital. I told them what happened and they said "When?" I told them and they said "What took you so long?" I said since my peak plasma level wasn't for three hours, I figured I'd have time to eat and I knew they wouldn't let me eat when I arrived. They were agog. I was pretty blase about the possible impending doom. But really, I just couldn't let myself think about it or I'd go crazy.

I spent the night hooked up to the defibrillator (Paddles! Clear!) and a syringe full of something magical to reverse a heart attack (I think it was magnesium).

I held my breath until the clock hit 11, the moment the drug hit "peak plasma level" -- (when the drug was totally absorbed by my body) and when I would die if I was going to die, most likely.

I relaxed a little after that, but they obviously kept me overnight in the ICU. It was too risky to be anywhere else, even a regular hospital room.

My heart rate dropped to 40 for a while, but that was the worst of it. I went home the next morning and worked out a detailed medication tracking system so it would never happen again.