That time I almost died and how it changed my life

When I was 12 years old, I almost died. Something happened to me toward the end and it changed my life forever. I have only told this story to 5 people - my husband, my 2 kids, my 94 year old friend, and my husband's aunt - in that order.

I told my 94 year old friend last summer because she was grappling with her own mortality after the loss of her husband and I thought she might gain something from my experience.  She did and she is no longer afraid.
I told my husband's aunt last summer - for similar reasons. She is a very spiritually open person, often ridiculed by our tight laced evangelical family - and I felt like she deserved to know that her understanding is probably a lot closer to the truth than those that mock her.

I never intended to tell anyone else. My daughter approached me last night and told me she thought I should share my story.  I explained to her why I didn't want to, and we worked out a solution. Why didn't I want to share the story? Because I didn't want to profit from the story. That may not make sense as you peruse through his blog and find affiliate links, articles on how to make money, and advertisements.

The thing is, I like to make money. I am a little obsessed. It's a disease. I am this way because I knew money was my key to freedom, and it's hard to stop that train of thought. What happened to me all those years ago - and many other things that have happened since are gifts. I do not want to abuse the connection I've had to the spirit realm.

So here was the deal: I would write about it just to put it out there. Maybe someone would find this and it would help them, but I would not "hype the article." I would not add affiliate links or SEO tag words. I would just type it up. I would not add all my stories and write a book. I would not make money from the experience!

I'm still a little uneasy about it and this article may disappear at anytime. Until then - here is my story.

First - a little background. I grew up in a harsh environment. My parents were high school drop-outs that got pregnant and married at 15. My dad was verbally and physically abusive. Our family never got above the poverty level and we lived among all manners of hardship and vice. Lots of bad things happened.

I never felt like I belonged to my family and I ran away a lot. I would run away to the forest mostly. I ate wild food, fished in the stream, climbed trees, and spent hours contemplating my final escape. I came to the conclusion that I needed money and a job - in that order. With money I could get an apartment, then I would have an address to get a job and so on and so forth. I became big on making and saving money - I picked up cans, I collected and sold agates, I babysat, I made crafts to sell, I mowed lawns, and I cleaned offices. I hustled. And I saved.

But I was also an asshole. Maybe it's because my dad was an asshole. Maybe it was the only way to "survive." I don't know, but I'm really embarrassed by my childhood - on so many levels. I had many run-ins with the law, I picked fights, and never did my school work.

My elementary report card was full of F's. Almost all F's and an A in math. I loved math. I did the math homework because it was fun and ignored all the rest because it didn't matter to me.

The summer after 3rd grade, my mom came into my room and announced that I would NOT be going outside (in fact I would not be leaving the room!) until I read through a big stack of books she had checked out from the library. I protested and tried to escape. No dice.

My children love this part of the story. It's hilarious to them that I was fired from going outside since they are often fired from various "screens" and forced to go outside!

For the first few days, I moped around feeling sorry myself. And then I started reading. The first book I ever read was Ramona Quimby Age 8. I think it helped that I was also 8, and that Ramona was a fiesty trouble maker  - but I loved that book. Love, loved it. And I quickly made it through the rest of the stack.

I was now hooked on reading. I bring this up because its somewhat relevant later on. Now, I bet you are wondering how all that reading effected my grades. Did I become an academic superstar? No. I paid attention not to get Fs anymore (since my mom was serious about enforcing unexpected punishments for that sort of grade) but I basically got grades all over the map As, Bs, Cs and Ds. An A in math of course, but everything else was random.

I still didn't care about school at all, but I did spend less time outside. In some ways, I kind of forgot about my outside life, which was kind of a big deal. I was always in the wild - wandering, thinking, experimenting, eating. It's part of my "essence" - what makes me "me."

I had decided at a very young age that I wanted to be a biochemist - that I wanted to cure cancer. There is no known source for this desire. I did'nt know anyone with cancer. I don't know how I even knew cancer existed. I just know that I wanted to cure it. I even made early attempts....

So that was a rough overview of my childhood - escaping the home abuse to frolic in the woods, eventually sticking my face into a lot of books, starting fights, witnessing unspeakable events, running from the law, and not giving two shits about school.

Then I started 7th grade. Right away, I got sick. I had a fierce case of pneumonia. It all started with a visit to my grandparents house. We always hated visiting them. I'm not using the pronoun "we" in a gollum/smeagol sort of way - I mean my sibs and I. It was partly because they were angry/mean like my dad, but mostly because their house was a smoke pit. At any given time, there were 2-30 adults continuously smoking (my dad came from a big catholic family.)

Like the brat that I was, I protested about going. I just knew the smoke would make me sick. My parents didn't care. Actually, being a parent myself, I know understand that my parents were immune to my complaints. Being a sensitive person, I could feel any slight difference in my body and often complained about it to them. They did not understand and were annoyed. So I knew right away that I was sick after spending time at their house. I called it in advance, so I might have unwittingly contributed to my own demise.

It got worse. I spent that weekend coughing and wheezing, then went to school Monday morning. The gym teacher announced we were going to run the mile. It was cold and rainy. I just knew I was going to get worse if I ran the mile, so I complained to the teacher. He would have none of it, and I ran/stumbled through the mile. Over that week, I continued to get worse and worse.

I told my mom I needed to see the doctor. She thought I had a cold and was overreacting. Then one night I could not breathe....at.....all..

I somehow got to her and she recognized the severity. She took me to the E.R. This is kind of a big deal since we were super poor and my parents could not afford extra costs like doctor visits.

At the ER, the doctor let into my mother. He actually yelled at her. How could she be so negligent and wait until I wasn't breathing at all before she took me to the doctor. They gave me a lot of medicines. Whatever it was helped my airways open enough that I could breathe. It hurt and it was raspy as hell, but air was getting in!

Then for some reason, they transferred me to the hospital in the neighboring town (by ambulance yo!) and put me through a horrendously painful set of x-rays. I could not stand up straight. Something about the inability to breathe and painful lungs made me walk with a bent back. I don't know the mechanics behind it, but standing straight was extremely painful - holding my breath too - all necessary for the xrays.

The xrays showed that one of my lungs was completely full of gunk and the other almost. That's all I remember about that part. I was 12.

I would stay in the hospital for 14 days. I can only imagine the bill. ER, ambulance, 14 days....oof!

Here is where I'm going to add some historical documents - because they are somewhat relevant to the story and because I've had them for almost 30 years. Might as well whip them out.
These are my fitness grams for 6th and 8th grade. I never got one for 7th because I was in the hospital at the time and apparently the school switched to only doing them at the beginning of the year. These are relevant because when I went into the hospital, I was somewhere between 75-92 pounds. I left under 50.

My daughter is currently 11 and is tracking exactly with my height/weights as a child. So when she hits the big ONE TWO, I will use her weight as an approximation for how much weight I actually lost.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I didn't get better in the hospital - not for the first 11 days anyway. My body refused to let me eat or drink. Anything that went down came right back up. I had two IVs in my arms. One was a lactated ringer and the other a normal saline drip. They put antibiotics into the normal saline bag a couple times a day. They also gave me oxygen, albuterol, and a steroid.

Why do I know this shit? Because I was a prisoner in that bed and could do nothing else - so I read the drip bags over and over again. My veins were too small to keep the IVs in - I had one in each arm and the nurses created a sort of splint  to keep the IVs from pulling out. There was a board under my arm, and it was ferociously wrapped with surgical tape so that I was immobile. I didn't eat or drink and rarely urinated, so you would think immobility was okay.

It wasn't.  I couldn't read, write, or use the tv remote. I had to rely on the nurses to put ice chips in my mouth, put chapstick on me, wash me, change channels, basically everything.  I am fiercely independent (for probably obvious reasons) so this was a humiliating suffering. On top of that of course, I was dying.

Breathing was excruciating - day and night. I could hardly sleep. And I was slowly starving to death. I did not have any feeding tubes, TPN bags or any other form of food.  I'm not sure why. I just didn't.

Like most children, adults didn't really talk "to" me. They talked around me. The doctor talked to my mom about my medicines and prognosis. They took xrays that showed my lungs were not clearing up.

At some point, the nurses made me get out of bed to try to use the bathroom - and they weighed me. The nurse ran out of the room and I heard her discussing my weight with another nurse. I heard the number 50 and a lot of hustle/bustle.

When she came back into my room, she said she wanted to braid my hair. Okay. As she braided me, I asked what she had told the other nurse. "Oh, it just that you've lost a lot of weight, and we are a little concerned"

All the time I was in the hospital I did not feel any hunger. That is the craziest thing to me. The rest of my life has been filled with insatiable hunger - but while I was slowly emaciating - I felt no hunger.

So I had either reached or went under 50 pounds. Nobody ever gave me much information, and I was 12, so I didn't really have a frame of reference for what that meant. I had lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-40% of my body weight.

Somewhere there are pictures of my bony self from those days.

Okay - so around day 11 in the hospital, the doctor told my mom (not me - because I wasn't real) that they had tried pretty much every medicine and nothing was working. Also, they were going to have to start tapering my steroid or I would have no bones left. He would be back to check on me in the morning. There might be one more drug to try but it was really horrible with outrageous side effects. They would talk again in the morning.

My mom looked at me with a lot of grief. She didn't say much to me. In case you were wondering, I don't think my dad ever visited me in the hospital. Maybe he did. I don't remember him. I remember my aunts coming to visit "me" and laughing with my mom about the things I was dealing with (sponge baths, suppositories,etc.) Bitches.

I remember my homeroom teacher and my younger sibs. And I remember the priest. He came at some point on the 11th day. I don't remember anything he said or did. He mostly talked to my mom and dumped holy water on me. It was uneventful - but it meant something.

I got the sense that day that everyone had given up, and so I also gave up. It's not that I was really actively involved in everything that was being done to me, but I guess I realized at that point that I wasn't getting better and I wasn't going to get better.

I was really sick and really tired. I was all alone in my room and I decided to just top trying to breathe. I had been fighting to breathe for so long. It was too hard.

I stopped trying to breathe. Things got really slow and I said "Into your hands I commend my spirit." I was catholic, remember.

The series of events that unfolded next took maybe 1/2 an hour to an hour. During this time I did not struggle to breathe. I don't remember any pain. I was not asleep, but I was not really "here." I would guess it was mostly a meditative state.

I did not see a tunnel of light or beautiful meadows. I did not see angels or people. I didn't see anything at all, and I didn't seem to be disturbed by this. I just "was."

And I was not alone. Someone had answered my request. This someone was not a he/she/angel/Jesus. I did not see them but we communicated with each other.  They were "with" me. I understood the someone to be in charge and of the "spiritual sense." Like a Jesus/angel type but not. I was completely comfortable with this someone and we started talking.

Here is a summary of our discussion. Keep in mind that I was 12.

Me: I am tired and I am ready to go.
Other: Okay, are you sure?
Me: Yes
Silence
Other: What about your mom? Did you say good bye to her?
Me: She will be okay. I don't think I need to say anything to her. She understands that I was really sick.
Other: What about your friends at school?
Me: That will be weird I guess. But I don't really have anything I need to do there.
Other: You never did have a boyfriend, did you?
Me: No
Other: You never kissed a boy...... you aren't going to go to prom.
Me: That's okay.
Other: Didn't you want to do those things?
Me: I guess, but it's okay.
Other: You never got your license. Didn't have your own car.
Me: uh huh.
Other: Okay, well if you are ready we can go
Me: Okay
Silence/Waiting
Other: I really thought you wanted to be a scientist.
Me: I did. *realizing how much I really did want to be a scientist and thinking about it for awhile.*
Other: You didn't become an adult. You didn't have your own house. Your own life, a chance to do things your way. You never got married and had your own family. You won't ever have your own children.
Lots of silence as I am really thinking/regretting these last parts. I am starting to want to take it back. I am wondering if I CAN take it back. It is at this point that I realize the someone can understand all my thoughts and were never actually talking this whole time. We were only thought talking from the beginning. This is the first time I "noticed" because it was just natural to me.
Me: Can I change my mind?
Long silence - almost like having a staring contest with someone waiting to see who blinks first
Other: Of course you can. It's your choice.
I start to feel really happy - excited as I remember all the things I still wanted to do in this life. I kind of want to get away from the someone just in case he is joking with me,  but I also get the sense that he his telling me the truth and will honor what he has said.
Then I remember what I am going back to and I freak out.
Me: But wait. How can I? My body is so sick. I can't keep fighting. I can't live like this anymore.
Other: Okay
Me: How can I get better?
Other: You make all the decisions. It's your choice.
Me: So I can just choose to be better?
Other: If you want to be better, you will be better

This last part was more eloquent than this and it was not verbal so I had a more complete understanding than just "if you want it, you can." I am using words that I have to describe something that is more than just "want."

The someone faded away (or left) and I felt my body smile. I was aware of my body again. And I couldn't breathe again. The same chest pain, the same fight for air, all of it was back.

I went to bed that night knowing I would be better. I also went to bed wanting to be better. With every cell in my body.

I slept rather well - all things considered and in the morning, I pulled the oxygen out of nose. I always hated that tubing. The nurse promptly put it back in. I told her I wanted to have the IVs out and she said I couldn't until I was drinking liquid. I asked for a drink.

She wheeled a tray right under my chin and gave me a glass of water with a straw. It was a white styrofoam cup. The random details we remember....

I drank a little. She said I would have to do more and to call her when I finished the glass. I did and she then required I finish the whole pitcher. I finished it that day, and they removed one of my IVs. My arm was so small and wrinkly. And bruised. I can still smell the tape. Blech.

With only one IV, I could now use  my hand and get out of bed! Woo!!! And I started to produce more urine - which the nurse forced me to collect so she could measure it.

I was consistently removing the oxygen every time the nurse left the room and she eventually got wise to it and just removed it all together.

Things progressed really quickly and there was only one obstacle to me going home. I had to eat and have a bowel movement. Yep.  Hospitals are really cool places.

What would you eat if you hadn't eaten in 14 days?

I asked for a BLT - no mayo, no lettuce.  I never ate mayo, sour cream, whipped cream, or cream cheese as a kid. Or lettuce. I was an alien.

The nurse said it wasn't a menu option but I persisted. She checked with the kitchen and they said okay. I got out of the bed to eat it. I sat in a chair like a normal human being.

It was delicious. Toasted, which was weird for me, but so tomatoey and so good.
Then I had a bowel movement - which was again collected and I went home.

Now, I didn't go home doing cartwheels and miraculously jump back to my previous weight. I went home with a wheezy chest, lots of coughing, a mountain of homework, and lots of medicine.

I eventually threw the medicine away without finishing the bottles, and I slowly got my health back. And my weight. By the start of 8th grade I was up to 92 pounds.

And I never got sick like that again. But that wasn't the only thing that changed.

First - I felt really spiritually connected. I knew that I was loved. I never felt loved in my life. But now I knew for sure that I was. Not by my parents (my mom eventually ran away and my dad went even crazier until he was institutionalized) but really, importantly loved.

I also understood my purpose. What really mattered to me was being my own person and being free. And I wanted to be scientist. So I had goals now. I started doing my homework. I became a straight A student and graduated from college just after I turned 20 with a bachelors degree in biochemistry - summa cum laude.

I stopped getting into fights. I stopped being a complete asshole.

But it was more than that.  For some reason, it became super important to me not to wear glasses. I had worn them since 4th grade (9 years old.)  I decided I would heal my eyes and not wear glasses again. It took a few months but my vision got better.

I told my mom I didn't need glasses anymore. She didn't believe me so I proved it to her and when she took me to the eye doctor my vision was 20/20.

I didn't need glasses again until 10th grade. At that point, I learned about contacts and didn't seem to care as much. I was lazy. I didn't attempt to heal my eyes again - and eventually got lasik at 29.

But I did heal myself again at the end that year (still 12.) Not long after I was discharged from the hospital, my dad lost his job. And he pretty much never got a full time job again. So we no longer had insurance, money, cars.....

Anyway - it just so happened that I was missing a tooth in my mouth. My jaw was really misaligned due to being hit in the face with a golf club....and if that tooth didn't come down, the other teeth would crowd over and I wouldn't be able to close my mouth correctly, eat, etc.

I would need super expensive braces. We were barely scraping by - my parents could not afford braces, let alone fancy ones. My mom set up the orthodontic appointment - a few months ahead. I worked on getting that tooth down - "wanting" it down - "praying" it down. It's very hard to explain what I mean by wanting something.

I need to really want it. Every cell in my body needs to want it. And my spirit has to agree. For example, my husband knows everything that has happened in my life (plus way more than I am going to write here) and he wants me to "want" to win the lottery. I am fine with winning the lottery. It would add some excitement to my life and solve some problems, but my spirit doesn't want it. I don't want it with everything I have. Damn

But I did want to save my parents from getting me braces. My mom was so stressed over it. She was already stretched to the max and had to get a job. She also took in children to watch, was sewing clothes for people, and bartering for food. She had a lot on her plate.

So I worked at it. And nothing happened. I didn't stop because I knew I could fix this. The morning of the orthodontic appointment, a felt a little poking tip of the tooth erupting from the gums. I ran in to tell my mom and she called right away to cancel the appointment. Hurrah.

So some of these things are "petty" and I certainly haven't cured all my ills in this life - but I was 12, and these are the things that were important to me at the time. And this is when I was fresh off the experience so I was "in the moment" you might say.

I wasn't able to get my dad his job back. I wasn't able to prevent my mom from running away. And as noted above - I eventually got bad eye sight again.

And I didn't try to fix it. Maybe I got dragged down with the world and stopped believing. Or stopped thinking about it. It's easy to get distracted by life.

As a former Catholic - I have read the Bible many times - cover to cover - and the most irritating part of the Bible to me (besides the long lists of genealogy) was the fact that the Isrealites experienced miracles first hand yet always went back to unbelieving. I would get so annoyed with them. They ate freaking manna from heaven, but then made golden cows. Idiots. Well - I know realize that I was/am an Israelite.  I was given an amazing gift - and part of it always stuck with me - but how quickly I would forget.

My whole life changed at 12 and that was not the only "encounter" I have had. I have learned a lot, yet I remain stupid. And still I am shown more things. I don't deserve any of it and am always afraid of losing it. And that's why I didn't want to ruin it by "selling my story" for profit.

The thing is - even when I forgot or got bogged down with life - I never forgot that I was loved. That in itself is such an amazing gift. It made me confident in who I was. It made me less afraid to fail. And fail I have!!! But without worry because I know that in the big picture, it all works out. This is what my daughter wanted me to share. She did not want others to miss out on the chance to understand what I "know."

There is a chance you won't believe my story, and that's okay. I didn't die. I didn't go to heaven. I had a life changing experience, and I've had many more. I don't have all the answers. But I do know that there is more to this life than just what we see. There is a bigger picture and my role (and your role!) in it matters.

You are not a sinner. You are a human. You will make mistakes - just try not to hurt others on purpose. If you have in the past, make it better and try not to do it again. When you know better you do better.

You are wanted. You are valued. You are loved.

You get to make choices.

You will not be on this Earth for very long (all things considered) so go out and live your life. Enjoy it - make the most of it!

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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate all your tips, advice, and well wishes!

Angela

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