surviving death

As of October 2016, he was up (again) to 386 pounds. The decades of abuse I had given myself culminated in the revelation that I was at the lowest point in my life and needed to make a change or things would turn ugly.

I made the difficult decision to have a vertical sleeve gastrectomy with a world-renowned surgeon, based in Mexico. For two weeks, I went on a liquid diet and immediately lost 20 pounds. I flew to Mexico and had surgery, which went smoothly. It seemed uncomplicated and I was smart with my approach to the process. I did everything my doctors asked me to do and strictly followed the rules.

During my pre-surgery phase, I was told to focus on drinking 100 grams of protein every day. This involved pounding Muscle Milk like a champ. Obviously, I drank water and juices, along with chicken broth to get me through the 14 days.

After my surgery the doctors were happy and told me to work out another 2 weeks on the same liquid diet and then I could move on to “soft food”. Doing exactly what I had done the previous 2 weeks, I drank my Muscle Milks, ate sugar-free popsicles, enjoyed the egg drop soup broth, and did so, ad nauseam, for almost a month.

On the last day of my liquid diet, I squawked.

You read this well. I died for over 11 minutes and had it not been for the first responders and ladies staff at Vitacare in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I would not have survived. Obviously, there are two things your body desperately needs to stay functional: potassium and magnesium.

I did exactly what I had done before the surgery and drank my Muscle Milk like a good boy. Actually, I needed to drink more Powerade Zeros and Gatorades. When his body drops below a potassium reading of 2.0, his heart just stops.

As I went through my morning, I had a slight stomach ache, which was not unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I’m always tired and I didn’t feel like doing much walking that day. My friend went into Vitacare to clean his C-PAP machine and when he came back out I was gone.

Freaked out, he rushed inside and called 911. The ladies had CPR training, so they ran out and yanked me out of the car. They massaged my heart until the paramedics arrived. Once they got there, my clothes were ripped apart and they brought out a thing called “The Plunger” which was an easier way to administer CPR.

An average sized person usually gets 4 paddle strokes. Due to my large size, I was given a 7, for some reason. They said that he was showing signs of improvement with each explosion, but that he still hadn’t revived. The 7th was the last jolt I would get and luckily for me my heart started beating hard enough to get me to the hospital.

The next phase of my journey was to St. Francis Hospital, where I was put into this “ice suit” and put into a coma that lasted 2 days. During this 48-hour period, doctors told anyone who would listen:

a) I will most likely die.
b) If I don’t die, I will be a vegetable for the rest of my life.
c) I have less than 1% chance of survival.
d) Chances of stroke or other complications are high.

While all this is happening, my Facebook account was flooded with thoughts and prayers, friends came up to 6 hours, only to sit in the waiting room and receive a response. They knew they wouldn’t be able to see me in the ICU, but they wanted to drive over to pay their respects.

Even today, I am still humbled and in awe of the love I received. We tend to go through life being who we are and sometimes oblivious to what we leave behind. This death experience showed me that I am worthless, that I have had a positive impact on people, and that I am appreciated. I have lived with the false internal narrative that I am inconsequential.

According to paramedics, I was dead for over 11 minutes and experiencing seizures due to lack of oxygen to my brain. This has led to some short-term memory issues that I’ve only recently started experiencing.

When I got out of the hospital in December 2016, I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom without help. I have had to walk slowly and concentrate only on what I can do. My energy level is still woefully low and I can’t have a normal day job. Since I am known as a chameleon, I had to improvise a bit.

Over the course of the last 13 months, I have worked hard to overcome my limitations and am now able to walk several miles a day. The hardest thing about dealing with this “new” life is that, through and through, I’m the same guy I’ve always been. I think I can work 60 hours a week, walk several miles every day, eat a big plate of food, and do all the things I used to do before I died.

Sadly my new reality is that I will do exactly what my lower body tells me and I will like it! Naps every 5 hours, the ability to eat a mere fraction of what I could before, avoiding foods that wreak havoc on my stomach: THIS is the new reality.

The hardest part of this new life is rewiring my brain to learn new routines. There is an emotional attachment to every type of food I eat. An ordinary restaurant food item can trigger a fond memory from over a decade ago. It’s hard to admit that I’ve been an emotional closet eater all my life.

Some people choose illicit drugs, others choose alcohol or gambling. My vice has always been food. I’m definitely not an angel and I’m far from my goals, but my new weekly routine consists of doctor visits, blood tests, earning money by delivering through the Postmates mobile app, looking for help wanted posters for JobSpotter, blogging about social media, attending church regularly, and finding ways to feel relevant and productive.

I suffer from Anemia and have had no energy for almost 30 years. I am tired all the time. While the doctors continue to do lab work to find out exactly what is causing my problems, all I can do is write about my experiences, stay positive, and take my bone marrow every day.

For some reason, I’m still on this planet. I may not have the right answers, but I strive to make each day mean something. I have taken my place in this world for granted until this situation happened. The way I see it, this is all “bonus time” and I want to make a difference.

When I died, the lights just went out. Fortunately, when I woke up, there were people to tell me what had happened. There were no pearl doors, white lights, angels or anything like that. There were no warning signs that I detected. Stomach ache, lights out, death, revival, lights on.

The result today is that I have lost 115 pounds, can walk farther than I ever did before this happened, have no swelling in my feet, and finally have hope for a future where I am somewhat productive. Before I chose stomach surgery, I was pessimistic, I didn’t think much about my life and I thought I would die alone and miserable.

I wrote this to share my experience and convey to you that no matter how (in)significant you feel your life’s contributions have been, to date, you matter. There are people in your life who care about you. There are people you have positively impacted. You may not know that you have made a difference in their life, but they are out there.

Live each day with a purpose and surround yourself with people who only want you to prosper. If you have people in your life who constantly criticize your ideas, tell you “No”, reassure you that “you can’t” and make you feel that you should never take risks, separate yourself from those people. Life is hard enough without other people always bringing you down. Take chances. There is no growth without a little pain. You won’t grow if you just sit on your couch and watch the world go by.

Take a road trip to a nearby town. Explore streets you can’t pronounce. Do something “against the grain.” Say “YES” more and see what this life has to offer you. The sofa will always be there to sit on. Try something different to change the pace and stop mentally punishing yourself. You matter!

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