surviving death

By October 2016, he had moved up (again) to 386 pounds. Decades of self-abuse 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 started a liquid diet and immediately lost 20 pounds. I flew to Mexico and had surgery, which went smoothly. It seemed to go smoothly 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 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 Milk, ate sugar free popsicles, enjoyed 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 right. 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 made it. Obviously, there are two things your body desperately needs to stay functional: potassium and magnesium.

I did exactly what I had done before 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 simply stops.

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

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

An average-sized person usually receives 4 paddle strokes. Due to my large size, they gave me a 7, for some reason. They said that he was showing signs of improvement with each explosion, but had not revived yet. The 7th was the last jolt I would ever get and luckily for me my heart started beating hard enough to take me to the hospital.

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

a) Most likely I will 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 of this is going on my facebook account was flooded with thoughts and prayers, friends came in for up to 6 hours, only to sit in the waiting room and get a response. They knew they wouldn’t be able to see me in ICU, but they wanted to drive to pay their respects.

Even today, I am still humbled and in awe by 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 made a positive impact on people, and that I am appreciated. I have lived with the false internal narrative that I am inconsequential.

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

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 focus only on what I can do. My energy level is still woefully low and I am unable to have a normal day job. Since I’m 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 can now walk several miles a day. The hardest thing about dealing with this “new” life is that, from head to toe, 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’ll do exactly what my lower body tells me and I’ll like it! Naps every 5 hours, the ability to eat a mere fraction of what I was able to eat before, while avoiding the 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. A regular 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 my entire life.

Some people choose illicit drugs, others choose alcohol or gambling. My vice has always been food. I’m definitely not an angel and far from my goals, but my new weekly routine consists of doctor visits, blood tests, making money delivering through the Postmates mobile app, looking for help posters for JobSpotter, blogging about the 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 run lab tests to find out exactly what is causing my problems, all I can do is write about my experiences, stay positive, and have my marrow taken every day.

For some reason, I’m still on this planet. I may not have the correct answers, but I strive to make every 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 gates, white lights, angels or anything like that. There were no warning signs that I detected. Stomach ache, lights out, death, revival, lights on.

The current result is that I have lost 115 pounds, can walk farther than ever before this happened, have no swelling in my feet, and finally have hope for a future where I am somewhat productive. Before choosing stomach surgery, I was a pessimist, not thinking much about my life and thinking that 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 purpose and surround yourself with people who only want you to thrive. If you have people in your life who are constantly criticizing your ideas, telling you “No,” reassuring you that “you can’t,” and making you feel like you should never take chances, 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 for a change of pace and stop mentally punishing yourself. You matter!

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