Teetering Between Life & Death

My roommates were loud and obnoxious, but I stayed behind the closed door to the quad family room and kept my nose in the books. I needed to get in as much studying as possible. My exam was the next day, and I still felt a little shaky about a lot of what would be on it.

Anxiety always smashed me in the face as I prepared for college exams. Unfortunately, the anxiety usually followed me into the classroom, and my eyes would stare at the paper as my mind went completely blank. I could study for hours on end and not gain a thing from the studying. Although I wasn’t cramming on this evening, I had a similar feeling that coursed through my veins. My adrenaline spiked so I could feel my heart rate accelerating.

When that happened, I knew it was time to take a break. I would go to the dining hall on the hill above my dorm and grab a bite to eat before finishing my studying. Knowing what I wanted to eat, I drew the two types of insulin into the syringe and injected it into my upper leg. A quick pinch made me acutely aware that diabetes sometimes requires people to go with the grind and fight each battle when it presents itself.

When I got to the dining hall, I went for the quick and easy food. I had a few pieces of pizza and sat by myself to eat it. Although I wasn’t on any type of schedule, I knew I had to get back to study. Random thoughts raced through my mind, and all of my attention was on the exam I would be taking the next morning.

After finishing my meal and heading back to my room, I knew I had to have enough insulin to compensate for my meal. That’s when I made a critical mistake that would’ve cost me my life if it hadn’t been for my roommate, a guy I never knew before meeting him that first day of my freshman year. We were able to coexist quite nicely, with him doing his thing and me doing my thing. Things worked so well the first year that we decided to be roommates the next year. In that time, he educated himself about diabetes and what to watch for in case I ran into any problems.

A few hours later, I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and my head fell gently onto my pillow. The studying had taken its toll, and my body needed the rest.

The Next Morning

I’m not sure how to start this, but I’ll give you a brief history of what happened according to my friends. My roommate got up and went to his first class. I didn’t get up because I didn’t have a class until 10:00 a.m., the class in which I would be taking my exam. When my roommate returned, I was completely unconscious and didn’t respond when he tried waking me up. Now, I’ll let you inside my world as I saw it, felt it and heard it the next morning.

Seeing a handful of nurses and a doctor standing over the bed in the ER, I could sense an organized chaos. My limp body laid on the bed while a part of me floated above it and looked down. Extremely bright lights surrounded me, and I could hear the people talking — actually shouting as I remember.

With my back on the ceiling of the room like I was lying on my belly in mid-air, I watched the people. The doctor shouted, “Get him, Get him again. You’re losing him.”

With that, I saw my body convulse as the paddles jolted my body on the bed. Then, I could hear the people’s voices, but none of the voices said anything that I can remember after that original statement from the doctor. Instead, I could hear a few of my relatives that had died many years earlier. I could hear them as clear as I could when they were alive, but like the other people, I couldn’t grasp what they were saying. Voices I would never forget, voices that belonged to people who were once a part of my life.

All of the commotion lasted only a few seconds before the lights faded and everything went black. It happened in the snap of a finger. I’m not sure if I fell, if someone whacked me on the head with a pan, or if I just got lost in a really deep unconscious state. I will never know.

When I opened my eyes, my parents were sitting next to the bed. They asked me if I knew what was going on. I had been in this situation a time or two in the past, so I knew I was in the hospital due to a low blood sugar problem. I tried processing how they could’ve gotten there so quickly. They lived over two hours away, and I knew I couldn’t have been under for that long.

Living Quietly

For a long time, I never said anything to anyone about what happened in that room in the ER that night. I was scared that nobody would believe me. Would they think I was crazy and want to send me to an insane asylum? Would they think I was must messing with them? Would someone else share a similar experience with me? I didn’t know what to expect but figured I would be better off if I just let it go.

A short time later, I read in a magazine about someone who had an almost identical experience. This allowed me to dive straight in and share my happenings with others. As I began talking about it, people reacted in many different ways, but it was therapeutic for me in a way that is unexplainable. I shared it in print, then I went on to talk about it a few times here and there. Although I never felt totally comfortable with it, I never shied away from it.

Today

I’ve thought about that day many times since it happened. The 30-year anniversary of it is coming up in a week or two. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it, but I always remember it like it happened last night. It opened my mind to possibilities that many people will never experience. I feel fortunate for the way everything went down and how it worked out. I’m thankful that my roommate knew what to do to save my life. I think I love life more than anyone I know, at least anyone to whom I have spoken with over the years. I love everything it has to offer. Yes, there are some downs with all of the ups, but the challenges along the way are what mold each and every one of us. I wake up every day and can’t wait to live every second of it to the fullest. Everyone says I should slow down and not always be on the go. I don’t like living in the slow lane. I’m only going to be here so long, and I want to take advantage of the time I’m given. The next time I begin to float into bright light and see my lifeless body below me, I might not be able to come back and tell my story to others. That is why I will be on the road again this weekend making more memories with my friends and family.

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