Last Friday, Monique, the kids, and I drove to a beautiful place called Joshua Tree. We needed a few nights away, after almost 8 months of barely leaving our home.
Before bed, I took a medication, and for about half an hour everything was fine, as I tucked in the kids and read them a bedtime story.
Soon after, I didn’t feel so good and I lay down next to Monique. I didn’t want to worry her but after a few more minutes, something began to feel seriously wrong. My vision was confused and then my arms and legs started to twitch and I couldn’t stop them. I could no longer speak clearly. And then my face started making involuntary movements and twitching, too.
I was seriously scared.
I asked Monique to call 911. And after that it got very blurry.
I remember being strapped onto a gurney and wheeled into an ambulance. I remember seeing my reflection in the window of the ambulance and not being able to respond to the paramedic’s questions.
I remember watching my arms and legs twitching uncontrollably and thinking that this was a horrible way to die and that I really should have finished my book because now it was too late!
I still had a little sense of humor but it was horrible to have no control of my body or mind.
I’ve just finished an article called, “Rich’s Rules”—it’s a manifesto for life. And I was thinking, “Well, that sucks. It would have been a great legacy but no one will ever get to read it!”
When the doctor interviewed me for the hospital intake, I could no longer speak. My mind knew the answers to his questions but my mouth wouldn’t work.
I heard him saying he’d give me a sedative to calm my anxiety and draw some blood to test me. And I remember thinking, “I’m not anxious. This isn’t stress related. Do something better than this…”
After I was given the sedative, intravenously, I passed out.
When I woke up, all the tremors had stopped. I felt exhausted but I could speak again.
The blood tests were all fine and they checked me out of the hospital an hour later.
I felt awful that Monique had to wake the kids and drive to the hospital at 3 in the morning to take me home. And when we got back, I was afraid to close my eyes because I was scared to sleep. I couldn’t process what had happened to me.
Eventually, I passed out because I was exhausted.
When I awoke, everything was carrying on like normal. Monique was making breakfast for the kids. The kids were playing and throwing Lego at one another! It was like nothing had changed.
Yet, inside me, everything had changed. On reflection, I don’t think I had really been near death the night before. Even in my confused state, I could see that the doctor wasn’t worried. But I’ve never seen my body out of control before. And—at the time—it felt like I was somehow witnessing the end of my life.
Because I thought I was dying, I sent a text to my Mum and my brothers, saying, “I love you.” It was a little embarrassing the next day. But at least if I had passed away, they’d have known that I love them…
Apparently what I experienced was an adverse drug event (ADE). A quick Google search told me that I’m not alone. Each year, in the US, ADEs account for more than a million emergency department visits. These reactions can be caused by everything from antibiotics to cardiac agents to nonprescription medication.
What happened to me was—hands down—the scariest experience of my life. As I write, I’m still trying to process it. It feels like a dream, right now. I have to strain to remember it all. It’s hard to take in that I was taken to hospital strapped into a bed.
I’m a coach. You’ve read my stories before. I’m great at extracting distinctions and reframing dark moments into learning opportunities. And right now, all I’ve got is a lot of gratitude. I’m grateful to be alive. I’m ever so grateful to the medical staff who took care of me. And I’m more appreciative of my family and friends than ever.
I’m also clear that what’s truly important in my life needs to take center stage more than ever before.
Let me leave you with the words of the Lebanese-American poet, Khalil Gibran:
Do not love half lovers
Do not love half lovers
Do not entertain half friends
Do not indulge in works of the half talented
Do not live half a life and do not die a half death
If you choose silence, then be silent
When you speak, do so until you are finished
Do not silence yourself to say something
And do not speak to be silent
If you accept, then express it bluntly
Do not mask it. If you refuse then be clear about it
for an ambiguous refusal
is but a weak acceptance
Do not accept half a solution
Do not believe half truths
Do not dream half a dream
Do not fantasize about half hopes
Half a drink will not quench your thirst
Half a meal will not satiate your hunger
Half the way will get you nowhere
Half an idea will bear you no results
Your other half is not the one you love
It is you in another time yet in the same space
It is you when you are not
Half a life is a life you didn’t live,
A word you have not said
A smile you postponed
A love you have not had
A friendship you did not know
To reach and not arrive
Work and not work
Attend only to be absent
What makes you a stranger to them closest to you
and they strangers to you
The half is a mere moment of inability
but you are able for you are not half a being
You are a whole that exists
to live a life not half a life.
Do not live half a life.
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