This isn’t a story for the faint of heart; this is the story of a near-death event. Consider yourself warned.
I have hesitated to post this, but considering how much of my life now pivots on this, I thought it was important to share this moment.
This is the story of the night I died. Well, I was dead for a short time. Rumours of my demise were only slightly exaggerated.
It’s hard to believe this was 10 months ago today. It seems like a lifetime ago, and I’ve been through so much since. But in some ways, it also feels like it was only yesterday.
I don’t actually remember any of this. This entire story is based on what my wife and mother have told me, and what I’ve pieced together from medical records I obtained.
I was admitted to the hospital on February 2 for loss of bladder control and leg weakness. I deteriorated quickly after that.
I was in a room at the Trillium Health Partners – Mississauga Hospital 6J unit on the evening of February 5, 2019. I was in a private room, but very confused and bedridden. We now know that I was suffering from a very rare auto-immune disorder called Transverse Myelitis where my immune system was destroying my spinal column and brainstem.
My wife has a photo of me early on the 5th where I am lying in a hospital bed with my infant daughter and my childhood teddy bear, Roger. I was apparently alert sometime before and after this photo but have no memory of that day.
My wife decided to stay overnight with me which certainly helped save my life.
Growing concerned with my deterioration, my wife asked if I knew who she was. Apparently I replied that she “was the most beautiful woman in the world.”
Shortly after that, around 10:30pm, my wife said I started vomiting violently. She hit the call bell furiously for over 7 minutes but no one came. Eventually she ran down the hall to a nursing station and dragged someone down. She says when she returned, I had stopped breathing and looked grey/blue. Then the ‘Code Blue’ call was made and scores of people piled into the room. My wife retreated a corner in horror.
The story submitted by the attending nurse is that I was responsive when she arrived and then I stopped breathing. If you excuse me, I’ll believe my wife’s version.
My wife then called my mother and and could only get out “Paul. Code blue”. My mom was watching our infant daughter at the time, but fortunately my Aunt was at my mom’s house and could watch the baby. Apparently my mom arrived at the hospital quickly and was at the door before my wife knew it.
My wife says that at one point she cried out “You have to save him! We have a two-month old baby!”
I don’t how long my heart actually stopped. But they they couldn’t find a heartbeat for at least one cycle of CPR. They really did those chest compressions. I have the proof; a scan of my chest at a later date revealed a void/bubble caused my the CPR and the medical team worried about the damage.
At some point the medical team decided I was stable enough to rush to ICU. My mother and wife followed until I was put in an elevator and they could not follow. I’m told my mom was emotional at the closed elevator door.
In one of the medical reports of that evening, one of the doctors noted my family seemed “distressed”. That seems like an understatement.
I can only imagine the panic of sitting in a waiting room for such dire news. But, that’s what my wife and mother had to do while my life hung in the balance.
A doctor and nurse came to my family some time later. My wife saw the nurse smile and she suspected good news. It was: At least I was still alive.
But as you know, or can read about here, I was hospital for over 3 more months, and recovering after that for 5+ months…
I suppose one takeaway from this was the importance of my wife being in my room that evening. Some hospital units are very sparsely staffed, especially at night. I was not being monitored, the nurse was nowhere to be found, and no one was responding to the call button. If my wife hadn’t been there to drag some out of the hall, that really could have been my last day on Earth.