My vein system had collapsed. I had been gushing blood from lacerations at the temple beneath my hair. My cheek had been slashed open to the bone. I had deep cuts all around the eyes. I’d lost three teeth in front. I had a major concussion. And my jaw was cracked. I didn’t know any of this, of course. I was awake but, aside from telling me I was in a hospital, no one would talk to me. I was a body on a table in a bright white cold room. A surgical team in masks and gowns surrounded me, handing one another tools. I heard them order blood. I heard the surgeon say he would have to cut down to access veins. I felt the razor sting as he sliced into forearm and ankle. I felt them cut through my blood-stiffened clothes, and it seemed I lay there shivering a long time before someone thought to cover me. The worst was the stabbing all over my face as they injected Novocaine. I heard myself scream repeatedly and begged them to knock me out. No way, I’d lost too much blood, it wouldn’t be safe.
It was the strangest experience to lie there, the center of attention, and have no communication. I had to endure three hours of surgery with my eyes wide open due to a medication they’d shot into the area to keep me from blinking. After I stopped begging them to knock me out, I pleaded with them to remove my contact lenses which felt like hot, dusty pieces of glass on my poor traumatized corneas. Nope. Too busy saving my life, stitching me back together. When they finished, 150 stitches and several hours later, a nurse washed my hair with Phisohex and popped out my lenses with tiny suction cups. Took her two seconds. Had she done that in the beginning I would have been a much more relaxed patient.
I woke the next morning in a darkish, green-tinged room with tubes and drips connected to three of my four limbs. I couldn’t feel anything except a vague anticipatory dread at the thought of seeing my parents and the lecture I knew they would give about hitchhiking. But when they arrived a few hours later, they took one look at my face and said nothing.
I didn’t get to see my face for several days. I wasn’t allowed in the bathroom without a nurse. Frankly I’m pretty sure they didn’t want me to see myself in the mirror. And when I did, what a shock! I talked one of my nurses into allowing me to go to the bathroom by myself. I dragged my IV pole in there and shut the door. Then I took a deep breath and turned to the mirror. Oh god! Tiny slit eyes, huge yellowish swollen face, black suture threads dangling like weird strands of hair from everywhere. A stitched-up crusty black line ran across my cheek from nostril to temple. The entire right side of my head had been shaved. This was not a good sight for a fifteen-year-old girl. But I didn’t break down. I somehow knew it would be okay, and that something extraordinary had happened when I left my body and traveled toward the light.
They kept me in the hospital two weeks. I had four more transfusions, and all sorts of brain function/neurological testing. In the course of treatment I asked one of the docs about the strange experience I’d had seeing the light. “Oh yeah,” he said. “We hear about that sometimes. Has to do with severe blood loss. Don’t worry about it.” Really? I knew that wasn’t the right answer. I knew I hadn’t been dreaming, and that what I had seen — that glowing being of light — had been very real.
After I was released I had to stay home six weeks to heal. When people told me they were sorry about what had happened, I didn’t know what they meant. I was grateful. The car accident had sprung me from deep depression and despair. No longer did I wonder what the point was. At the brink of death, I’d been pulled from my body and brought close to a being of light, a being that knew everything about me. Now finally I understood that there was something out there, that I had received a gift, a blessing and had to keep going. I learned not to talk about this experience for fear of seeming crazy. There was a subsequent lawsuit involving the car we’d crashed into, the driver of the car we were in, and me. I was a terrible witness because I saw the whole incident as beneficial. I just couldn’t lie and say the driver was speeding.
Even so, the court awarded me $20,000, a lot of money back then. My face healed. We moved into Manhattan and I changed schools. My sister got married. Eventually I went off to college. Through all of this, I didn’t talk about my contact with the light. It wasn’t till the late 70s when I was in graduate school that I read Raymond Moody’s book, “Life After Life,” and realized I’d had a classic near death experience. What a relief! Finally I could talk about it! But an experience like that doesn’t necessarily make one’s path any clearer or easier. By then I’d turned into a classic black-out drunk. I had a long, dangerous, road ahead before I connected with the light again.
To be continued…