Me and My Coma

The first question everyone asks when they find out I was in a coma for four days is: “Do you remember anything?” Yeah. I remember everything. It’s crystal clear even now, six months later. Everything that happened to me during the coma is as real to me as this keyboard under my fingertips.

You know the setup: I’d been sick in bed since Sunday afternoon; it’s now Thursday noon, 8 April. Hal is downstairs teaching English to Martin, a tico friend who happens to work in the medical supply business. Martin suggests that his doctor friend, Roy, come over and have a look at me. At first we said, “Nah, Sally’s got dengue, it should be over soon.”

Yeah. Like ALL over.

Martin persists. This time we say, “Why not?” So blasé. Martin gets Roy and brings him to the house. Roy does the usual doctor-type things (temp, blood pressure, etc) and decides to test my blood. They drive to the lab to get a kit, come back, draw blood, then Roy drives back to the lab for the results. It takes an hour and a half. Talk about a house call.

When he comes back, he shines a flashlight on my face. Whaddya know, my lips are blue. He says I need to go to the hospital now. My white blood cell count was 5,000. It’s supposed to be like 70,000.

Our car is in the shop, so Martin drives Dr. Roy, me and Hal to the hospital. We choose Clinica Biblica over CIMA because we all like it better. No facts, just feeling. CB is a 45 minute drive in the rain during rush hour.

When we get to the hospital, I stagger from the car to the wheelchair. Here’s the odd (well, one of the odd) things: I feel great. I’m like tipsy, a little drunk, cheerful, having a good ole’ time. “Sheesh, coudjew guys not look so worried? Yer scarin’ me.” Giggle, giggle.

As soon as I roll into the ER, three doctors and a bunch of nurses surround me, doing all the stuff Roy just did, and more. They hook me up to machines, then stare at the screen above my head, shaking their heads. I’m still drunk, cracking jokes and giggling. They are not laughing.

Finally, they get test results back and nobody but me is happy. Later, I find out my pee was the color of coke. This is not a good sign, in case you were wondering. The head doctor kindly tells me he is going to do two things I’m not going to like. First, I’m getting a catheter, which, frankly, I can’t wait to have because every time I cough, which is frequent, I pee. Not that I care.

Second, I’m getting a catheter in my chest for drugs. “Sure,” I said. “Why not?” Everything sounds like fun. The doctor tells me he will anesthetize the area, then make a small incision which I won’t feel, then insert the catheter, which I also won’t feel. Okey dokey, dock. He anesthetizes. Five minutes later, he cuts, like a quarter inch, which I don’t feel.

As soon as the cut is done, I guess he inserts the catheter, I can’t feel anything. Then, just before the lights go out, he leans down to me and whispers in my ear: “We are sending you down to the basement for our secret weapon. You’ll spend the next few days with Salomé, our witch. Salomé will heal you.” I shake my head yeah because I can’t open my eyes right now, the lights are so bright, but I’m anxious to get to the basement. I’m hoping it’s dark there.

My husband swears the doctor never said this to me, but what does he know? He was in much worse shape then me at that point. Besides, the doctor was whispering in MY ear. Nobody else could hear. Sheesh.

Sure enough, moments later I arrive in the basement and meet Salomé. She looks like Inara from Firefly: beautiful, long dark hair, a long, flowing red skirt with gold trimmings, a top to match. Scarves, barefoot, the real deal. Perfectly manicured, well-spoken and dead-serious about getting me well.

While she’s healing me, Salomé teaches me about witchcraft. That all witches can be wicked or good by choice. Some may focus on one component, like Glinda, but a witch can have good girl days and bad girl days. Salomé uses her powers as the need arises, but she only uses her wicked powers for eventual good. That’s what she told me and I believe her.

Being in Salomé’s presence was awesome. She’s powerful, compelling, loving. No nonsense, no mamby pamby, straight confidence. And she had workers. A guy named Keith gave me water. He’d set up a zen staircase waterfall thingie over my mouth and let the water trickle in. It sounded lovely falling down over the stairs, and tasted so good.

Funny, Keith’s water tasted like it came from a stream, whereas hospital water tastes like it comes from a chlorox bottle. I guess there’s my proof this really happened.

While I was down there, I slept a lot. I remember the sounds mostly: running water like a river, the whoosh of wind blowing, and rocks tumbling, lots of rocks. At times, I felt like I was in a big comfy pan. The pan would tilt and I’d hear rocks rolling from one end to the other. Then gently tilt the other way and the rocks would roll past again. The sounds were amazing, not annoying at all. Encouraging, life-affirming sounds.

Salomé told me that whenever I hear the whoosh of wind — even if it were a person blowing, then she blew, making a whooshing sound to demonstrate — that meant she was with me, healing me. Even today, when Hal goes “shew!” across the room, I think, “Salomé.”

Hal swears I never left ICU, but I guess they brought me up from the basement for visiting hours. They had to keep up the ruse because, see, Clinica Biblica is a Catholic hospital. Chock full of nuns. Hal says a nun came in and prayed over me for a very long time and that she was a real expert. He was very impressed. But this explains why Salomé works tucked away. If word got out that a Catholic hospital had a witch in the basement doing the real work… well, you can see how this might be bad for business. Please keep it between us. I owe CB big time. Big, big, big time.

I woke up in ICU: harsh, bright lights, my hands tied to the bed so I wouldn’t pull the tubes out. I couldn’t talk, was really really thirsty and wondered where in the heck was Keith, everything was so blurry. It’s a rude, rude awakening. Then I heard Hal’s voice. My heart hurts when I think of Hal spending four days looking at me in those conditions. How he stood it, I don’t know.

The next few days are a nightmare, the opposite of being with Salomé. Bright lights, harsh sounds. The first night awake, there was a party in the next room with at least 100 Chinese people, no kidding. ICU is like in an open room off a kitchen/dining area. They were cooking, eating, laughing, talking. It was too weird. I slept off and on even though I wanted some of that food. It smelled so good.

When the tubes came out, about a week later, I tried to tell Hal about Salomé and see if he got to meet her. A puzzled, kinda worried look crossed his face as he asked, “Salomé?” I tried explaining but was too tired, the words too hard to form and I could barely even whisper anyway, so I decided I’d explain later. I wondered about that look as I drifted off.

It began to dawn on me in the third week, that maybe the whole Salomé experience was an hallucination brought on by some fine drugs. Even now, my brain is certain I wasn’t in the basement, no rocks, no zen staircase. But everything else about my being knows it happened just like I remember.

I haven’t seen Salomé since, I hope I never do. I am sure grateful for her gifts, her healing, and for making my coma such a miracle. Whoosh!

12 comments to Me and My Coma

  • Anonymous

    I won’t pretend I understand what dreams are. All any of us can do until science develops answers is observe and consider. We all have so much baggage from human culture that accompanies us all the time, everywhere, that it is impossible for me to separate reality from perceived realty when it comes to this subject of the subconscious and the unconscious. I don’t even know if there is a difference. Since I don’t know, I just observe, recall and cogitate. I am pretty pragmatic in all other things but this subject, dreams, is one that spooks me into keeping an open mind because of what I experienced.

    About 10 years ago and for a period of about 5 years off and on, I was having a series of dreams each one about me hiking around in a beautiful, tropical mountain landscape. The features of the landscape never changed. I always woke feeling euphoric. The feeling stayed with me for quite a while afterwards. I was curious why those dreams made me feel so especially good and how my imagination could create a place with so many consistent details.

    Then in 2006, on my first trip to Costa Rica I saw the landscape from those dreams. It was not just “like” the landscape in the dreams, it was THE VERY SAME landscape. I knew where every turn on a path would lead. I knew the place as if I had already spent much time there. Of course, I immediately recalled the dreams and began looking for a rational explanation while simultaneously considering some fanciful, paranormal explanations. But eventually, like you, I let the feeling dominate. I accept it and believe that sometimes the “why” is more relevant than the “how”.

  • Thank you. I knew she was real.

  • Paul M.

    OK Sally . . .

    I’m finally bookmarking ’50 to Life’.

    But it just occurred to me how ironic the name that final show you were directing for LTG seems to have been: “I Love You, You’re Perfect – Now, Change!”

    Still adjusting to the fact that you are no longer up in the Escazú hills.

    And that the Kentucky hills you are now in will soon be ‘alive with the sound of hoarfrost’.

    Still, we’re glad you’re still somewhere in THIS plane.

    Thinking of you . . .

    Cheers!
    ==

  • Thank you, Paul. I never thought about the show title and all that’s happened, but of course. Ironic! Missing Costa Rica today: the sun, the chickens, the view. I can’t imagine we won’t be back one day. Glad you are with me on the plane!

  • Dunedin Mary

    Sally, I have no doubt that your experience was very real – just on another stage. fyi your “good witch” Salome’ was not just any witch either! “Salome the diciple” is often portrayed w/the Holy Family in paintings, and is possibly sister of Mary, mother of Jesus. Salome, 1894 play by Oscar Wilde, featured the famous “dance of the seven veils”. Maybe you could direct the play some time? I’ll come see it if you do. Just a thought. Salome, famous opera by Richard Strauss followed, as well as films. The English word Salome derived from “Shalom” meaning peace. Shalom is also a Jewish greeting used as a friendly greeting or farewell. I’m sure you’re aware of Salome’s significance, but just thought I’d mention it. I’m also glad that Salome’ brought about a happy greeting in you rather than…well you know. Love you and your writing!!!

  • Thanks, Mary, for all those tidbits tied up in a bow! Peace, huh? I like that. Shalom!

  • jill waters

    Sally,
    I don’t care if you blog from Jupiter – you’re still the funniest, most interesting blogger I’ve run across.
    It’s been difficult to completely switch over to your new site. I still sneak over to ABROAD just in case….ya never know.
    pura vida, jill
    ps: I spent a few days in Clinica Biblica (wonderful hospital, btw) but never had the pleasure of a visit to the basement with Salome…

  • Hey, Sally,

    Love the new blog! (And very grateful that Salomé did such a good job for you!) I emailed you privately at the old Saratica address we’ve used in the past since I didn’t find an email link on this blog, but haven’t heard back. Dunno if you aren’t getting that email anymore, or just haven’t gotten to it yet, or what, but it would be totally excellent if — when you get a chance — you could either check out that email from me or drop me a note. Many, many thanks!

    –arden–

  • I hadn’t been over here in a few days, and look what I missed! I love this post! I have to say, I believe!
    Sarah recently posted..Hamburger Helper My Way—No Boxes or Additives Required

  • I found you from Dona Nobis Pacem. I love your site. I’m going to poke around a little bit, but don’t worry I’ll put everything back where I found it!!

  • Hi Kate — Love your blog, “may cause laughter” — gosh I hope so!!! Thanks for keeping it neat around here, lol!

  • [...] Anniversary, Salomé Thank you for being there with me. I am forever grateful you saved my life while making the four days I was in a coma so magical. The [...]

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