April 2018

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

DAR #21: Near Death Experiences

DAR #21: Country singer Charlie Daniels, apparently, had a “near death” experience in January, I read in the MSN news today. He was skiing down a mountain when he felt numbness in his face and in his hand, signs of a stroke. Today, he’s back on stage. I always think it’s a miracle that any of us live as long as we do, what with falling in the pool as children, changing lanes on the freeway as new drivers, and walking up the basement steps as we get older.

I am sure that I am oblivious to most of my near death experiences, but I am aware of those instances where I thought I might be dying even if I wasn’t. When Ann and I travelled from the west coast of Costa Rica (an amazing place) to the capitol in order to fly home at the end of our vacation, we took a taxi to the “airport.” The driver, seeming to know right where to go, drove us a long way to an empty field, and put our luggage on the side of the road. We shrugged our shoulders and laughed. How would we ever get home if this was not in fact our airport terminal? Gradually, about ten other Americans dragged their luggage to this field and we all waited to see if a plane might arrive. There was a famous designer, Randolf Duke, maybe? (he was wearing a “Duke” baseball cap and I thought he was just another ACC fan), on the plane, and some of the better dressed women got very excited about him and goggled, something that I thought was awkward and a little intrusive.

Finally two small planes arrived. Our plane would take six of us: one in the front by the pilot, four in the middle and me in the back on a jump seat. The pilot, an overweight Costa Rican man in his sixties, heaved the heavy luggage of the fashionable ladies into the back of the plane. He sweated profusely. I was afraid he might have a heart attack, but he didn’t.

We all settled in and he started the engine. As we took off, a red light kept flashing. This seemed like a bad sign to me, but the pilot didn’t seem worried. We rose toward the mountain in front of us. Right toward it. In what seemed like the last moment, the pilot grunted, banked hard to the left and took a new run at the mountain. The red light still flashed insistently. This time, we made it over.

Throughout the flight, that red light kept flashing and we hit quite a few spots where the plane just dropped. Everyone except me started retching into those little bags. I just tried to find a place to look. As we bounced along, I thought about the possibility of death: at least it would be at the end of the vacation instead of at the beginning. It was such a good vacation with the colorful macaws and the leap frog monkeys and hatching baby turtles. I hoped someone would develop the film from my new camera. When we landed, no one clapped. Everyone took a deep breath and got out of the plane as soon as possible. We didn’t make the news.

On another vacation (I suppose vacations are dangerous, but they’re worth it), we took a safari into the Tanzanian Serengeti, the home of dangerous animals like lions and hyenas and zebras (Oh my!). The eleven of us (two guides who were also our drivers and nine Americans, mostly teachers named Ann), rose early one morning to see the animals in their most active time of day. We gathered around a fire at the end of the path that lined our tents, drank tea, and tried to wake up. My partner Ann, who is not a chicken, went back to our tent to get a morning snack, and when I looked up to notice that she was no longer in the group, I also noticed a lioness (the hunters are the women) heading towards our tent.

I yelled out to Ann to zip up the tent and stay in it because there was a lion outside; she zipped up the tent and looked out the mesh window to see only the lion’s tail: the rest was too close for her to see. The rest of us jumped around and yelled a bit and I sought out one of the guides, Paul, who would not believe that there was a lion even though he could see it. Finally, we all jumped in our two jeeps and our guide, Waziri, drove towards the lion and nudged it away from the tent. The second jeep pulled in front of the tent and yelled for Ann to come out. She ran out, picked up her tea cup from the front, asked if the lion had been drinking from it and at last got into the jeep with her teacup.

As our jeep sat watching the lion amble to a nearby tree, Pam asked, “If the lion had been able to get to Ann, would it have given chase?” Waziri responded in his pretty good English, “Oh no. it would have eaten her right there.” And as the lion rested in the shade, ever the guide, Waziri asked, “Would you like to take picture?”

In my hospital vacation after brain surgery, “vampire nurses” would come into my room at 11 pm and 3 am every morning to make sure I was still alive. They would take some blood (I don’t know what they did with it), take my pulse, and then leave. I learned to just throw out my arm as they entered the room, in the hopes that they would just take my vitals and leave me sleeping.

One morning at 3 am, the nurse also had me sit up so that she could check my lungs. I guess she was especially thorough, but I am an organ donor and have been told that I have excellent lungs (why thank you, I said bashfully and batted my eyes), so I figured someone needed my lungs and they were checking me out. Not dead yet. After that night, the doctors asked the nurses to skip taking my vitals at night.

Be careful and full of wonder out there. Mary

1 comment:

  1. "You may take picture now."

    I will NOT make an inappropriate comment about the quality of your "lungs" either. I promise.


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