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caroline chikangu

My Near Death Experience (Pt 2)

The doctor told me my gall bladder would likely rapture because I had a humongous stone. So there it was : I had gall stones. I was engulfed with fear because I didn’t know how extreme the case was. I didn’t know what gall stones were and how they were treated. I was only familiar with kidney stones. Part of me was happy for the discovery and the other was disappointed by my previous doctor’s diagnosis.

 

The doctor told me there was no medication for gall stones, I needed an operation. He went on to explain the reason why the pain could not be stopped by pain killers. He further pointed out I needed to do the operation quickly because the stone was too big. In my life I had never imagined myself going through surgery. It was a nightmare come true. No one in my family had ever had surgery. I was devastated. I ended up crying miserably.

 

He comforted me saying it was not a major surgery like a heart transplant. I couldn’t see myself being cut open and surviving after. He explained  it was going to be a Laparoscopy Cholecystectomy meaning I was not going to be cut open. I didn’t understand what he meant anyway. I could hear the words but my mind couldn’t process them, I was deep in thought. I asked how I ended up having gallstones and he took his time to explain.

 

I was later referred to a specialist who had to perform the operation. He told me my condition needed immediate attention. He looked at his schedule and the earliest he could squeeze me in was a month after. I was shocked and happy at the same time. I didn’t think it would take that long for me to be attended so I was shocked. I was happy because as a believer I believed for a miracle to happen within those few weeks.

 

I was afraid to break the news to my mother because I knew it would worry her. I kept it secret from my family. I thought of telling them when the time for the surgery was close. I started writing a will and sending my sister awkward messages. I told her where my money was and my passwords. I guess she wondered where it was coming from. Every night I had serious sharp pains and I had fear the gall bladder would rupture in my sleep. I was scared stiff to die in my sleep.

 

A week after my appointment with the specialist I developed continuous excruciating pain. I quickly went to the specialist and found out he was in South Africa. I then went to my general doctor because the pain was severe. He told me to come the day that followed as he wanted to look for an alternative. I felt safe to be admitted in hospital because I had fear of dying alone at home. My doctor assured me I would be fine but I felt like he was just being professional.

 

The following day I was told my operation was moved to the week that followed. That was the closest he could get. He advised me not to take short cuts and go for any doctor unless I wanted to risk my life. I was fortunate that I had some savings and I was also on medical aid. The amount of money I was supposed to pay was close to US$3,000. I only had to pay a third of the amount for my surgery to be done and the other was to be paid by the medical aid.

 

I used to be fit as a fiddle before the gall stones. I had hardly used my medical aid for a whole year. The only time I used medical aid was during winter when I had colds and flu. I ended up not appreciating medical aid. I felt like the money that was deducted from my salary was just wasted. Until the moment when I was told I had to pay that much. I was proud to have medical aid because if I didn’t I don’t know what I would have done. It was a relief.

 

My worry was now breaking the news to my family especially my mother. She has a tendency of fussing over everything. Over the years I have learned not to tell her if I have a headache or even a cold. She normally ends up having high blood pressure. I knew she was not going to take it easy. I thought of not telling her but my friend Samantha who I had made my next of kin advised me to tell her. I got the courage and made a phone call to my mother. I explained to her and pretended to be okay.

 

She was in Zimbabwe and I was in Namibia. She wanted to come and I told her it was not necessary. I had last seen her the previous year and I knew it was hard on her. I calmed her down as she tried to discourage me to go through the surgery. She was afraid I would not wake up from the anesthetic dosage. She was worried something would go wrong. I had the same worries but I had to strengthen her. At least one of us had to have hope. I strengthened her as I told her to use her faith to hope for the best. I didn’t tell my siblings much. I just told them I was going to have surgery. I avoided feeding them with my negative energy and fears.

 

I started receiving phone calls every hour from my family. I began to feel very low as result. Their worries began to drown me in fear. That was the reason I didn’t want to tell them in the first place.

 

When you dread something to happen days usually fly by. The day of the operation I went straight to the hospital. Samantha went with me. We are usually loud but that day we were so low. We didn’t say much. We tried to strengthen each other we were filled with fear. I kept on telling her who to contact and what to do if it happened that I didn’t make it. She didn’t want to hear it but she had to know anyway.

 

caroline chikanguI got into the room I was going to be in after the operation. I shared it with another patient who was operated some days earlier. I could tell she was in so much pain. She didn’t talk at all. I was consumed with deep worry and fear. I was telling myself that my end was minutes away. Flashbacks of my major and minor sins started flooding my thoughts. I suddenly was convinced hell was waiting for me. I wanted to scream but I kept reminding myself that I was in hospital. I thought of cancelling the surgery and let the gall bladder rapture.

 

The nurses came and introduced themselves. They were so polite. They gave me hope that it was going to be fine. My mind was convinced they were just being professional. They later checked my blood pressure and temperature. They asked me questions and I responded absentmindedly. That day was the most stressful day of my life.

 

A few minutes later I changed my clothes into hospital attire. Samantha suggested that we pray before the surgery. Well, she prayed and all I could do was mumble. I didn’t know what to say. That moment God became so distant. I felt like a stranger before His throne of Grace. I desperately wanted to live but I didn’t know how to persuade Him. If that was my last day I desperately wished to be ushered into His presence. I wanted to find angels waiting for me.

 

I was laid on the stretcher bed and time came for me to go to theater. I gave Samantha my cell phone and other important belongings. Samantha folded her arms with tears in her eyes. Fear and worry was written all over her face.  We both wanted to cry but we had to be strong. She held my hand as she wished me well. She inquired from the nurses how long it would take. She was told it was between an hour or two depending on complications. I was pushed into the waiting room as we left Samantha standing in the corridor. I prayed it was not the last time she would see me alive.

 

The theater was huge and full of light. There was a queue. Those who were coming out scared me because they looked lifeless. I lay there quietly waiting for my turn. The doctors and nurses talked and laughed as if nothing was happening. It was their normal daily routine. Yet it was a nightmare to me and probably my fellows who were in the queue.

 

My turn came and I was laid on another bed. The anesthetist greeted me and told me they were about to perform the surgery. I shed a few tears. They counseled me as they promised me it was going to be fine. They told me it was a minor surgery. I wiped my tears and my blood pressure was checked again.

 

The anesthetist covered my nose and I began to have double vision. Before I knew it I was gone. No sound, no sight just total darkness.

 

I could feel my bed moving. I tried to open my eyes but couldn’t. I tried to lift my hands and failed. I didn’t understand where I was and what was happening. I heard someone saying, “ Madam are you OK? Do you know where you are ?”

 

I felt I was moving again. I heard people talking and laughing but I couldn’t see them. I faintly heard someone saying, “Leave her in that room for now and make sure she has enough oxygen.”

 

I began to hear clearly and I felt movement as my bed was wheeled again. My vision was getting a bit clearer. I saw Samantha still folding her arms in corridor. She had a big smile on her face. I wondered where I was and what had happened.

 

My bed was pushed into my room. Samantha said, “Congratulations, you made it Sesi.”

I couldn’t see because the light was too bright. I couldn’t respond either. I tried to move but my body was numb and heavy. The pain was terrible on my stomach. I then slowly regained my memory. I remembered I was in hospital for a surgery. I was happy to be alive. I couldn’t believe I had made it. Samantha told me she was getting worried because it took longer that expected. I felt for her for she had no one to strengthen her.

 

caroline chikanguMy friends and colleagues started to come with flowers and fruits soon after. Their faces showed hope and it made me feel better. Phone calls started flooding my phone. Friends and relatives were concerned if I was really fine. I was still dizzy and running out of breath.

 

I couldn’t remember anything that happened after the anesthetist covered my nose. I didn’t see angels neither did I see my body out of my body. I am still grateful that all went well.

 

The doctor later came to check on me and he told me everything went very well. He didn’t experience any complications. He then advised me to avoid eating fatty foods. The following day I was released from the hospital.

 

Now it is three years after my surgery and I am fit as a fiddle.

I now know going through surgery is not as scary as I thought. In addition, my advice is that it is important to go for a second opinion. If I didn’t go for a second opinion, I would probably be dead from sepsis.

Carol is an author, a blogger and a qualified teacher. She loves to pen articles about life's struggles, challenges and anything else going on in her head.