"Happiness is a Choice." quote taken from an interview of Drew Barrymore by Kevin Sessums

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lab Work Results Part I – Re-Examining the Past

When I arrive at Elizabeth’s office, I am immediately brought into Jeff’s normal exam room. Tiffany says that this is a consultation visit only so I don’t need to be in the regular room. Tiffany tells me Elizabeth will be in shortly as she closes the door.

I know in my gut that I don’t have cancer and I am not dying. I know that these labs were ordered to evaluate my overall health beyond the RSD…….vitamin levels, cholesterol, glucose, etc. My cholesterol and glucose levels have always been low, so that can’t be the problem. What in the world could be the “new” problem?

Elizabeth comes in with my chart and several pieces of paper. She sits down directly across from me and uses the examination table that sits in the middle of the room as a desk. She asks me to pull up my chair to the table. She leans forward and puts her hands on the paperwork and looks at me directly in the eye. She tells me that she needs to ask me a very important question and she apologizes for asking it because it is not normally a question someone asks another. I tell her to come out with it……ask it. She takes a deep breath and asks me if I have ever had a near-death experience.

Although the question surprises me, the way Elizabeth is looking at me you would think she asked me if I had led some “secret past” involving drug or alcohol abuse. I answer “yes” and she looks both relieved and upset all at the same time. She asks me what happened and I tell her. What I told her is the “cliff notes” version of what I will share now.

In 1997 I was 29 years old. I had never been married and had no children. For many years I tremendously enjoyed my single life by attending college, traveling alone and with friends, living on my own, writing poetry and short stories (with some of them published in the United States, England and Australia), working various jobs and dating, dating, dating. Although like most people I had dated a couple of duds, I was really blessed that I had dated some really terrific men. Many of my friends who had already married were either divorced within a couple of years or were still married but miserable. Some of them were already on a second marriage and others had sworn off marriage altogether. So needless to say, I was very leery of getting married.

A friend of mine suggested that join a “chat site” that had nothing to do with dating; it was a “pen pal” site dedicated to making friends around the world sans the snail mail process. It seemed like a fun idea so I signed up and entered the site. After being online for just a few minutes, a “Michael” from South Africa came online. Michael was considered one of the original members of the site “family” because he had been on that site since it began. But none of that mattered to me; by the end of our “introduction” on the site, I knew that somehow, some way, Michael and I would be married. I can’t explain even today how or why I knew this; I just did.

Within a matter of months, we had exchanged photographs, were openly discussing our feelings for one another and then began chatting on the phone. By this time, we had chatted almost everyday on this site plus we were sending each other pages and pages of emails. Then during one conversation, Michael asked me if I could come to South Africa for the Christmas holiday. Originally Michael thought that here in the States, we had the same three week holiday “break” that they had in South Africa. When we discuss the cost of the airfare and the amount of time I would have to take off work to be in South Africa during this break, I simply told Michael that if I went to South Africa, I wouldn’t just do it as a trip. After a pause, Michael told me that if I flew out to South Africa, he would want me to stay. So when I asked him what he meant by that, he told me that if I flew to South Africa, he would want me to stay and have us get married. It may have been an awkward marriage proposal, but considering the circumstances, it wasn’t like Michael had any experience asking a woman who lived thousands of miles away to marry him. I immediately said yes and then wondered how in the world we could make this happen.

As it turned out, I flew out the day after Thanksgiving in 1997. Although I was now 30 years old, it is putting it mildly that some of my friends and my family thought I was completely crazy and concerned for my safety. Others however were caught up in the “romance” of it all and how old-fashioned in some ways it seemed; rather than developing our relationship on looks and material things, it was developed on conversations, emails and chatting. I asked my family to have faith in my decision and with great hesitation, they did.

Some people might have thought that I would come home in a matter of days with my tail between my legs, but that was far from the truth. On January 9, 1998, we were married at a pastor’s home with one of Michael’s sister and her husband as witnesses.

We wanted to begin a family immediately and this proved to be an incredibly difficult and emotionally painful experience. In the States, I was already diagnosed with psoriasis and it was suspected that I also had polycystic ovarian syndrome since I had several of the symptoms although I was not “officially” diagnosed with it until years later. I had no difficulty getting pregnant, but once I found out I was pregnant, I would lose the baby within several days. The last time we attempted to get pregnant in South Africa, I lost our baby on Mother’s Day and was hospitalized for five days due to an infection. Michael and I were heartbroken.

Then in December 1999, we had an opportunity to move to Namibia. Michael was born in Namibia which was called South-West Africa back in 1968. Once Namibia became an independent country, everyone who was born in the former South-West Africa had dual citizenship. So in December, Michael received a call from his oldest sister who asked us to move to Namibia and we did. While Michael sorted out his paperwork (getting a copy of his “new” Namibian birth certificate, getting a Namibian passport, etc.), we lived at his sister’s home. Despite the fact I didn’t know Michael’s sister, we hit it off immediately and I am eager to help her run her meat and fish shop that is attached to the back of her house. She is also aware of our previous problems having a baby and she encourages us to try again. Michael and I agree, but I tell him that if we lose this baby, I just can’t try again.

Within a couple of months, we learn that I am pregnant and decide to keep the news a bit quiet. Sure enough within days of learning of the pregnancy, I begin to bleed. My doctor tells me to go to bed immediately and raise the bed up at the end with bricks. The bleeding stops quickly and several days later the doctor confirms that I am still pregnant. We are delighted and we begin to let more people know, including my parents, that I am pregnant. A couple of weeks later, Michael and I get our own flat and I find a new doctor in our new town. In my second trimester, I have some severe cramping and after a brief few hours in the hospital, I am released. In my third trimester, I am put on light rest.

When I am at 40 weeks, I have an exam because I have no hint that I’m going into labor. After the exam, I begin to bleed so I am referred to a hospital in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. After an ultrasound and general exam, I am still bleeding so the decision is made to induce. Although I have horrible back labor pains, my cervix does not dialate. Several hours later, I am given a second dose with the same reaction. I then fall asleep and when I wake up, the right side of my abdomen is at least twice as larger as my left side. An emergency c-section is scheduled and as I am signing a bunch of forms and trying to talk to Michael at the same time, I am being prepped for surgery. Now my life and my unborn baby’s life are in jeopardy. The sisters (nurses) ask me if there is only one opportunity to save me or the baby, whose life should be saved? With absolutely no hesitation, I tell them to save the baby. Michael absolutely freaks out, saying that we can have another baby. I can’t speak for other expectant mothers, but to me my “role” as Mom is to sacrifice for my child. I have lived a life and it has been a wonderful life. I will not deprive my child to have a life to save mine. As I am wheeled into surgery, I accept the fact that I will die to save my child.

Since I was put under a general anethestic, I can only tell you what I heard from the doctors and Michael afterwards. Because OUR situation was so dire, my incision was literally from hip to hip. When our son was born, he was dead. For some bizarre reason, Michael was asked to come into the surgical room while Jared was being revived and I was on the surgical table. Michael was brought in seeing blood dripping from my feet. I don’t know how long my surgery lasted, but I do know that I nearly died. Although I heard that I nearly bled out, I was also told that I didn’t receive a blood transfusion. After the surgery was over, Michael was asked to visit me in recovery because I would not wake up. Someone asked him to say something that would grab my attention and all he could think of is tell me that we had a son. I know I heard it and yet it still took several more hours for me to fully wake up after being pumped full of drugs. I know I asked about our son and I spoke to my parents on our cell but I don’t remember the conversation.

Our son was in the NICU because although the doctors confirmed that he was full-term, he only weighed four pounds. The theory was that at some point my placenta stopped feeding him. I was released from the hospital seven days later and our son remained for another two weeks. When our son was discharged, all the nurses and doctors who were there told us we were the “miracle” family. They honestly said that they never thought either one of us would leave the hospital alive.

Elizabeth looks at me and is clearly stunned. After thinking for a moment, Elizabeth tells me that she believes that this near-death experience ended my life as I knew it and it opened the door of life with RSD. Now we are both stunned. How can a near-death experience almost ten years ago have anything to do with my RSD?


  1. Do you know of any research between a near death experience and rsd?

  2. I don't but I plan to do some research on this issue.