Not even an hour went by since I had thought about returning to a life of drinking and drugs that things took a turn for the worse. As I lay in the bed in Clinica Biblica the doctor came in to inform me that the money that had been sent to the hospital was gone and that if more money did not arrive in the next 3 hours that I would be transferred back to Hospital Mexico.
I knew that no more money was coming and that I would soon be sent back to the original hospital where this nightmare had begun. By the tone of his voice and the look in his eye, I could tell there was something wrong and they wanted to get me out of there as soon as possible. So much for the Hippocratic Oath…..it IS all about the money at private hospitals, and when it runs out so does their willingness to help.
I began having chest pains and labored breathing. The feeling that I was going to get out of this was quickly fading. I buzzed the nurse, but I assume that penniless patients do not get someone quickly coming to their request. The night attendee slowly came into the room and I told her what I was experiencing. There was no change of facial expression by the nurse, as if she knew that this was going to happen. It was 8 pm at night. All they had to do was keep me alive for another hour and I would be in the ambulance and no longer their responsibility. The last thing they wanted was for me to have to be operated on in their hospital without any money.
It seemed that the physical problems I was experiencing enticed the hospital to get me moved right away. I had no time to tell anyone that I was being moved and the EMTs were intent on getting me out of there as quickly as possible. This was the fastest I had ever seen a Costa Rican accomplish a task. I needed to escape this situation, so I grabbed my MP3 player and put the headphones on. As I pushed play, ironically the song “It’s Not My Time” by 3 Doors Down blared into my ears. I hoped that it was not my time. There was so much in life I had not experienced, and being a dreamer, I wanted to have the chance.
I was loaded in the ambulance and we raced back to the public hospital. I lay my head down and just looked up and the ceiling. I knew that no one knew what was happening or where I was being transferred. It was at that moment that I knew I was completely alone. If I died right there not a single person would have known nor would anyone have actually cared. I would have been an afterthought in people’s minds and would have been forgotten fairly easily. All of this pain and sadness I had been keeping inside me, which I always hoped that the alcohol would make disappear, came tumbling out.
Upon arrival to Hospital Mexico, the music was removed from my ears and I was quickly returned to reality. Not where I really wanted to be. I lay in one of the 30 or so beds in the admitting wing of the hospital. It was right then and there that I noticed that I could not breathe. Terror shot through my head as I tried to scream. I began waving my arms in the air, praying that someone would help me. It was like being out in the ocean and drowning, knowing that my only hope was for a lifeguard to see me and bring me to the surface. Two nurses and a doctor came to me and began yelling things in Spanish. They brought a tube over and began to insert it down my throat. I tried to keep my eyes open if this was the last time I would use them, and then darkness. Death….or near death experience would follow.
I was caught inside a dream world that was so close to reality, it seemed like part of me was actually living it. I began walking down a tunnel. Although I had no idea where I was, I knew exactly where I was supposed to go. There was just enough light so that I did not trip and fall on this journey. There seemed to be something guiding me and showing me which way I needed to go. Soon, and without warning I exited into a white sand beach, I laid down and felt the sunlight and the warmth. I closed my eyes and felt someone holding my hand, whispering in my ear that everything was going to be ok. I felt at peace and did not want to return to the world I was in before. There were no problems, no sadness; Just peace and tranquility. There was a feeling of being whole for the first time in my life.
I opened my eyes and saw that there was no one there beside me holding my hand. Perhaps it was my imagination or maybe it was an angel. This was the world I wanted to stay in, to be a part of, and to keep this feeling that encompassed my entire body. I eased myself to my feet and began to walk towards the clear blue water in front of me.
My feet touched the water and it was the perfect temperature. I slowly walked in further. First up to my knees, then my waist, and then I dove into the crystal clear ocean. There was complete silence. I began to swim, not needing to come up for air. I was able to swim forever. The feeling of tranquility filled every cell in my body. This was complete happiness and peace; why would I ever want to leave?
As I experienced this new plane of existence, I simultaneously had the feeling of being called back, but I did not want to go. Next thing I knew, a hand reached down and pulled me to the surface. I felt air rush into my lungs and closed my eyes again. This time when they opened, I was in a hospital bed in the real world. All I could think about was why couldn’t I stay?
I wanted to know what had happened and where I was. I looked down and saw bandages on my chest. A feeling of weakness came over me and I closed my eyes again, trying to go back to that world I had been experiencing, but it was gone. The last thing I wanted to do was to come back to this pain.
Over the next few days I realized that I was in the ICU in Hospital Mexico. The bacteria that had been going through my body and blood stream had started eating away at one of the valves in my heart. The surgeons performed emergency open heart surgery on me to replace the valve during which I died on the table and had to be resuscitated. When the people in Costa Rica finally found out where I was they were told that my parents needed to be contacted because I had a 1% chance to live. Whether or not I lived was based on how my body responded to the new valve.
That was it. There was no returning to the life I used to live, but because alcohol had been a part of my life since the age of 15; that is not easy to do. I would soon find out that the hospital and what my body went through was not the difficult part, it was learning to live again and go through recovery. I had to try to find out who I was deep inside my soul and reinvent myself.