Event as recalled by my husband, Steve V (husband of Evelyn V):
May 12, 1989. We were a normal two income family with the oldest attending college, three in high school and the youngest, a Down syndrome boy, in elementary school, struggling as all to make ends meet. I am in sales travelling my territory spanning from Ohio to Maine and everything in between.
Suddenly at 6 am, Evelyn complained of being sick and asked me to check her blood pressure. As I had a cuff to check mine, (I had high blood pressure since a teenager) I did. It was high, and it was pounding! I said we would go to hospital. Feeling nauseous, she went to the bathroom where she collapsed and went in a coma. We called paramedics who came and carried her back to bed to begin examining her. We then went to the hospital where she was diagnosed as having a cerebral hemorrhage. Initially they were going to place her in intensive care to as they said, ‘let the situation resolve.’ Then I was advised she was going to be transferred to another hospital. I suddenly became involved and stated what hospital she must go, not the one they selected.
We went and after reviewing the tests and X-rays, the neurologist wanted to operate. I checked with a doctor I could trust and he approved. At the last minute, a cat scan was done and shown to me. Evelyn had a growth from a fetus the size of a golf ball and that is what burst. The neurologist was glad to find this before surgery.
They removed the top of Evelyn's skull to expose the brain, remove the growth, and evacuate the blood. This surgery lasted about eight to nine hours. Then in recovery, she began hemorrhaging again. I pleaded to open her up again for failure to do this was definitely death for her. She must be given every opportunity to live! They did. This time a hemorrhage was found slightly behind the original one and this time she bled in the fourth ventricle.
Following weeks were spent in intensive care taking cat scans frequently to monitor the blood in the ventricle. It never moved to the spinal column. If it had, she would have been brain dead. Rather it stayed pooled in the ventricle until the body absorbed it.
She came out of the coma after six weeks. Full atrophy set in and she was a vegetable. The following four to five months were spent in the hospital giving her speech, occupational, and physical therapy.
Finally coming home without a tracheal tube, she had a mucous plug close the airway suffocating her. She turned blue. Our eldest son used the suction equipment we had home to dislodge the mucous and the emergency squad arrived taking her back to the hospital where she stayed for another few weeks. We have video tapes of each of these discharges as they were on the evening news each time.
The next year or so she went to therapy three times a week and a therapist came to the house twice a week. During this time, we took her to the Harvard medical group where a prominent doctor accepted her case and over a few years surgically repaired her throat and vocal chords so she could eat and talk again. While there, he, at our request, recommended we see the doctor and he just completed his research on the drug treatment, which was given Evelyn two weeks after government approval. The nerve damage resulting in her double vision was corrected without surgery. Following surgery a few years later corrected the eye lid function to keep the eye lubricated and healthy, as there was no blinking reflex.
Summarizing, after six weeks in a coma, six months in a hospital and six years of therapy and reconstructive surgery Evelyn has recovered about sixty five percent of a normal life. The skull will never heal at her age (forty eight in May 1989) and in a familiar and safe setting at home, she walks without a cane. All familiar with the case agree Evelyn is a walking miracle. Looking back at the decisions I made regarding her life and death, I could only have been an instrument of the lord guiding what needed to be done.
Things recalled by Evelyn beginning May 12, 1989:
I recall coming from the bathroom where I collapsed and returning to bed, not realizing I was out of my body. I went to return, only to see someone on my side. That's when I realized I was shorter and had to look up and struggled to get up to see who it was in my bed, on my side. Somehow, I knew I had to get back in bed, and then I saw that the body in bed was me. What a shock!
I thought ‘that can't be me, I'm over here.’ I went closer to the body, saw it was me, and tried to get back inside it. I couldn't do it. There was no way to get inside! I lay next to it, and then tried to get into it by the mouth. I thought I had to get in through an opening, and then went to the top of my head, trying to slip back inside of body. Finally, in ‘despair’ I laid down next to it, thinking like osmosis I could slip back inside. That didn't work. I felt very alone and sad. Terrible, terrible, loneliness!
Then I was laying on what seemed to be a sacrificial altar, being tortured by people who practiced ‘voodoo.’ They danced around me, chanting some kind of song and held things (dead parts of animals) over me. I could not get away. I kept trying to struggle, but struggling did nothing. I kept trying to call out for help but no one was around to help me and I had no voice to scream for help. I was helpless. I remained there in all of it. Then with all the loud chanting and music, drums, a large chicken foot started to inch its way toward me. It was first seen in the far off distance, then began inching closer and closer, the chanting continued, louder, as the music and shouting become louder and louder. The foot reached my face then inched itself slowly around my neck. With each breath, it grew tighter, tighter, tighter until I couldn't breathe any more. It was like a vacuum cleaner having all your air suctioned out of you starting at your toes.
Next, I believe was my judgment at death. Like a panoramic screen of my whole life was in front of me. Remembered vividly recalling the sins (things I did wrong) over the years, flashbacks as if it was happening to me. It was the most recent thing I did as an adult and I relived the incident and the choice I made. I recalled vividly my words, which were, ‘no I can't do that, I'm a Christian.’ I related the temptation back to faith. The most important thing I found was, 'how I treated others, did I love others, then how well I followed the commandments.'
Following this event, there was a period of total darkness and loneliness. Sometime during this I felt the presence of my mother-in-law who was extremely close to me and had died eighteen years earlier. She communicated to me telepathically that it would be all right and not to be afraid. She was with me for a considerable time.
Then I flashed through a black space tunnel at supersonic speeds. A small light was at the end. That light became brighter and brighter, bigger and bigger until I stood in front of a white brilliantly shining figure. I could not see a face, only the bright white robe. I had no fear and the loneliness was gone. It was a state of complete joy and happiness that I had never experienced before. Take the happiest moment of your life and magnify it thousands of times. Then I saw to my left an image of Steve, my husband and John, my son, standing at a distance to my far left. I knew that I had to go back to them even though I was never happier and content. I said to the figure, ‘I must go back to them, please let me go back and I'll come back again. They need me!’ In a flash, I came back.
Then remember being at the hospital. I found a bed in the lobby, next to a door. The air and smoke was terrible. Somehow, I suddenly was at the church by our house. I looked out the second story window, saw my house, and wanted to go home. As one would, I went to the parking lot to find my car assuming that’s how I got there only to find nothing. So I felt I might as well go back to the hospital. Upon returning, I went roaming around the hospital looking for my room, but I could not find it. When I woke from the coma, my husband was there and I asked for mom. When was she coming? He replied that she died years ago! I could not accept this as I was just with her! The feeling of the loss of her was immense.
Later a woman in my room kept calling for help. ‘Someone, please help me!’ No one came to help her. This went on for hours until I could not stand it anymore. I got up out of bed to help her and fell on the floor. I didn't realize I could not stand up or walk so I fell on the floor. Then the nurses tied my arms and legs to the bed so I didn't get up. What a reward for trying to help someone. At this point, I had no voice to call for help.
I thought one day, in the afternoon, my friend was in my room talking to me. I was conscious of her leaving the room. I tried to call to her but had no voice. I could not move. I felt terribly sad. I could not call to her. This was the first part of my coming back to the present time.
Very afraid, I did not know where I was and there were no familiar faces. I didn’t know what had happened to me. No family appeared for what seemed to be a long time. Many days passed. I felt very afraid and alone. I wanted to try to escape. I felt totally alone. Hospital staff kept asking me what happened to me. I didn't know what to tell them. I said I thought I was in a car accident so that's what I told them and they said, ‘are you sure that's what happened to you?’ I thought I was losing my mind. I felt like I was going crazy. I was not sure what happened. Terrified, since I could not talk and it was very difficult to breathe. I was a stranger in a strange place. There were no familiar faces to me. All I remember was the overwhelming feeling of total loneliness. My body ached for friendly, familiar people. I had a hearing loss (total) in the left ear. I found it out when put the ear plugs for the television sound in my ears. Steve said it was blaring loud and I could not hear it. He asked me, ‘can't you hear that?’ I said no. Then we changed to the other ear and I could hear the sounds. What a surprise for him and me.
I had lots of trouble seeing. I had double vision. My old glasses didn't work for me at all. Everything was double. Sharp images for me, both equal. I could not tell which one was true, the real one. A nurse scolded me for hitting the wall with my wheelchair as I went down the hall.
With the tracheal tube inserted in my throat and always open to breathe, I could not talk, as air would not pass over my vocal chords. To communicate I had to rely on mouthing words, making motions, and trying to write even though, I had poor vision. I just used my judgment and guessed how to write the words even though I could not see them clearly. I guessed at everything even where the lines were on the paper.
Most nights I would awaken unable to breathe. An emergency room doctor would come to suction and clear mucous secretions from my throat to ease breathing. Other nights I sat up in bed. Many nights I sat up in a wheelchair to breathe and sleep. Maybe I would sleep for two hours or so a night. I could not breathe when laying down even when my mouth was open. I was getting no air. I had to learn how to relax myself during these episodes so I didn't panic. Sometimes I counted numbers. Most of the time I prayed. Also, I imagined myself at the beach, standing at the railing of the hotel looking out at the ocean, smelling the salty, fishy air, feeling the warmth of the sun on my head and back. Then walking down the steps to the sand and felt the warm sand between my toes. Got good at visualizing it. It felt like I was there. True visualization. I saw it, felt it, smelled it. I’ve used this visualization many, many times to help me relax and get through the treatment or the day.
I spoke to my assistant pastor about my experience. He felt the torture part, ‘voodoo’, was suffering for the sins (wrong things I did in my life). Torture was purgatory; the journey was going to heaven. The person I saw in the brilliant light was the Lord. Jesus loves. Oh, how he loves.
I questioned the priest why I had the experience or was there a purpose the Lord had in mind when he allowed me to come back. The priest responded that I would know when it was time.
Let's continue, I spent six months at a hospital in Ohio. In the rehabilitation area. I was unable to walk, talk, or think. I had no everyday functions. The therapy departments taught me how to do everything. They had to retrain my brain like a baby. Therapists challenged and taught my brain how to do everything just like a child, starting with how to sit up. It was a humbling experience.
I recall being tied up in bed since I would fall down on my lap without restraints. The brain had to be taught, all over again, like an infant, how to do everything.
In the beginning, everything was so hard to do. Therapists kept saying just ‘try’ to do this and eventually I would succeed. It was terrible not to be able to control your body and tell people your thoughts, especially when you wanted to talk to them. It was good that I wasn't a big talker.
The rehab unit was full, and I waited several weeks for my slot. In the meantime, the rehab staff came to the room and did the exercises in bed.
After going to rehab, assigned to a fourth floor unit for daily therapy with physical, motor skills, speech, and learned relaxation techniques. This took up the morning. Next was Lunch. The afternoon was for more of a social encounter. Many times I was so tired just wanted to rest. I kept to myself most of the time since I had no speech.