Friday, April 15, 2016

And now for something competely dfferent

The enormous jacket wasn't a fashion statement. Keith keeps it in the car, and we were woefully unprepared for a hike at an elevation of 4000 feet.
Tumblrs: McGill Trail, Los Padres National Forest

Just as my recovery taken me on a long, tortuous path, so went the search on Sunday for a trail Keith once hiked.
Before we knew it, we had overshot the mark by at forty-five miles. But also like my recovery, we found our journey took us along a pleasantly unexpected path.

We wound up far from our usual dry chaparral environs to a place that seemed like a different world. Here, we found pines and lichen-encrusted branches instead of sparse live oaks and sagebrush (which we nonetheless love).

But like our parched landscape, fire had touched this mountain forest, as well. Yet--and here's the final recovery analogy--the fire-cleared areas were already healing, with baby pines growing where their parents had been felled.

Since we've never walked in a natural pine forest before, I've dug out some pics from early garden walks. The first was taken on our first visit to the Japanese Garden on 12-8-13, in front of a very non-natural pine--a large bonzai.

The second was taken on at the LA County Arboretum on 1-4-14, also on our first visit.

The third pic, was taken at Descanso Gardens on 12-22-13. Do I even have to mention what visit it was?

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

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In July of 2013, I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died. When I awoke from the coma, I could barely lift my head. It has been a hard road to recovery. The doctors advised my loved ones to give up all hope for my full recovery, but while they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of consciousness, I was telling them grumpily to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to my coma-dream. I was experiencing covert cognition, and the coma-dream was my version of a near-death experience. I'm a skeptic, so I saw surreal images instead of spirits or dead loved ones. According to my research, as many as one in five people with consciousness disorders have covert cognition.

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.