Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Your Fate is in Your Hands (except when it isn't)



The Secular Spectrum: Your Fate is in Your Hands (except when it isn't)

Today is my birthday, the third I wasn't supposed to live to celebrate. That is a present all in itself. But after my coma, I was given another gift--a do-over and chance to gain many more years.

That's because my recovery has goosed me into reforming my life and shedding many of my unhealthful and downright harmful habits. Because of that, I will probably live many years longer.

Though I already knew this, my illness(es) impressed on me the fact that you never know what monkeywrench life might throw at you. Though you have no control over that, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to control what you can.

That's why I wrote my latest SecSpec post today instead of staying up into the wee hours of the morning to write it, just so readers on the East Coast could see it in the morning. When Keith stopped making my breakfast for me, he worried that I might start backsliding into my old bad sleeping habits.

He needn't have worried. Nowaday, I'm frequently the one who starts getting ready for bed first. I'm obsessed with getting enough sleep.

Maybe it was that six-week nap that did it....

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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 sleep...in 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.