“Breathe, breathe” shouted the group of green suited people surrounding my bed. As I gasped for air, I felt like I was drowning. My lungs couldn’t fill up and I began to choke. I tried to breathe but couldn’t. I looked to people in the room desperate for them to do something. They did nothing but shout, “Breathe.” I was suffocating. I could only plead for help with my eyes. It felt like I was being swept to my death by a gigantic wave that relentlessly pounded me. I couldn’t come up for air. I had no way to take in oxygen.
As I took what felt like my final gasp, something inside me turned like a stalled engine that finally catches. I started breathing on my own. The medical team at my bedside cheered. I had survived over 8 hours of open heart surgery. There’s so much we can know about surgery and some things we miss or that never get discussed – just like life. It never registered that having my valve repaired in an intricate open heart procedure required that I be put on a lung machine so that my breathing was steady and predictable. In essence, a machine took over for my body. Waking up to the terror of not being able to breathe was among the many surprises I was to encounter after I went from being “the picture of health” to near death in a matter of a year.
That was on July 11, 2013. I’m more than grateful today to be telling you about it. That was also the day that so much more began to shift in my life. I’m still trying to understand it but it seems that it took opening up my heart, to open my lungs and more fully take in and accept…life.
In studying the lessons of the most revered spiritual teachers, the concept of keeping an “open heart” is often discussed. When your heart is open, you are more compassionate, non-judgmental and detached from the outcome of things. In concert with opening your heart, spiritual practices often advise to “take a breath.” Breathing in consciously and exhaling in the same way relaxes the body and brings you to the present. This heart and lung combination induces a meditative state and can propel you to a higher consciousness.
It took two open heart surgeries for me to literally and spiritually learn about the true nature of living life with an open heart. When I distill the lessons learned, there are three: letting go and surrendering to the situation, forgiving everyone and expressing gratitude. In the next few blogs, I will share more about each in hopes that you can benefit from my passage from near death.
If you’ve had a similar experience, I’d love to hear what you’ve learned to discuss how your lessons can be applied to reaching your next personal level of professional growth.