Monday, March 30, 2015

Three Weeks in the Hospital – Two Near Death Experiences: A True Story

Previously published on Associated Content / Yahoo Contributor Network January 12, 2011

In September of 1977 I came down with a cold. I was in the process of moving into a filthy apartment and my allergy to dust was tested as I cleaned thick layers of it from every shelf, window sill, and counter top.

I stupidly contributed to the lingering cold, because, even though I was an asthmatic, I smoked. I also lived with a cat (I didn't know at the time that I was developing an allergy to cats).

By October the cold had become so bad I could barely breathe, and on October 17 my mother drove me to the emergency room. I was given shots of epinephrine and aminophyllin.

Even as I left the hospital I knew I would be back. When you've had asthma for as long as I have, you know your body well enough to know when the symptoms are not subsiding and when you are in danger of dying.

That same night, before my parents went to bed, I asked them to drive me to the hospital. I was afraid I wouldn't make it through the night. I was right in believing this asthma attack was dangerous, because, though I didn't know it at the time, I also had a severe upper respiratory infection. I was admitted that night.

For the first time in my life I feared I would die from an asthma attack. I prayed to God that if he allowed me to awaken in the morning - alive - I would quit smoking.

When I awoke, I heard angels singing and my eyes flashed open in fear. Still unable to speak because my breathing was so labored, I peered around my room to find a woman in the bed next to mine who claimed to be an evangelist.

At this point, I would like to interrupt this article to inform the reader that I consider myself to be a very spiritual person. Though I am not religious, I firmly believe in God, and I try to live my life in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ and other religious leaders who live and lived exemplary lives.

The evangelist spoke incessantly and relentlessly over the next week and a half about saving me. Her eagerness to force me into her religion contributed more to my extended asthma attack than it did to my spiritual progression. After a while her voice sounded like nails on a chalkboard.

I turned my back on her and looked outside my window where a giant maple tree presented me with leaves of gold, brown, rust, crimson, and an assortment of other fall colors. I focused on one leaf that sat at the end of a branch barren of all other leaves. Silly as it may sound, I felt a connection to that leaf. "If you can hang on until I get out of here," I told it as if it could hear me, "I can hang on too."

Hanging on was difficult though, because twice during my stay, my asthma had become so bad, I was hanging over the edge of the bed struggling to get a hairline of oxygen into my lungs. I'm sure my lips were purple, because every nurse on the floor was in my room.

One nurse rubbed my back and my shoulders. Another caressed my arm while another soothed me and assured me that everything would be OK once they got a hold of the doctor to approve a respiratory treatment. Two other nurses stood by the door.

The respiratory therapist stood by my bed waiting for the doctor's approval. Nobody could find the doctor. As my anxiety increased so too did my fear of dying. I could see fear in the nurses' faces too. They thought I was going to die just as much as I did.

When the respiratory therapist was finally given the OK, I didn't have the lung capacity to breathe in the much needed medicine. I felt like crying in frustration and in fear, but the tears would have to wait. Crying might have killed me.

Finally the medicine started working, but my body wouldn't wait the required four hours for the next treatment. Two and a half hours later I was struggling again. And again nurses had to find the elusive doctor.

After the attack subsided, the voice from the other bed continued to spout her "you shoulds" over and over. I felt as if I were listening to a sermon that never ended and that, instead of being sent to save me, she was there for the sole purpose of torturing me.

At one point I wrote a letter to the nursing staff (because I was still having so much difficulty breathing that I couldn't speak) and asked them to PLEASE move her or me so that I could concentrate on getting better. A week and a half into my hospital stay, she left. I never did find out why she was there or what it was about her roommate she felt needed saving.

After my second scare when the nursing staff once again stood around my bed awaiting approval to utilize the breathing apparatus that would save my life, I returned my attention to the maple tree. The leaf clung on and so did I.

I learned a lot about myself during that hospital stay. One important lesson was that I had to admit how stupid I was to begin smoking in the first place. Another lesson was to stay away from things that caused an allergic reaction.

The third very important lesson I learned was not to trust all doctors. It never occurred to me that I might die only because the doctor who was responsible for administering drugs I badly needed didn't feel it was necessary to inform the staff of his whereabouts.

I also learned (and expected) landlords to clean any apartment I rented before I moved in.

And I learned to never force anybody to believe what I believe. If I want someone to live a spiritual life, I will show my intentions by my actions; not by my words.

On the day I left the hospital, nearly three weeks later, I looked out the window one last time. The beautiful maple tree had lost all of its leaves, except for one, the one I had asked to hang on. God heard my prayers.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Karma - Cosmic Justice or Cosmic Joke?

(from the Magical Mysteries Collection)

Originally published in the Daily Journal – later published on Associated Content / Yahoo Contributor Network August 15, 2008

Isaac Newton, a 17th Century scientist who defined the laws of motion wrote, "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." Newton's Third Law of Motion bears a striking resemblance to the law of Karma that states, "What goes around comes around." Reaping what you sow is another form of Karma.

The word Karma has its beginnings in Sanskrit. It means "deed." The Hindu and Buddhist believe a person's actions determine his consequences - cause and effect. But according to the laws of Karma, consequences can occur in this life or in the next incarnation.

Without proof, though, how can we believe in Karma? How do we know that somebody like Hitler will meet the fate we believe he deserves? And what about people like Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy, murderers who were both executed (one by his former prison mates, another by lethal injection)? Do executions prove Karmic justice or do expectations of reward or punishment prove to be one big cosmic joke? Apparently it matters not how many people murderers kill; whether they ended one life or destroyed twenty, the murderer's life ends with one swift death.

Without Karma, according to most religions, we are left with only two ultimate choices, Heaven or Hell. In some religions, if you break one of the Ten Commandments you are forever condemned to Hell. What that means is that a man who robs a bank is just as likely to go to Hell as is a woman who murders her children or a psychotic leader who commits genocide.

But what if the man who robs a bank has a child who will die without expensive drugs? In his lifetime, with the job he has, with insurance that has run out, and with the hospital refusing to treat his child, the father is left with what he perceives to be no other choice. He knows he will never be able to pay his medical bills and he knows he is not eligible for any government aid because he makes five dollars a month more than the minimum allotted allowance. With no relatives to rely on, and no hope for a raise, he feels he must choose between letting his child die and robbing a bank.

Martin Short's character in the movie, "Three Fugitives," was faced with such a problem. The movie, of course, was fictitious, and I'm not advocating robbing banks to solve problems, but we all have to admit that no matter how religious we are, situations arise that challenge our beliefs and determine our choices. Some might say that the man mentioned above should trust that God will take care of the matter, but nobody can truly understand the torment of any human being without experiencing exactly what another person experiences under exactly the same conditions. Maybe, at the end of his life, the man would ask forgiveness for robbing the bank.

How many times must God forgive him? If you believe in the Bible, according to Matthew 18:22, "seventy times seven." So what is to stop somebody from committing a crime, or even several crimes, and deciding to apologize a minimum of 490 times at the end of his life for every wrongdoing?

Perhaps the answer lies in the conscience. Most religions teach us that we are all sinners. Sinners know, because they have a conscience, when they have broken a Commandment. Some sinners care about their behavior and make amends. Others justify their behavior and make excuses. Unless they are completely apathetic about their crimes (antisocial personality disordered individuals, for instance), they carry their guilt with them their entire lives.

If Karma is absolute, why can we not know what it was we did in our past lives so that we can rectify our past misdeeds in this life? Some people attempt to find out by having hypnotists regress them into their past lives. Perhaps, though, if we were aware of the torment we caused others, we might become so focused on the past that we would be unable to change the course of our destiny. Does Karma provide a link to our destiny or do we determine our futures by our actions in the present?

Jesus recommended that we "know" ourselves. If our spirits have inhabited other bodies, might we benefit by knowing what we did in our pasts to effect a change in our futures?

People who believe in Karma feel responsible for their actions. They care about their behavior. Everything they do, every thought they have begins with choice because they know that at some point they either reap rewards or suffer consequences as a result of their actions.

To believe in Karma, in light of the aforementioned scenarios, requires a belief in reincarnation, an opportunity to return to Earth to make amends. To those who believe the life we are currently living is all we have, faith drives them to believe that only God can know the true nature of any deed or action. And if God resides in our consciences perhaps we, along with God, at the moment we depart this life, determine our own rewards and consequences.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Full Moon in the ER: Craziness Accompanies the Full Moon

Republished from my previously published Yahoo Contributor Network article originally posted on July 8, 2010.

A current asthma attack triggered this memory: I had the pleasure of entering an emergency room one full moon day because I was having an asthma attack. Until you have experienced the electric energy that surrounds and penetrates each person in an emergency room on a full moon, you have not yet fully lived.

Back in the mid 1970s I worked at Billings Hospital. Lucky for me I worked in the lobby next to the emergency room, because every cold winter morning, I began my day there on my way to the office - not working, but receiving shots of epinephrine and aminophylline after having walked the distance from one end of the Midway Plaisance at the University of Chicago to the other. Since the age of five, asthma has been a problem for me and cold winter air constricts my lungs to a point where I cannot breathe.

During my time at Billings Hospital I befriended a couple of ER doctors who used to tell me about the lunatics they knew would be visiting them every full moon and about how they would mentally prepare themselves for those crazy full moon days. I had to wonder though - can you really prepare for lunacy?

Before I explain to you what happened to me that full moon morning, I should explain a little about the word, lunatic, as it relates to the moon. A Lunar Cycle consists of 29.53059 days. The Full Moon is a phase of the moon in which the illuminated portion of the moon is visible to observers.

Lunar cycles have been credited with causing humans to shape-shift into werewolves of super-human strength. It is my belief, after my experience in the ER that full moon day, that shape-shifters do indeed exist and they periodically visit emergency rooms - on days and nights of the full moon. Let me now tell you why.

On this particular full moon morning, the emergency room was already packed - so packed, in fact, that people were on gurneys in the hallway. I was on one of those gurneys sucking in oxygen, which wasn't helping. As I attempted to draw air into my lungs and looked around at what appeared to be an insane asylum, I searched my co-workers' eyes with a silent plea to get to me first. They were too busy to notice.

A wild-eyed crazy looking woman sat on the gurney across from me. Her penetrating stare was unnerving me. I tried to ignore her, but her bulging eyes looked as if they would explode from her head at any moment.

The odd gyrations and unsettling stares of everybody else around me made me feel even more uncomfortable. The man next to me was playing with himself while humming, and I was surrounded by several other looney bird patients, who were either sitting or lying on their gurneys, lost in their own little worlds, probably escapees from the mental ward.

My uneasiness made my asthma symptoms worse and the oxygen was having no effect at all. My wheezing worsened.

As I continued to attempt to breathe in oxygen until doctors could administer the drugs that would help me breathe, I was painfully aware of how much time was going by. I needed to get to work, but I needed to be able to breathe first. And I needed to get away from what could only be described as the real Dawn of the Dead cast.

The wait was long that morning and the wild-eyed woman across from me became so agitated because nobody took immediate care of her, that she started screaming. "If somebody doesn't f'ing take care of me I'm gonna f'ing kill all of you!" Like a scene out of The Exorcist, her head spun in every direction until it settled upon me. "Starting with that f'ing bi*ch over there sucking on that machine."

I felt my lungs constrict even tighter. Back then anybody could have walked into an emergency room carrying a gun. Was she holding one? I didn't know. Would she leap from her gurney onto mine and attack me?

If you know anything about asthmatics, you know not to escalate their emotional well-being. My emotions went into overdrive as my eyes matched hers in bulginess (yes, I made up that word).

I sucked harder and prayed that I was just experiencing a mad hallucination.

One of my co-workers finally removed me from the hallway and brought me into a room. "Yes, it's another full moon," she sighed. "Approximately every 29 days, all the crazies find their way into the ER, and it becomes a loony bin in here."

So what did that make me? I prayed I would never get another asthma attack on a full moon day. So far I've been lucky.

The next time you consider visiting an emergency room, check the Moon Phases by clicking the link. You will know when NOT to visit one. Or, if you are curious about the lunacy that takes place in an ER during a full moon, go, but beware!

(Except for the part about the woman's head spinning like Linda Blair's character's head did in The Exorcist, everything in this story was true.)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Life Between Lives

Previously published in The Daily Journal as part of the Magical Mysteries Collection in the early part of the century and on Yahoo Contributor Network, July 30, 2008.

Every day, while we are alive, we experience our world through our physical senses. But what happens when we die? Who are we without arms, legs, torso, and head?

Whether we are buried in the ground or cremated, ashes cast into the ocean, our bodies are shed like skins from a snake and it is the soul that lives on after we die.

Perhaps the soul hovers above the body at death and watches events that take place on Earth. Many people who have "died" and come back report they heard conversations between doctors and paramedics who treated them while they were supposedly dead. After traveling through a tunnel and seeing a white light, they return to their bodies when they are told it isn't their time to die. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of people have described the same scenario. No longer afraid of dying, they are forever changed by the experience. Death does not kill the soul.

Reincarnationists believe that our spirits live again and again in order to progress our souls through eternity. But are we capable of understanding eternity?

Imagine a million dollars, a billion dollars, or a trillion dollars. How much space would it fill? Now try to imagine a zillion dollars, or the number one with an infinite number of zeros.

If we could contain infinity by comparing years to grains of sand and assigning one grain of sand to represent one year, every person living during that year would be part of that one grain of sand. Infinitesimal, in terms of infinity, is it possible to imagine, after removing only 80 grains of sand (an approximate lifespan), living more than one lifetime?

Many doctors, utilizing hypnotherapy to regress their patients while seeking explanations for fears and behavior, stumble across previous lifetimes or incarnations. Dr. Michael Newton, however, a retired hypnotherapist in northern California, asked his patients about the period of time between lives.

The patients he regressed were varied in sex, age, religion, and ethnicity. With amazing consistency, people reported similar experiences: spiritual guides, lessons learned, and life reviews.

Personal guides questioned them about the way they lived their lives. Did they treat others the way they wanted to be treated? Did they exert power and control over loved ones? Did they allow their physical senses to control them? Pleasure abused results in alcoholism, gluttony, greed, incest, and a myriad other problems that create a block to spiritual growth. As the souls review their own lives, they gain knowledge and understanding that each life has a purpose.

According to Newton in his book, Journey of Souls, "If death were the end of everything about us, then life indeed would be meaningless." Life then must be a transition from one phase of soul development to another. And even though the number of grains of sand on the entire planet is nearly impossible to imagine, each life is valuable in that living it affords the soul an opportunity to return to the Source, to the One, to God.