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Portrait of an Exploding Brain.. (OR: "Expressway Through My Skull)"

By E
& friends who filled in parts during my unconsciousness & travels to the meta- realms

(audio is from Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory)

The following account was written in the weeks following my brain surgery on 02/17/04. It contains particulars of that night, my surgery & recovery, but the supernatural details of my clinical death experience & the metaphysical battle I'm engaged in are better covered in my book "Apocalypse Near". You my read the following or get a thumbnail sketch by listening to some radio interviews I did.

" We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of awakening from a troubled dream; it may be so the moment after death" - Nathaniel Hawthorne

  I almost got the answer to Hawthorne's query on the eve of Feb. 17, 2004 as I suffered a rare type of inter -cranial bleed (a burst A.V.M. aneurysm) that I'm told I had about a 2% chance of surviving. Those who do survive a burst AVM are usually left at least partially paralyzed, blind and/or severely cognitively impaired. Here's what I remember of that night & an account of the events during my post-op recovery & the rehabilitation therapy program (which I am still following).

   One thing I absolutely remember is the pain resonating from somewhere deep inside my skull & after a few minutes of that, knowing with my whole being that my body was dying.

   I think I can best describe the pain using one of Marlon Brando's lines from Apocalypse Now... "Like I was shot with a Diamond... Like I was shot with a diamond bullet right through my forehead."
   ...See? With minutia like that lodged in my synapses, it's no wonder my brain had to open a pressure valve.

   On the night of Feb. 17th I was driving to pick up my date... (Holly) to see a production of Shakespeare's Tempest… (Little did I know there would be a tempest raging within my skull. I had the radio on & was singing along to "Get Free" by "The Vines". I was running through the song thinking I might try it next time I went to Karaoke. I had been working on my voice because I was taking on more vocal parts in my music projects & had also been spending time with friends at Karaoke. I had come to notice that one could build up some pressure in the head while singing & remember a few times I got rather light headed while trying to push my voice to do things it hadn't done before.
       At one point in "Get Free" there is a particularly maniacal high-pitched scream, & feeling rather maniacal at the time, I went for it.

       Anyone who's ever sung rock-n-roll may know how good it feels to let a primal scream rip at the appropriate peak of emotion. I was doing this, & I guess I forced something beyond the realm of physical capability & at that point I felt pain gush through my head. As it increased I began to know that something was seriously wrong. I began Yogic breathing as I continued to drive, thinking "Oh, she's just going to think I don't want to go to the play."

     The pain wasn't subsiding, & now I knew I was in serious trouble. I somehow made it & stood in Holly's doorway. I described my pain & she knew something was very wrong. She asked me to lie down inside, but I had an urge to be outside & lay in the grass under the stars. She brought out a glass of water with Tylenol & tried to hand it to me, but I couldn't seem to reach my arm up to find it. She said "I'm taking you to the hospital. You're either having some type of inner ear disturbance or you ruptured a blood vessel".

  "No, do NOT take me to the hospital... Let me just lay here.” I said this for several reasons. One was because I have a degree in psychology, know a good deal about the brain & I suspected I was having a brain bleed & knew that I might be better off dead. I was beginning to "feel" my body die and I was O.K. with that. A visceral peace was overtaking me & I wanted to keep merging with that and not the likely outcomes of an emergency brain surgury. Another reason I wanted to lay there & continue to drift out of my pain riddled body was because I had recently cancelled my health insurance because the premiums were ever increasing & I had never once used it in the years I carried it. I had always been in superior health. I was shopping for a less expensive policy at the time. I felt at peace & ready to leave.

     Ironically, I had been on the phone with a Humana agent the day before. She had told me that she could take my application over the phone & get things underway with a credit card. I learned later, that this might not have been such a good thing... (I was told I would never have gotten the level of care I received had I been insured under the HMO I was considering.)

  ...And so, knowing I was uninsured & never being one for the "healthcare industry", I refused the hospital; wanting only to stare up into the vastness of the milky way. Holly said, "C'mon, get up. I'm not going to let you die on my front lawn.", but I insisted on laying there. I reiterated, "No, do not take me to the hospital, I'm ready to go.. I'm just gonna' go into that star.."

I'm wondering if I was staring at Polaris. I can still see the spot where I lay & the star I saw. This star seemed to be closing in on me & communicating with all the other stars & me.. Very strange, but beautiful & wonderful. I want to go back there to see if I was facing north.

continued, next column...

    Holly got her neighbor & they picked me up by my arms & legs to get me to her car. (My left side had shut down competely by this time, so I couldn't really fight to stay even though I wanted to).. They struggled to to load my semi-conscious body into the front seat. From the point after being taken from under the stars I remember only flashes from this world but lots from a world beyond our physical senses.

    I remember visual bits of the ride to hospital, but the l"ife flashing before my eyes" thing was definitely happening in torrents of thought & feeling that rushed through me. I continued yogic breathing, but the pain did not subside. The feeling of knowing my body was dying continued. This pain was so great that my body began to allow my conscious being to bounce out of body to get away from the it. The last thing I absolutely remember was praying & asking that I might at least have the ability to move forward with a web publishing project I had recently begun. From then on, until after the operation I remember only things that are not of this world, except in a personal, emotional way. The things that I remember from that place are of a philosophical & theological nature. That timeless space I was in between that last consciously remembered prayer & waking in post-op requires more description, so if you're interested in such mysteries click here, & read about what it's like to peek behind the curtain at the wizard (a new window will open). This window will stay open so you can return to read the rest of this fateful night. (betcha' can't wait)..

  The following account of my arriving at the emergency room up until I woke up in the I.C.U. is pieced together from Holly, my best friend Megan, my friend & band-mate Joran Oppelt, my parents & several other friends.

  Emergency Room Arrival.      Holly got assistance & I was put in a wheelchair. Holly explained she was afraid I was having an some type of brain bleed, & they asked if I was on drugs. They had her fill out some forms. They explained they were going to run tests, one of which was a CAT scan, & they rolled me away. They put her in a private waiting room with a phone & a bible. Holly called her dad, who drove over. A doctor entered to tell her that I was bleeding profusely into my brain, that there was a lot of blood in my cranium, & that I would probably not live. He said they needed to get hold of family right away to get permission to operate.

Technological Savior #1, My Cell Phone...

     They retrieved my cell phone & tried to call my family. Holly began to look under 'D' for dad. however, I keep my dad’s number under 'P' for pop. She began scrolling from the top & came upon “Aunt K" ; (my Aunt Katherine.) Holly was too upset to call, so her dad did it. My Aunt got on the phone & Holly could hear her getting hysterical as the situation was explained.

     They got my father’s phone number from my aunt & the hospital was put in contact. My father was also told that I would probably not survive & that it might be better if I didn't. My father lives in Port St. Lucie, about 4 hours drive from Tampa & had to drive all that way with that thought in his head.

      My friends began showing up at this point. Holly went through my phone list & let people know what was happening. Holly, her dad, Megan, her mom & Joran were given permission to see me after the test in the pre-op where they said I seemed semi-conscious at times. Holly told said , "You can’t die, You're the glue that holds your friends together. You're the rock, & you rock.. And I'll be really mad!" I think I remember this...

continued, next page >>

For added drama & to keep you reading, I offer the following lyric from Bruce Springsteen-

"Sometimes its like someone took a knife, baby,
edgy & dull
and cut a six inch valley
through the middle
of my skull"..



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