I don’t know what death feels like, but I do know what dying feels like.
A year and a half ago, I was shot point blank in the chest with a 9mm. I didn’t feel it, but the bullet severed my subclavian artery. I was losing blood quickly and I collapsed. And let me tell you, to lie there and bleed out would have been the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Instead I did the hardest thing I’ve ever done; I crawled out of the house and into the street, where a neighbor saw me and called an ambulance.
I moved back to my porch and sat down on the steps, pressing on the wound as hard as I could… But I was losing my strength at a terrifying rate. I could hear my neighbor in the background saying to 911 dispatch, “y’all need to hurry up, this boy is bleeding.” I’ll never forget the emphasis she put on that last word. I was in my boxers only, and the blood soaking me from neck to toe was far from inconspicuous.
As I was sitting there on my steps, I began to feel everything shut down. Calm overcame chaos. My pineal gland was dripping. I felt instinct, fear, and everything I had known in my worldly existence slowly drift away. I felt no pain throughout this entire ordeal (that didn’t come until the next day, chronic nerve pain that has been with me ever since, as the bullet also did severe damage to my brachial plexus). My vision began to blacken around the edges. Looking back I know I was dying, but I didn’t know it at the time. I stopped caring, which is the scariest part. For a brief moment, it was almost peaceful. When my vision began to fade, I left my body. My body was sitting on the steps, but my mind had left. In my reality, I was sitting directly over my body, upside down on the ceiling, still facing out towards the street. The ambulance rounded the corner as I had about a foot diameter of light remaining in my line of sight, the rest was black. They say don’t go into the light, but that’s asinine. The light is all that’s left of the world as you know it.
The paramedics came at me like a nascar pit crew. Trying to replenish my blood, and I can only imagine what else. I believe they put 5 pints of blood in me on the short ride to the hospital. I asked them if they had me, if I was safe, and they said “NO.” They had me answer questions over and over about my name and address and whatnot… just to keep me alive. This continued into the OR, I wanted to sleep so badly but they wouldn’t let me. Thank fucking god. I also wanted water very badly (you don’t know thirst until you’ve had half your blood drained), but they would not let me drink as it would interfere with the operation. They put in a stent and it didn’t cover it, so they ran another. The head of vascular surgery (who is my vascular surgeon now) was there that night, and when the operating surgeon was about to give up on the second stent and amputate my arm, his boss made him keep going, so I was fortunate enough to keep my arm. It took a lot of rehabilitation to get function back, and my hand still doesn’t work.
However, I beat death that day. And the world has shone with a touch more beauty ever since.