Category Archives: John Darrin

I died, once.

First things first – there is no white light. Forget it. It just gets dark and silent.

Second thing – after it was all over, my heart doctor told me that death was one of the possible side effects of the drugs they had me on. Why do you suppose he didn’t tell me that before I died?

Third thing – OK, so I’m alive again. Death, apparently, is reversible.

Anne, my wife, was at work, and she had the car. I worked from home, and some mornings I would get right to it at 6 AM, and then shower at lunch time. Or not, depending on who might have to physically interface with me that day. This was one of those late-shower days. I’m finishing up in the shower and surprisingly tired. Noting that I wasn’t that dirty to start with, I figured it had to be something other than the effort to scrub.

I have an inconvenient heart condition known as paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. It causes an occasional rapid, irregular heart beat and shortness of breath, like I suddenly got real old. (Instead of getting real old slowly, which is the actual case.) At first I dismissed the symptoms as a-fib, but they felt different than the usual episode, so I called Anne to come and get me to go to the hospital.

I must have really been hurting because I never volunteer to go to the hospital. My default cure for anything is to wait and see. By the time we got there, I was in pretty bad shape, even considering my normal shape isn’t all that notable. As a 54-year-old male with chest pains, I jumped right to the head of the line. Even so, they took the time to be sure I could afford to be diagnosed and treated, and then wheeled me back to the emergency room, Anne coming along without any objection from anyone.

The nurse was connecting me to machines, and I was trying to look recuperative, smiling as best I could, to calm Anne. When the nurse had plugged in some device, she stopped and watched the displays behind me and then turned, calling to someone, “Doctor, you’d better look at this.”

I’ve never thought I was immortal, but for some reason, I haven’t really ever had a fear of death. It is simply too hypothetical too me. (See Asthma-induced Hallucinations, below.) And I wasn’t scared at that moment, just curious and concerned for Anne, who was still at the foot of the bed, holding my foot and trying to be brave.

A woman in a lab coat with a stethoscope came over and looked at the display, and I heard her yell a word that you only want to hear on TV – stat. It came at the end of a short sentence that I don’t recall, and was obviously an order because the next thing I knew, there were people hustling all around me, doing things in an orderly if somewhat frantic way.

Doctor using defibrillator on patientThe action was sort of stop motion. Everyone doing something urgently, then they would all freeze and stare at the monitors. Then someone would mutter something and they’d start all over again. They repeated the process several times before the doctor told me that I was in ventricular fibrillation and they were going to have to use the defibrillator. She said they usually didn’t do this without some kind of prep, anesthetic or sedatives or something, but there was no time.

“This is gonna hurt,” she said. And then she said “clear.” And it hurt.

Here’s how it hurt. Imagine an infinite number of Mike Tyson’s at the prime of his career. Imagine that they surround you from every direction, from inside your body and out, that your cells have all somehow become Mike Tyson. Then imagine that they all hit you in the chest at the same time.

Anne said I levitated, a hang time Michael Jordon would envy. I remember that much. I remember shouting, “Whoa! Jesus!” And I remember seeing Anne so scared I could have died from sadness.

Then there was no white light. All that happened was that my vision narrowed from the outside in until it was dark, but I was dead before I went blind.

When I woke 30 or 40 minutes later, Anne was at my side. She told me they’d used the defibrillator again, and got my heart going.

And probably hers as well.


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Our 20th Anniversary

It was probably my second-best idea ever, the best being marrying my wife, Anne, in the first place. For our 20th anniversary, I used every frequent-flyer and hotel reward I had, and we spent a week at a resort in Palm Springs, California. As a surprise, I arranged a wedding with the help of a romantic concierge.

All of Anne’s frequent flyer miles came from the only airline she would fly – Air Valium. She took the first pill in the car on the way to the airport to catch the transcontinental flight in our First-Class seats. The instructions from the doctor said to take it thirty minutes before departure, like an airsick pill for the mind, but she decided she needed a pill just to get into the airport. The second pill at the gate was probably a little more sedation than required, and as we boarded, the stewardess asked if she was all right. I briefly explained the Air Valium theory, and she looked at me like I was doing date rape.

Somewhere over Colorado, Anne sobered up, and for the rest of the trip, she kept a grip on my arm like a tourniquet and wanted everyone to sit down so they wouldn’t tip the plane over. Somewhere over Arizona, the stewardess came to appreciate my theory and was offering Anne champagne. She mixed it with a little, a very little, orange juice, and Anne started enjoying flying.

Our ground-floor suite on the golf course in a first-class resort in Palm Springs is just what you’d expect – extravagance. It was bigger than our first apartment, and we had a dining room with a table that would seat six. Among all the other little touches, they provided two silk bathrobes that were so soft it was decadent. In the mornings, Anne and I sit on the patio wearing our robes, watching the ducks and geese in the pond not twenty yards away.

Fowl, gathering for the attack.

Fowl, gathering for the attack.

One morning Anne decided she would feed the fowl. When the Cheerios ran out, they chased her, pecking at her toes and at her ass, and she ran across the fairway with the robe flowing behind her like a naked superhero’s cape. She might have gotten away with little notice if only she hadn’t been screaming.

Anne trying not to cry with joy.

Anne trying not to cry with joy.

When it was time for the surprise ceremony, I tricked her into getting all dressed up by telling her that because of my Platinum level frequent traveler status, we were invited to a private cocktail party where she would get to meet Peter Allen, who was performing at the resort. So we dressed and went to a private meeting room, and on the way, I gave her an anniversary card. Hallmark’s hyperbole was never more evident, and at the end of their description of the perfect marriage, I had hand-written “If you had it to do over again, would you?” She said, “of course,” and got the surprise of her life when I took her up on it.

After that, whenever my son wanted to do a little good-natured bitching at me, he would complain that he wasn’t invited to the wedding. I finally shut him up when I told him that was because we skipped the reception, and went right to the honeymoon.

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Filed under Bathroom Biography, John Darrin