I nearly died 6 days ago.
Alun and I were in the car, driving to Albany – down South. I’d successfully rapped to Eminem’s “lose yourself” and was feeling pretty pleased with myself.
That’s when it happened.
My windpipe decided – for no reason at all – to close.
Panicked, I started gasping for air.
Terrified, I held tightly to both the door on my left and the side of the chair on my right. I was trying to suck air into my lungs, but all I was getting was a high pitched wheezing noise – like a boiled kettle – and no air.
Frightened, I looked over to Alun. He was looking towards me and his face had lost colour. He pulled over to the side of the raging Freeway.
It was probably a minute – maybe 2 – but without air, it felt like an hour had gone by.
I was still trying to bring air into my lungs with no success. Inside, I could feel that either my airways had closed, or something had somehow gotten worked into the space in my windpipe. I couldn’t think what as Al and I hadn’t eaten in over an hour.
What was happening???
Still in the act of trying to get any air into my body, I leaned forward and gestured to my frightened husband to whack me on the back. Alun nodded and whacked me hard. Once. Twice. Three times.
Tears sprang to my eyes from the pain of it and for some insane reason, I vomited all over my t-shirt.
The vomit somehow made a pinhole of a gap in my windpipe and wheezing loudly, I gasped again and again, forcing as much air as I could into my burning lungs through what felt like the tiniest hole ever.
The sound coming from my desperate attempts was horrifying.
Slowly, the small gap opened up a tiny bit more and I was able to get more air in. It took tremendous effort, and Alun was crying and hitting my back which was helping – but you could tell we were both terrified.
I kept taking gasping, ragged breaths while sitting as straight as I could in the passenger seat.
I started to feel less light-headed and calm was beginning to return after I was able to get more air in. I focused entirely on breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, hoping to settle my frayed nerves and continue to clear whatever blockage had suddenly threatened to kill me.
Alun kept a worried hand on my arm as I breathed in…and out…and in…and out.
I was able to breathe again.
Thank you, God.
I was still alive. Praise the Lord.
I nodded over at Alun “I’m ok. I’m ok” to put him at ease. He let out a breath he’d been holding. We were both shaking.
“I’m ok” I repeated. I wasn’t 100% sure, but I wanted to alleviate Alun’s fears.
My shirt was soaked in vomit. I peeled it off, balled it up and kept it in my lap while I reached behind me for a clean jumper.
We continued on our journey in relative silence.
My mind kept replaying the event. In my mind, I choked over and over and over and over. I couldn’t let it go. I wanted to work out what had happened, so I kept replaying the awful scene in my head, trying to see what had gone wrong but each time coming up with nothing.
I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t drinking anything. Nothing had bumped or banged into me. I did vomit but that was in the midst of choking and wasn’t the reason for the onset of it.
I had nightmares all week – ones where I’m being strangled or stuck under water or ice and can’t breathe. It’s been terrifying.
Alun was calling out in his sleep “Don’t die, Janet! Please don’t leave me” so the choking was affecting him, too.
For the rest of that day – the day I nearly died – talking was difficult. Words were hard to ground out and my voice was raspy and barely audible. My throat was so sore for days afterwards.
So yeah. There you have it. I’ve attempted suicide 4 times, went into a coma when I was about 7/8 years old and nearly died, nearly died in a quad-biking accident that left me Hospitalised for months…
…and that awful day almost a week ago where I was literally knocking on Heaven’s door – seeing my life flash before my eyes- with brief flashes of Alun’s scared face in real time – that makes 7.
Seven times I should have died but didn’t.
I’m still uneasy about choking again, but maybe next time I’ll be alone and will actually die.
Until then, I’ll cherish every single moment I’m allowed to have in this 7th life of mine.
I’ve told Alun how much I love and appreciate him and have let go of so many things I was worried about because when you cheat death, those things aren’t as important.
In my “dying moments” in the car that day, the most important thing to me was to keep breathing. I wanted to stay alive so I could stay with Alun. It didn’t matter how much money I had or what job I did. It didn’t matter that I graduated Uni or wrote my Memoir and got a book deal with 2 publishers.
What mattered most was the people I loved, the Dad I’ve lost…and doing everything I could to pull air into my chest to see another day through.
Scary…yet a definite learning experience.
I’m so grateful to still be here today.
Albeit with a very sore chest and a heightened awareness whenever I eat or drink that this might be the next choking attack and might be the time I actually die.
I’m not going to waste my life and hope for an 8th one.