On March 22, 2018, I was rushed to the hospital for life-saving surgery. Due to complications with the procedure, I didn’t regain full, coherent consciousness until the second week in April. For three weeks I was stuck inside my own mind, subject to a seemingly unending series of dreams. Dreams covering on a variety of themes, some light and hopeful, others dark and dismal. I dreamed the end of my life over and over. I was a hero and a villain. Sometimes, but not often, I was Michael Fahey.
Recovery from the surgery necessary to repair an aortic dissection, in which an injury of the aortic wall allows blood to flow between its layers, forcing them apart, is normally relatively quick. My wife was told that I should have been up and talking a couple of hours after the procedure. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Doctors found they could not pull me off the ventilator—if they removed it, I stopped breathing. To make matters worse, as I regained consciousness and discovered the breathing tube down my throat, I panicked and attempted to claw it out. So I was heavily sedated for two weeks. I was treated with paralytic drugs so I could not pull the tubes if I did wake up. I wasn’t in a coma, but I wasn’t conscious, either.
So where was I, as my body lay prone in the intensive care unit at Kennestone Hospital? I was inside of my head. My subconscious wove layer after layer of fictitious narrative, keeping itself occupied as my body healed. I dreamt of superheroes and villains. Of being in exotic lands I’d never had a chance to visit. I gambled for my existence in dark, twisted places. I said goodbye to my life surrounded by my family in the far future. I attempted, through circuitous subconscious methods, to procure pizza and frozen beverages.
This motley collection of visions and medication-fueled delusions have been part of me since the incident. They linger on the edge of my consciousness, rising to the fore during quiet moments, triggered by a familiar sound, sight or scent.
I share these dreams to understand them better and maybe to lessen their power. I’m also sharing them because I hope they might help other people understand what their loved ones who wind up under sedation might be experiencing as family and friends sit at their side. I don’t share this to upset people or discomfort them, as uncomfortable as some of these dreams may be, but instead to provide some insight to the mind, the heart, or even the soul, and to show how those parts of us may seek hope even when our bodies have let us down..
The Wasteland: Hopeless Bleak Despair
There is no set order to most of the dreams I experienced during my hospital stay, but I do recall how they began: in a world of rust and crimson dust, the air dry, the skies the color of mud. I sat inside a dilapidated storefront in front of a static-filled television, watching for some sign that society was more than mute things scuttling in the dark.
source: gizmodo.com by Mike Fahey