Okay, it sounds dramatic. But it is pretty much true. For me, the turning point, the moment I seriously refocused my life and decided to pursue writing in a way I never had before happened on May 4, 1995. I was in surgery for a heart valve replacement for 17 hours that day. And in the course of the procedure I died seven times.
May 4th is, coincidentally, my bother Baris’ birthday. I mention that because as a child I was frequently compared to him, as in “you look so much like Baris when you do that” or even just the causal mention that as my own birthday,May 7th, approached my mother and/or my father would mention how old Baris would have been – always twenty years and three days older than me. So, in a way I always lived int eh shadow of my brother’s ghost.
The day I died seven times was an inflection point. I’m sure of that. The experience of the serious illness that damaged my heart value to the point that I needed the surgery changed the way I looked at the world. Before that I was a dedicated father but almost completely focused on the provider role. Although I had always spent some time with my three kids and their mother I mostly lived at work and for work. I was a true believer that if I worked hard and put in the long hours and showed dedication above and beyond expectations I’d advance through the pecking order of my company the rise to a level of management where I’d not have to worry much about money anymore. By the way, one of the many things I learned from the experiences of my illness was that there is no such point to be attained through working for anyone else.
A couple of things happened while I was ill. There was the three day weekend of a high fever, in excess of 104 at times. I had hallucinations and bizarre dreams but, moreover, I sort of experienced another world. Yeah, you can say it was all the fever, of course, if you need to believe that. But I recall being int he midst of a battle between many different creatures – a scene that ten years later I would write into The Wolfcat Chronicles.
I can say I’ve always been a writer. It is true that those of us who write compulsively are born with the gene. Whether it is a gift or a curse, a mutation or a birth defect, we don’t have much of a choice. But until that fateful period of a month or so int he hospital with the only sources of entertainment being the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial on TV and reading computer magazines, something changed inside of me.
About two weeks after my surgery I was released from the hospital. I still had an IV attached through which I was receiving a steady dosage of antibiotics. And I had to visit the doctor regularly and frequently to ensure the tissue graft in my heart had taken well. It was three months before I returned to work. And even after I returned I was on sort of restricted duty for a while.
In that time of recuperation I had nothing better to do that to continue my ongoing project of digitizing all my typewritten pages of a manuscript that I had been working on since college – that five years later I would submit to a publisher as Book One of my first science fiction novel One Over X. I also spent a lot more time with my kids and got to know them a lot better. Despite my being gone to work so much of the time they had turned out to be some pretty amazing people.
I’m not sure I would be a writer now – at least not in the same way – had I not died seven times on the operating table and, obviously and ultimately revived. I know my outlook on life shifted dramatically. I spent more time at home with my kids even after returning to work. Climbing the corporate ladder became of secondary importance to my family, as it should have always been. So I think the entire experience made me a better father and a better person. Yet I am certain it also transformed me in a subtle way somewhere deep inside
Maybe I didn’t become a writer that day but I have become the writer that I am because of what happened to me fourteen and a half years or so ago.
#writing #OneOverX #LIfeExperience #Dying #Surgery