The feelings you have when your friend nearly dies

My good friend nearly died last night* Thursday. His heart stopped on two separate occasions, and both times CPR and a defibrillator had to be used to restart his heart. So, one could argue the semantics about it and say he actually died twice.

He was coming out of surgery for a relatively routine, low-risk sort of elective procedure for his shoulder. That it turned into one of those medical dramas that you wish to only view on television is terrifying.

Thankfully he was revived and stabilized quickly, and is recovering in the cardiac centre of the hospital. They are doing tests that will hopefully determine the cause of what happened.

I can’t even imagine the swirl of emotions that his wife, and mother of his two young children, must be dealing with right now. In time, I hope we will have a good discussion about it, but for now I don’t presume to even be able to imagine what she’s going through. However, I know I have my own set of emotions that I’m sorting through, so I’m writing it down as sort of self therapy:

  • Terror—he’s healthy, young (practically the same age as me), and he was so nearly lost from us so quickly. The horrifying “what if” thoughts that drift to mind are best pushed aside. The contemplation of my own mortality, and that of T, is both scary and sobering.
  • Relief—that he is alive and looks to recover. Relief that he will return to his family and friends, and that this will be chalked up to a great story to tell his children.
  • Disbelief—It was a routine procedure, one he’s had done before without any complications. It doesn’t make sense to my brain that anything should go wrong. It’s such a shocking episode, and told to me second-hand, that my brain is having a hard time believing it, without seeing it. I suppose it is a privilege of being young, that dealing with death of my friends and peers is still an abstract notion.
  • Thankful—that his medical staff were more than competent and were able to save his life.
  • Curiosity—What does he remember from the experience? Does he find his outlook on life and family, values, or risk assessment changed? Why did it happen?
  • Fear—Could it happen again? How will this change what he can do in his life?
  • Morbid jealousy—he now has the best “truth” for the “2 truths 1 lie” icebreaker, hands down.
  • Judgemental—thoughts wondering about whether he had his affairs (e.g. will, insurance) in order
  • Shame—about thinking the thoughts of jealousy and judgement
  • Awkwardness—how do we, as his friends, talk about this? Should I even be publishing this post? What kind of support and comfort can we offer his wife? It seems gauche to have a Facebook discussion for many to see. And yet, how do we gather centrally to just talk it out so that we may gain some comfort ourselves? Do we send an invitation to a virtual group chat? What I want is to gather physically in one space, and just be with one another.
  • Craving—for humour. To break the tension. And because when we can make jokes about it, it will mean that this episode is firmly in the past, that he is alive and well, and that we are all moving on with life.
  • Craving— for hugs. I gave my husband and girls extra long hugs these past couple of days. In a way, it’s to reassure myself that they, and I, are still here.

To my friends and family, here’s a virtual hug from me to you, until I can next give you a real one in person.  (>^_^)><(^o^<)

And to you, my friend in the hospital now blessed with the ultimate comeback to any situation, we love you too much to stop worrying until you are well. Please get well soon.


*I wrote this post last Friday, Jan 23, before I knew more details about what happened, the diagnosis and treatment plan. I found out shortly afterwards that his treatment includes an additional medical procedure to take place, so I decided to wait before posting.  I am happy to say that the procedure seems to have went well, and he is on his way to recovery. The details of it all though, is his story to tell.


3 thoughts on “The feelings you have when your friend nearly dies”

  1. Wow – indeed a swirl of emotions overcomes us when situations like this happens. Thanks for verbalizing and sharing it. Life is short but when experiences like this cross our path, it is enduring for rest of our lives.

  2. Very well said Jen. I would really like to be a part of any discussion. I’m sad and shocked and share many of the same emotions (almost exactly the same) as you’ve articulated. We’ve been so caught up in our own news that I haven’t had a chance to reach out to K or T. Please keep us in the loop if anything is planned and please along big hugs from all of us if you see them again. Lotsa love! A, N, D and ‘P-C’.

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