I did not see Elvis. I did not find out who killed JFK. Nor did I learn the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa.
It wasn’t one of those near-death experiences where you float over your body or make a quick trip to the afterlife. I use the near-death term since I nearly checked out 10 years ago this month.
What happened as a result is pretty amazing.
Every year in the fall, I visit my best friend Steve in New York. We always take in a baseball game, and I enjoy the spectacular changing leaves. But on this occasion, I got off the plane not feeling quite right. I was lying down on the couch in his New York apartment when suddenly I felt my body crash - like it was melting into the sofa. I thought it would pass in a moment, but instead, I started losing energy like never before.
I felt like I was about to die.
“Steve, call 911. I’m going.”
While we waited for the ambulance, my mind worked at warp speed even though my body wasn’t responding.
They say your life flashes before you.
Instead, I thought of a Sinatra song, “Regrets… I’ve had a few…”
In my case, I had a ton, and they all raced through my brain. The goals I hadn’t achieved, the unfulfilled career dreams. My wife wasn’t with me; I wouldn’t get to say goodbye.
Then I looked at the ceiling.
No bright light.
Uh-oh. Was I taking the elevator down?
A few minutes later paramedics arrived and hustled me out to an ambulance. Along the way, they took my blood pressure. The top number was 50.
You’re supposed to be dead if it’s lower than that.
When I arrived at the hospital, I was quickly hooked up to an IV, had blood taken and was watched closely by the staff. Whatever was in the IV was making me feel better, and the panic began to melt away. I actually smiled when I looked at my wristband. I’d been checked in so fast I was listed as a woman.
A female doctor came by to check on me, picked up my chart, and checked the EKG, “You’re doing better.”
“I feel a little better,” I held up my wrist. “By the way, you’ve got me down as female.”
She looked at the wristband, nodded and pretended to write something on the chart. “Sex change, no charge.”
Only in New York.
About an hour later another doctor came by and asked me if I’d been traveling out of the country. I hadn’t.
“Yeah. Atlanta and Newark.”
“You probably picked up something along the way. But the big problem is that you’re severely dehydrated. You have almost no sodium in your system.”
I explained we’d been on a no-salt diet. I’d also given up soda, which I did not realize had a lot of sodium.
The doctor shook his head. “Low salt is OK. No salt is bad. We all need some sodium. So here’s your prescription. Go home and eat as many potato chips as you can stand, then drink a ton of Gatorade.”
After my late-night binge, I felt great the next morning. We had tickets to the Mets game, and Steve asked me if I felt well enough to go. Since the subway stop was across the street, I figured we could always dash back home.
It was a beautiful sunny fall day, and our seats were in left field just past third base. I noticed the name on the pitcher’s back was blurry, so I figured my glasses needed cleaning. I’ve been nearsighted all my life and worn glasses since the 4th grade. I’ve never been able to see distance clearly.
I took off my glasses, and the world was suddenly in spectacular high-def. I could read the pitcher’s name and see the smallest details all over the stadium.
My eyesight had switched. I was now farsighted and needed reading glasses, but no longer needed glasses to drive or watch TV. An ophthalmologist later told me the severe dehydration had basically changed the shape of my eyeballs. I went from 20-150 to 20-30 overnight in one eye.
Meanwhile, I have about two or three “salt episodes” every year, possibly triggered by whatever I picked up at an airport on that trip. Who knows. Anyway, I can feel it coming on, so I hit the potato chips and Gatorade. I’ve come to appreciate the salt and love the pink Himalayan variety.
So if anyone tells you potato chips are bad for you, I respectfully disagree.
As for checking out someday - hopefully, the bright light is still in my future.
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