Having spent most of the past week at the gates of death, I thought I would take this opportunity to bring friends, readers, allies and critics up to date with what has been happening to me.
The background is that I suffered a major seizure with sustained loss of consciousness while travelling and researching in the US in May (the new non-fiction book I am working on is focused on ancient North America).
I was stabilized in the ER in Farmington New Mexico, diagnosed with atrial fibrillation of my heart, and discharged the following day on anti-coagulants to prevent a possible recurrence of what was diagnosed as a transient ischaemic attack — in other words a “mini stroke”. I suffered some loss of memory of events in the weeks before the seizure but otherwise, mercifully, no obvious neurological damage visible on the scans. The medical staff at Farmington were absolutely brilliant. I have little doubt that their rapid intervention saved my life.
However, although I do indeed have atrial fibrillation which can indeed cause strokes (the blood pools and clots in the heart), it turned out that the diagnosis I had been given was completely wrong. This was discovered in the early hours of Monday, 14 August, when I suffered further, far more severe grand mal seizures here at my home in Bath, UK. Again I was rushed to the ER and then to the intensive care ward. Again the medical staff, now at the Royal United Hospital (RUH) in Bath, were completely brilliant, caring and engaged with my case far above and beyond the call of duty. Again their intervention saved my life. This time the seizures were multiple and recurrent and my beloved wife Santha was taken aside by the neurologist who advised her to prepare herself for my death or, if by chance I survived that I would be so badly brain damaged that I would effectively be a “vegetable”. They put me in an induced coma, intubated on a ventilator for 48 hours. Eventually they were able to withdraw the tube and start me breathing for myself again. It was Wednesday 16 August, late afternoon, when I began to return to some form of consciousness baffled to see that Sean and Shanti, two of my grown-up children, had flown from Los Angeles and New York to be with Santha at my bedside together with Leila and Gabrielle, two more of our grown-up children who live in London. For quite some time I couldn’t understand what had happened, why I had a catheter in my bladder, why my brain was so foggy.
Little by little consciousness increased. I was moved to the neurology ward and on Thursday night, 17 August, much to my relief, the catheter was taken out. All day Friday 18th I remained in the neurology ward, very wobbly but able to totter to the toilet with the aid of a stick. By Friday night I was feeling much better. Finally, Saturday, I was discharged and came home.
Tests carried out established pretty clearly (although there is still some mystery over what exactly is going on) that the seizures were not caused by blood clots deriving from my atrial fibrillation, but rather by long-term over-use of a migraine medication called sumatriptan, delivered by injection; I was taking up to a dozen of these shots a month and have been doing so for more than 20 years. Turns out having migraine is itself a risk-factor for epilepsy, and research has established a link between triptans (especially when over-used) and seizures. It’s almost certain that it was the sumatriptan that had brought me to death’s door and it is now obvious that I must simply suffer the hideous and mind-numbing pain of my migraines or end up dead or a vegetable. Meanwhile I have been prescribed massive daily doses of the anti-seizure medication Keppra (Levetiracetam Milpharm) and told that I must stay on this for at least a year. I’m forbidden to drive but otherwise should be pretty functional.
The 48 hours of induced coma, though utterly harrowing for Santha, for our children and for myself were, to say the least, interesting. All kinds of questions arise. Where was “I” during these missing 48 hours? I do remember the ventilator tube being stuffed down my throat and the powerful sense that I was being invaded and asphyxiated. Are the other confused, haunting recollections that come to me from time to time memories of near-death experiences? Of actually being dead? As I have made public in a few of my presentations I had a previous near-death experience, 50 years ago at age 17, caused by a massive electric shock. I remember looking down at myself from near the ceiling before abruptly returning to my body. My migraines started within a month of that shock and have continued ever since. One thing I know for sure now, if I had not fully grasped it before, is that the borderline between life and death is poignantly thin, fragile and permeable. We feel firmly fixed in our lives but any of us may cross over at any time. Sometimes we come back. Sometimes we don’t.
I want to put on record here my deep gratitude towards the ambulance staff and towards the medical and nursing staff in the emergency department, intensive care and neurology wards at the RUH, Bath, for the incredible level of care they extended to me and for their dogged determination not to give up on me, even when things looked very bad, but to keep trying everything that could possibly bring me back. I repeat also my thanks and appreciation towards their colleagues in Farmington New Mexico whose care for me in May was also of the absolutely highest standard.
And now… here I am! A bit wobbly to be sure, but very much in the land of the living and filled with renewed creative energy and ideas that I hope the universe will allow me to bring to fruition in my forthcoming America book.
Strangely it is as though a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. A darkness that had been hanging over me for most of this year reached its peak intensity at the time of the heated debate that Randall Carlson and I participated in with skeptic Michael Shermer and establishment geologist Marc Defant on the Joe Rogan Experience in May (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFlAFo78xoQ). The focused hatred directed at me in the comments section in the first three weeks after the debate is hardly visible in the more recent comments but, at the time, it affected me energetically in a very bad way and my intuition is that it was a contributing factor in my health breakdown. Subsequently a researcher has looked into those early comments for me and established that a very large number of them were generated by a relatively small group of people using multiple aliases and often repeating the exact same phrases with the exact same spelling mistakes. I don’t know if this was a deliberate attempt to manipulate public opinion, or what it was, or who was behind it, but it certainly hit me hard! Hatred is a vile and terrible energy, doubly so because it damages not only those who it is focused upon but also those seduced into expressing it.
My journey to the gates of death in the past week appears, however, to have cleared the energetic miasma by which I was briefly entrapped and has renewed my strength for the struggle ahead.
We have been grievously misled about our past as a species and plunged into a state of sleepy amnesia. It is desperately important that we awaken if the human family is to survive on this beautiful garden of a planet, and if we are to honour as we should the gifts of life, consciousness, joy and the opportunity to learn and to love, to grow and to develop, that the universe so generously and unhesitatingly bestows upon us.
Graham Hancock 22 August 2017