By PENNY SARTORI
PUBLISHED: 01:36, 25 January 2014 | UPDATED: 13:07, 25 January 2014
As a nurse, I’m always cheered when I see a patient who appears to be making a good recovery.
That certainly seemed the case with 60-year-old Tom Kennard, who’d been suffering from sepsis after surgery for cancer. After a couple weeks in the intensive care ward, he was well enough to be moved from his hospital bed to a chair. Moments later, however, he suddenly slumped into unconsciousness.
There was no doubt at all that he was out cold. He responded neither to my urgent questions nor to the painful pressure of my Biro on his fingernails. Worse still, his skin became clammy, his oxygen levels dropped and his blood pressure plummeted — clear signs that his condition had become critical. As I quickly gave him extra oxygen, I called out to the other nurses in the intensive care unit. Four of them immediately flocked to Tom’s bedside, and we gently helped return him to his bed as we called for a doctor urgently. He was still unresponsive when the doctor arrived, followed a few minutes later by a consultant. Indeed, Tom didn’t regain full consciousness for another three hours. Yet, during those three lost hours, he had apparently gone on a life-changing journey. His first sensation, he told me afterwards, was of ‘floating upwards to the top of the room. I looked down and I could see my body on the bed. It was lovely, so peaceful — and no pain at all.’
In the next moment, the hospital ward had disappeared and he’d entered a pink room, in which his father was standing next to a man with ‘long black scruffy hair and nice eyes.’ For a time, Tom talked telepathically with his father. At some point, he became aware that something was touching him. Once again, he was back on the hospital ward ceiling — looking down at me and the doctor. I was putting a lollipop-shaped instrument into his mouth to clean it, he recalled later. He could also see a woman beyond the cubicle curtains, who kept twitching them to check on his condition. Indeed, I can personally verify that everything Tom ‘saw’ while unconscious was 100 per cent accurate — down to the swab I used to moisten his mouth and the names of the consultant and of the physiotherapist lurking behind the curtains. While all this was going on, Tom heard the man with the scruffy hair say: ‘He’s got to go back.’ This came as a blow: he remembers desperately wanting to stay. Shortly after that, he told me, ‘I was floating backwards and went back into my body on the bed.’