In 1994 I underwent thyroid surgery, a major operation which is quite tough on the body.
At around 2 o'clock the morning after the surgery, I awoke in the semi-dark in the intensive care unit. Outside were three nurses having a chat. I realised that what had awoken me was a tingling sensation in my fingertips that began spreading up my arms. The tingling grew stronger and began to spread further and I called in a nurse.
By the time they had come into the room, my toes had also started tingling and it was spreading up my legs. The tingling grew into intensity, rather like the sensation one has when lying on a limb for too long in one's sleep, and the sensation starts to come back like painful pins and needles.
The nurse was not really all that alarmed at this early stage, even though my fingers and toes had begun to cramp up and I was unable to move them.
Soon the intensifying cramping sensation crept up into my torso and the muscles in my limbs became so stiff that my fingers, hands and arms began to tighten inwards. By this time, probably no more than ten minutes since it all started, the nurse dashed out to speak with the other nurses about what was happening to me. I could see them through the glass partition and one nurse picked up the telephone.
The last nurse came quickly to my bed and reassured me that they were contacting the doctor.The sensation now become one of rather alarming pain as the muscles stretched agonisingly to their limits in spasms. The nurse began to rub my arm as if to soothe me and the sensation was horrible.
"Please don't touch me," I managed to blurt out. "It hurts."
"Don't worry," she said, and left the room.
The muscles in my face began to tighten up and soon I couldn't breathe through my mouth. The muscles in my throat tightened and it spread until the muscles of my chest were so contracted that I could no longer inhale a normal breath.
It was frightening. I realised that I was going to die because I could not inhale enough oxygen. I couldn't move, and I couldn't make a sound to let the nurses know of my predicament. They were all still outside in the nurse's area waiting for the doctor to tell them what to do.
Lying there in pain, I was trying desperately to get air into my lungs, breathing small, rapid breaths. Not being able to get enough air is one of the most awful feelings we can experience. That need for air, that need for oxygen and survival is overwhelming and the body automatically goes into panic mode.
I knew I was going to die, but there was nothing I could do.
It was at that moment, when I realised that I was going to die that I let go of my anxiety.
Calling out to God in my mind I said, "I'm ready."
Certainly there were things I felt that I would have liked to have completed in my life, but I figured that if it was time for me to go, then it was fine. I knew that i was going to heaven and God would welcome me.
Once I let go of my fears, and let go of my need to cling to my life, I sensed there was somebody standing at the foot of my bed. There was no-one visibly there, but I felt Jesus' presence.
I felt a sense of reassurance wash over me. A feeling of compassion and love seemed to envelop me like the softest of blankets, and I readied myself for my last journey.
How excited I was, and joy filled me at the thought I was going to heaven and everything would at last be complete.
Then, it was almost as if Jesus leaned forwards with his hands resting on the foot of the bed, and while He didn't speak words, I knew that He was telling me that it wasn't time for me to die just yet.
My breathing slowed to a slow, shallow, but sustaining level, almost as if I was in a hybernative kind of rhythmic breathing pattern, though I was fully conscious.
My disappointment at not being able to go to heaven was crushing, but I understood that I had to stay because there was more that I needed to do.
Probably no more than fifteen to twenty minutes had passed by this stage, and still the nurses remained at their station. But by that time, I knew I was not going to die.
Soon I heard the sound of the telephone and shortly afterwards two of the nurses came to my bed, turning on the light. One injected something into my drip and the other tried to reassure me.
The parathyroid glands, near the thyroid glands had stopped working because of the trauma caused by the operation. The parathyroid glands govern the balance of calcium and phosphorus in the body. My calcium levels had dropped to dangerous levels and this affected the muscles.
The condition is known as hypoparathyroidism and the severest form that I experienced at that time is known as severe hypocalcemia. It is life-threatening, though I didn't find this out till much later. I could have died, but truly believe that God had more plans for my life, and chose for me to live.
Though I'd never worried about death before this experience, it was reassuring to know that Jesus would be with me for the journey and that I had no reason to fear.
It was also reassuring to know that I was destined for heaven, and that He had more plans for my life before then.
That experience gave me more clarity in a lot of ways, and helped me to focus on what was important in my life.