The In-Between Place

Winter/Spring 1978

The music, fashion, and social tidal wave of Disco had not yet subsided into obscurity. In fact, Disco was everywhere, and had played a significant part in the drama of the sexual revolution, and in the rebirth of glamorous night soirees, attended by impeccably dressed and coiffed denizens of urban persuasion. I was too young to experience all of this in its fullness, but always enjoyed the dancing and the music. I was in 8th grade, attending the last academic year at Terman Junior High School, before its transformation into a Jewish community center.

By this time, it had become obvious that something was stunting my growth. The doctors surmised that my pituitary gland had stopped working around age 9. Endless tests were conducted on an inpatient basis. Blood was drawn; biochemical properties analyzed. As far as I can tell, one these tests was designed to measure the responsiveness of my liver to growth hormone by way of an insulin injection.

The emotional impact of my stunted growth alienated me from the other kids. They were going through changes I couldn’t quite comprehend. I only knew that I was not a participant — just a witness. Frankly, I had always been a bit out of step with my peers. My sassy, overly intellectual expression had certainly ruffled a few feathers. I played the part of the outsider, a part they would have me play to the exclusion of all others. And now, while they were adjusting to puberty and new-found feelings of desire and restlessness, I was pondering the nature of the universe, the possibilities of existence, and the role music had come to play in my life. The realization that something was not quite right with my growth, had lead to further alienation. I was heading down a lonely path that no one could follow.

So here I am, in a nicely appointed room at Stanford Hospital. I had been previously fitted with a butterfly needle in my left hand (a most painful procedure, while the needle searched for a good vein to puncture). The nurse who administered the procedure, who I favored above them all, had warned me about the possible side effects: dizziness, nausea, irritability. I told her I understood. I had become accustomed to the discomfort of needles, an endless procession of interns, and the concomitant boredom from a long stay. This was just another test and I was in good hands. A vial of insulin was attached, and the substance began dripping into my vein.

Almost immediately, I slipped into unconsciousness and entered a place that defies description. It was vast and dark, but not foreboding in the least. I could feel swirls of energy all around me. A kind of rollicking music was playing, perfectly complementing the energy patterns. I could sense other entities in this place with me. Some were engaged in energetic dance forms while others were doing somersaults. This was a carefree place where one could let go and go with the flow. Soon I found myself joining these exuberant entities. I could hear the music more distinctly, and being of musical temperament, I allowed it to wash over me like a cascade of joy. Soon I was rapidly spinning in perfect synchronicity with the energy vortexes. It was like being in the middle of an idealized carnival, but no ride could ever be as fun.

“Nurse, what’s the patient’s blood glucose level now?”

“28 milligrams per deciliter, doctor.”

“Still too low.”

“Doctor, what’s the estimated recovery time for acute hypoglycemia?”

“Normally, a patient is able to fully recover in 15 minutes after glucose intake.”

“When do you think the patient will regain consciousness?”

Etcetera.

I was hearing voices! They were clearly talking about me, the patient. I wanted to tell them that I could hear everything, but nothing came out. I couldn’t even open my eyes. For the first time during that procedure, I felt apprehensive. What’s going on? What’s happening to me? Gradually, the strength came back to my body, and in a blissful state of total relaxation, I spoke the following words, completely unexpected by all: “That was fun. I want to do it again!”

“What are you talking about?” exclaimed the nurse with incredulity. “You almost left us for good!” I called out your name and you didn’t know it! You were in a coma for 15 minutes. Your blood glucose was at 11 milligrams per deciliter. 10 milligrams is death.”

Death, with a capital “D”. There was something final, yet unknowable about it. Pretty close call call, I thought to myself.

The more I thought about it, the more I was surprised to realize how close I had come to leaving this life behind. It was so unexpected, and certainly not the outcome hoped for by the medical staff. As I lay in bed, sipping a glass of orange juice, I replayed the memory of that experience, trying to capture its full essence. Was it heaven or was it some sort of in-between place? I wondered if I would ever get the chance to go there again.

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