The Night I Died

November 16, 2011

Waking around midnight, I was more nauseous than I had ever been in my life. I was sweating profusely and the pain in my upper back was excruciating.

I staggered into the bathroom and got violently ill. (From this point forward, I’m going to omit the more graphic details of my body’s responses.)

Even though it felt like my upper back was going to implode, there was very little pain in my chest so my wife Lauren and I briefly believed that maybe I had food poisoning. Soon, though, the chest pain did begin and Lauren immediately called 911.

Crumpled on the floor of my bathroom, I remember thinking that I just needed to hold on until the first responders arrived. Within a few short minutes, four firemen raced in. When the first one reached me, I fell into his arms and passed out.

The next few hours are a blur in my own memory but, unfortunately, my beloved wife saw everything in horrific detail.

As soon as I fell into the fireman’s arms, I died.

The heroic first responders found no pulse and immediately began CPR while they hooked me up to a defibrillator. When CPR failed to revive me, they shocked my heart back to life while my wife  stood but a few feet away watching my naked, lifeless body bouncing off the cold tile floor as the defibrillator resuscitated me.

I remember hearing the fireman’s voice calling me. I heard him and wanted to talk but the words didn’t come right away. Finally, I said that I heard him.

Then I died again. No pulse. No heartbeat.

And again they brought me back.

Shielding my wonderful fifteen year old stepson Carter from seeing what she had just witnessed, Lauren grabbed Carter in a tight embrace, hearing the firemen cajoling me to come back once again.  The fact that Lauren had to witness (and Carter had to hear) the violence of that night will always be my single greatest regret.

By then, the EMTS  had arrived and somehow I was carried quickly out into the night and into the ambulance. The last thing I saw was my brave wife’s beautiful face as she told me that she loved me and would meet us at the hospital.

I later learned that I died again in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

My next memory is hearing the soothing voice of a doctor right next to me.

“Stephen, can you hear me?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve had a heart attack and you’re in the hospital. You have some blockages in two arteries so we’re getting you into surgery right away.”

He then patted my arm and told me to hang on.

Then my Lauren appeared seemingly out of nowhere right next to the doctor and grabbed my hands.

“Honey, look at me”, she said.

When I looked into her eyes, she said “I love you. Please hold on.”

Smiling as they wheeled me away, I promised her that I would be okay…not yet knowing that I was about to die again.

(To Be Continued)

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas Duff November 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I’m just speechless… so thankful you made it.

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Stephen Simon November 16, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Thanks so much, Thomas…me, too!…so much to live for and be thankful for…and much more to share about how blessed I feel to not only still be here but also to see the great gift that this experience has given me…

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Ahnna Hawkesworth November 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm

That’s quite the cliffhanger, Stephen.

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Stephen Simon November 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm

just so glad it’s not me going over the cliff!

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Tamara McClellan November 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Such a horrific scare you gave everyone. I was in shock when I read Lauren’s message on Facebook telling us what happened. Jay and I prayed and prayed for you both. Prayers were answered and here you are. You are loved, Stephen, by so many people.

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Stephen Simon November 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Thanks so much, Tamara. I so felt the love…and it meant more than I can possibly express.

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Rick Behm November 16, 2011 at 1:23 pm

So glad you’re well enough to speak of this. The symptoms are what I will remember from this. Again thanks for sharing and letting us know you are well.

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Stephen Simon November 16, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Thanks so much for your support and I’m so glad you caught the symptom issue, Rick. I didn’t know it at the time but heart attacks often start in the upper back and, by the time, the pain gets to your chest, it’s too late. I was so—SO–lucky.

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Eliane Guimaraes November 16, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Stephen,
The world is already a better place with who you are and what you have created. I look forward to seeing you share even more of your gifts.
Your experience is a trigger, a gift for the next chapter and I`m so delighted to know that we`ll get to be part of it.
Much love and many hugs for you and for your family who support you throughout your life!
Eliane

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Stephen Simon November 16, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Thanks so much, Eliana…I know you’ve had more than your share of challenges as well!!…always wonderful to hear from an old friend…

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Lynn Anderson November 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Stephen – When Lauren told us what had happened, we (your SIT friends) started a prayer chain that (for me at least) still hasn’t stopped. While SIT and WDMC may deal with the afterlife, we’re so grateful that you were given a second chance here in THIS life! Thank God for your strong, rejuvenated heart!

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Asha Hawkesworth November 16, 2011 at 2:35 pm

First, we’re very glad you’re all right, Stephen. Poor Lauren is probably suffering some PTSD from that night. We have another friend whose husband died of a sudden heart attack in the last few weeks, and she is suffering terribly to lose her best friend. It’s certainly interesting for us, to say the least, to have these two similar stories with very different outcomes. Obviously, you are not meant to leave just yet. Thank goodness.

As for the symptoms, yes. A few years ago, I came down with a nasty virus that went into pneumonia and caused my heart to start beating arhythmically (tachycardia). I had 2 ambulance rides, the 1st because I passed out on the kitchen floor. Two nights later, I remember waking around 4am and feeling strangely nauseous. I’ve never had nausea quite like that before. I drank some gatorade and went back to sleep. A few hours later, it was worse. I got up and thought I needed to eat–I hadn’t eaten much in days. Boy, was that the wrong thing to do. One bite of bagel, and this creeping blackness with white sparkles came up the back of my neck and closed around my eyes. My efforts from that point were focused on remaining conscious. I had also been very sweaty, but just assumed it was the fever. Another symptom is having to urinate a LOT. Honestly, I didn’t think I could have that much water in my body. At the hospital, it was so bad they finally gave me a catheter.

I’ve heard that heart problems are not always indicated by chest pain, and apparently nausea is one of the biggies. There was also this general “I’m not feeling quite right.” I couldn’t put my finger on it. I hope this information is helpful to others.

Please just rest, Stephen. When I was ill, there didn’t seem to be enough sleep in the world… Best to your whole family.

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Renee Anderson November 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Hi Stephen,
Thank God you’ve pulled through. So many don’t, you know. You visit us in our living room once a month and not a lot of people do that. You’re practically family! I know you’re a film buff, so please consider watching the amazing film, Forks Over Knives. My father died of a massive heart attack, before that he had no idea he had heart disease. For these reasons, I’ve made some changes in my life since watching that film.
Take care,
Renee

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Cinda Stevens Lonsway November 16, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Stephen you are so brave to share this with us… I can only imagine how grateful you are for your life, your wife, your life, your family, your life and being back home. We have held you in our prayers, there is no doubt that greater things are meant for you to do on this planet, just take your time in finding out what it is that is…. you have TIME now, lots of TIME, so take care of it wisely!
Cinda

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lauren simon November 16, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Thank-you Friends… thank-you new friend Renee.
With love & Gratitude from The Simon Family

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Sally Francis November 16, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Sending blessings and love to you and to your whole family ……. stay safe and well and angels supporting and guiding you all . Love is more powerful than fear . Seeing you all surrounded in love …………. xx.

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Rob Persinger November 16, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Stephen:
An amazing story. God Bless You!!!!!!!!!!!

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Judy Cochrane November 16, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Thank you for sharing this Stephen, and blessings to you and your family. You have been an inspiration to me and my family through your SCC and we feel lucky to “know you” hearing your caring words each month. I would second Renee’s suggestion on watching “Forks over Knives” and another documentary called “Food Matters”, as both give such valuable information by medical doctors on how heart disease can be reversed through diet. Bill Clinton did it… sometimes these wake-up calls inspire us to make changes for the better in our lives. Rest well and take good care. Love and prayers from Judy and Bob Cochrane

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Lynne M. Harrington-Crick November 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Thank you so much Stephen for sharing this amazing story. You are so blessed with so many people who love you especially your wife and family. I am so glad you are still with us to tell your story. It does remind me of Ginny Ruffner a little especially how determined she was to go against what the doctors were saying that they were gonna pull the plug and let her die. Her famous words, “I’m still here!” (said in her groggily voice).

The first time I had to deal with someone who had a heart attack was my second husband, Ney Castillo-Harrington. Two years before I met him he had a massive heart attack and was pronounced dead upon arrival. During the quadruple bipass surgery, he described himself up on a ladder looking down at his body watching the whole procedure. I have heard stories from other people too like that. It is truly amazing what the medical professional can do these days to recover patients with all the new fangled techniques. I have had to take care of him for the five years I was married to him before he finally died 11 years later. His heart just gave out after he had what the doctors said to me, “a cadillac-version” pacer put in so he would be like a child again.

Please take care of yourself and may you have many more happy years to come. Spiritual Cinema subscribers still need you. We all look forward to seeing you again on the next DVD for February-March of 2012. I am so grateful I had a chance to do that studio discussion with you last September for the January screening.

Please get well!
Lynne

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Steve Ellis November 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Stephen,
Glad that you are here to write about your experiences so that we can feel some of what you have been through.

Glad also to be able to call you friend.

Hugs to you and all the family. Steve and Sarah Ellis and all the kids.

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Mindie Kniss November 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm

my god… I can’t even imagine.
so grateful that we can hear it directly from you… that you are here to tell your story.
when you are feeling strong, and if you’re up for it, I’d love to dialogue with you on restartyourheart.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the metaphorical heart vs. the physical heart, and learn from your experiences.
much love, gratitude and healing to you, Lauren, and your family.

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Brigid Krane November 18, 2011 at 11:15 am

Stephen and Lauren,
Thanks for sharing this story. It makes me want to cry that we could have lost you for good. You’re too important to the world, and to me, my dear mentor!
Love you lots,
Brigid

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Sidney Peck/CinemaProfound November 25, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Dear Stephen: This is the kind of cliffhanger I never want to read. Since I know you’re alright, I’ll read the next because I’m wondering how you survived. Obviously, God has an amazing plan for your new life, but my friend, please don’t be in a big rush to “do”. You, your body and your family have obviously been through a huge trauma. Take the time to totally heal and DON’T OVERDO! Peace to you and your family, Sidney Peck

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Renée N November 25, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Stephen, I was in tears after the first few sentences, God is the greatest Miracle worker and His Angels were clearly watching over you!!
I wondered where you were but had no idea what had happened.
So thankful you’re back and may God bless you with many, many, many more years with us :)
Renée

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Stephen Simon November 26, 2011 at 6:13 am

Thanks so much, Renee…yes, miracle indeed…..and I am beyond grateful……thanks so much for your kind support…Stephen

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