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A Personal Journey Beyond Medicine

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A Personal Journey Beyond Medicine

A Deeper World Revealed
Leo Galland, M.D.
Leo Galland, M.D. More by this author
Feb 13, 2018 at 01:15 PM

My heart was pounding. I could barely stand. A hollow, buzzing noise filled my head, echoing the dreadful message. “There’s been an accident,” Imelda had said. “A hospital in Massachusetts called for you. It’s about Christopher.

He’s in the emergency room and they’re doing resuscitation. The doctor wants you to call.” “When did this happen?” I asked. I felt as if this were a dream or a movie. Words were being spoken, some of them came from my lips, but they had no relationship to me. “They called ten minutes ago. He was hiking in the woods. There was an accident. An ambulance came . . .”

Despite the panic those words evoked, my hand was steady as I dialed the hospital’s number and my voice was calm as I spoke. Half my mind saw Christopher on a stretcher, white coats crowded round, their hands on his chest, rhythmically pounding . . . an intravenous line in place . . . a cardiac monitor. I had seen this so many times, had been among the white coats, but always with a stranger on the stretcher.

What does this mean for you, Chris? I cried in silence. Further brain damage? Greater neurological impairment? The loss of everything you’ve worked so hard for? Life in a coma? Or
a miraculous recovery? A paradoxical gain in brain function, reversing the handicaps with which you’ve lived for twenty-two years? A deluge of conflicting, confusing images, of unspeakable fears and fantastic wishes, flooded my brain.

None of it cracked my professional veneer. “This is Dr. Leo Galland. I’m calling from New York, about my son.” “We’re not sure what happened,” explained the emergency room physician. “He was on a hike with some people from North Plain Farm. They found him lying facedown in a shallow stream. There was so much cold water in his lungs, the paramedics had a hard time establishing an airway. Water just gushed out through the endotracheal tube.

I understand he has a seizure disorder. He might have had a seizure, fallen into the stream, and aspirated cold water. We’ve been working on him for about twenty minutes. There’s been no pulse and his EKG is flat. His temperature on arrival was really low, only sixty-eight degrees, probably because of the cold water in his lungs. We’ve warmed him up to eighty degrees. What do you want us to do?”

“Don’t stop yet,” I pleaded, knowing that hypothermia protects the brain. “Keep warming him and continue the resuscitation, please. Let’s see what happens when his temperature rises some more. I’ll be waiting here by the phone.”

I sat by the reception desk. My limbs were leaden, my field of vision blurred, hornets still buzzing in my head. “What’s the afternoon schedule like?” I asked Imelda. She showed me the appointment book.

“Most of these patients live or work in Manhattan,” I said as I looked it over. “Please reschedule them. Roberta Singer is coming in at two, from Tom’s River. I’d better see her. It’s a long trip; we can’t just send her home. She should be here in a few minutes. Send her in as soon as she arrives. And let me know the moment Christina returns. I have to tell her about this myself. I don’t think Christopher is going to live.”

Roberta Singer was right on time for her appointment, her second visit. I looked at her. I looked down at her chart. I was supposed to review the results of laboratory tests, provide
a meaningful interpretation, and suggest treatment. As hard as I tried, I could not make sense of the numbers in front of me. “I’m sorry,” I said to her. “I can’t continue today. About
fifteen minutes ago, I received a phone call from a hospital. My son had an accident and his heart stopped beating. He’s undergoing cardiac resuscitation now. I just
can’t concentrate.”

The words were hard for me to speak. I had never asked a patient to understand my problems or share my pain. I had never stepped out of the role of doctor, even when admitting a failure or a mistake. I had always been ready to listen, to learn, to respond actively. Some irrational part of me thought I should still be in control, even now. But I wasn’t.

“I’m so sorry,” replied Roberta. “My problems are not terribly important. They can wait.”

As she left the room, Imelda called me on the intercom to tell me that my wife had arrived: “Christina has just entered the building. She’s getting on the elevator.”
I walked quickly to the reception area. My mind spun in circles as I searched for the words with which I would break this news to my wife. As soon as she entered the office, she’d know something was wrong. I had to be the one who told her.

Her cheerful smile disappeared when she saw my face. She followed me into the back hallway. “Christopher’s in the hospital,” I said, holding her in my arms. “He had an accident and they’re resuscitating him.”

She squeezed me tightly, her fingers digging into my back. I couldn’t see her face, but I could feel the tears on my cheek and hear the terror in her voice. “Don’t tell me what happened. I don’t want to know.”

We stood, embracing one another, and cried in silence for several minutes. Then we went into my consultation room and collapsed on the chairs that faced my desk, staring silently at the window. There was nothing to say, nothing to do except to wait, numbed, frozen in time and space by the weight of a tragedy unfolding three hours away, totally beyond our influence or control. A curious thought wandered through my consciousness: I had never sat in this chair; I was always on the other side, behind the desk.The air felt as heavy as my limbs.

Then a sudden feeling of electricity parted the heaviness. We stood up, suddenly aroused. The room felt supercharged, as if lightning were about to strike. The room was gone.
My eyes saw nothing, but my mind was filled with a pure white light.

“Christopher is here,” gasped Christina. “He’s so bright!”

A shape emerged from the light, the smiling face of a robust young man with blond hair, radiating joy. He seemed to rise up, powerfully and majestically. The contours of his body were vague . . . no arms or legs or neck could be clearly seen, just an oblong shape, rising, with a beautiful glowing face at its apex. The face was Christopher’s, but perfect, with none of the scars left by his many mishaps. The sense of joy, freedom, and strength radiating from him exceeded anything I had ever experienced or imagined.

Christina and I had exactly the same vision. We had entered a place where space and time didn’t matter, where inside and outside didn’t matter. The brilliance of Christopher’s presence overwhelmed everything. His intense happiness took our breath away. What was most astonishing about this vision was not its appearance, but the sensation of sublime bliss and limitless power that flowed from Christopher’s being. It was like watching an immense explosion that was totally controlled and destroyed nothing.

Then it was over. Christina and I were standing in my office; the light was dim, the air was still, and the phone was ringing.

“He’s gone,” we both said at the same time, quite clear about the double meaning.

I answered the phone, knowing exactly what I would hear. On the other end was Dr. Greene from the emergency room.

“I’m sorry, but his temperature is up to ninety-two degrees and nothing’s happening; there’s no electrical activity in the heart.”

“Thank you for trying,” I said. “You can stop now.”

I turned to Christina. “That was unbelievable. Chris was so . . . happy!”

“He was so full of light and so strong.”

We hugged each other and cried, overwhelmed by a confusion of feeling, of grief and joy, loss and gain.

“How wonderful that he came to us,” sobbed Christina.

“How lucky we are. When I stepped off the elevator and I saw the look on your face and you said you had something to tell me, I couldn’t stand it. I didn’t feel that I could live. Not that I didn’t want to live. I felt that I couldn’t, that I would just . . . die with him. So he came here. How incredible. How many millions of people lose their children and suffer and never see what we just saw?”

Christina had not the slightest doubt about the truth of our visitation. I was shaken to the very core of my being.

Had I imagined it? Was this a shared hallucination? Or was this the real Christopher? Was there something like that within me? Within everyone? A being of power and purity and unearthly joy? A literal Spirit, outlasting the body, discarding it the way a butterfly sheds a cocoon?

“We both saw him,” I said softly. “Christopher always was amazing. I never knew how amazing.”

She moved away from me and sat down. Her voice hardened. “This doesn’t mean it’s all right, you know. I don’t ever want to hear anyone say that Chris is better off being dead. He loved being himself. I can’t stand having him gone. He was so looking forward to Thanksgiving.”

Excerpted from Already Here

About Author
Leo Galland, M.D.
Leo Galland, M.D., a board-certified internist, is recognized as the world leader in integrated medicine. Educated at Harvard University and NYU School of Medicine, he won the Linus Pauling Award for his trailblazing vision that c Continue reading