Gail, Frances - 04 The operation and her out of body experience
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Dr George Sava - A Surgeon remembers
As the result of her long confinement to bed and her age, Frances Gail did not seem to me to be in the best possible condition, and accordingly I planned the operation originally to be the minimum required to provide relief, one involving little more than a small opening at the base of the spine. My chief doubt was how she would take the anaesthetic. If I had been more certain I might have carried out a more extensive treatment.
As it proved, she took the anaesthetic perfectly well and her reactions to it gave no cause whatever for alarm.
This was one more surprise, but this time a welcome one, and I had barely begun the actual operation before, carried away by the generally favourable outlook, I played with the idea of substituting a more far-reaching procedure. This would involve the removal of the pieces of bone that were the cause of the pressure and pain and the removal of the disks that lie between the vertebrae.
The operation was interrupted while I discussed the wisdom of this course with my assistant and the anaesthetist. The chief danger lay in the time that would be occupied; it might be as much as three hours, and the problem was whether the patient could withstand it. But the anaesthetist had no doubts on that head, and, after some argument, mv assistant agreed with me that the operation itself was perfectly practicable.
What had to be done was really quite extensive. Portions of the vertebrae causing the pressure on the nerves were removed, and the intervertebral cartilage that the disease had destroyed was also completely taken away.
Altogether the intervention covered no less than two and a half hours. It had been a strain on all concerned, not least on the patient, and I must confess that all three of us - the anaesthetist, my assistant, and myself-were more than relieved to find that she was still alive after this gruelling treatment.
She was much more than merely alive, too. The pulse was at a normal rate, and the respiration showed no signs of distress.
When Frances Gail was taken back to her little ward we felt we had good cause to congratulate ourselves.
It was one o'clock in the afternoon when I left the nursing-home and returned, after a quick lunch, to my consulting-rooms, where, I knew, a busy afternoon awaited me. I felt that there was no need to worry about the case, and in the rush of work I put it out of my mind.
I knew the staff of the home well and had confidence in their ability to handle the case. My peace of mind was not to endure long. I had not been home more than half an hour before the telephone bell rang, and I heard the voice of the matron of the home asking me to come round urgently as Frances Gail could not be awakened from the anaesthetic.
When I arrived, after a record-breaking journey, I found that the condition had by no means been exaggerated. Already the patient was showing the dangerous blue colour that speaks of acute distress, and she was sinking before our eyes. For all these alarming signs, there was no obvious reason for the continued state of coma. The young doctor at the home had carried out all instructions to the letter and had reported earlier that everything was as it should be. This was indeed a puzzle.
There was no time to be lost. The appropriate antidotes to the anaesthetic were applied, and a grim fight for recovery began. It was fully three hours before I felt she could be safely left. She was then resting peacefully, and the crisis seemed to be passed. From that moment she proved an ideal, responsive patient. No complications whatsoever ensued, and by the end of the week she was able to sit up for a short while each day, while she kept up a constant chatter with the nurses……….
……….. I was on a visit to her and found her doing very well, then she looked at me oddly and asked if she might speak in private to me. Of course I assented and immediately I began to suspect that some new and surprising development was about to occur. Nor was I mistaken.
'Now listen to me carefully, Mr. Sava,' she said, turning her magnetic eyes full upon me. 'Of course you have done a wonderful piece of surgery, and for that you deserve every sort of congratulation. I've already thanked you for that. But there's another side to it, you know.'
'Another side?' I echoed. 'I don't quite understand.'
'I don't suppose you do,' she said quietly. 'Life isn't just simply the material body, you know. It isn't confined to Here and Now, as some people think-the majority, in fact. Our earthly lives are only an incident in our real lives.'
'I do know that is the spiritualist credo,' I returned, hoping I was not to be given a long lecture, 'but I don't see what it has to do with your operation.'
'Simply this, doctor. And take me seriously'. I want you to tell me why you and your assistants worked so hard to wake me when what I wanted was to be left alone to pass on - to die as people call it, though it is really birth.
It was your combined wills against mine - and yours won.
You called me back when I had almost crossed.'
'It was our duty to do all we could to save your life,' I remarked colourlessly, somewhat taken aback by this outburst.
'Yes,' she nodded. 'That is the doctors' code, and I suppose in a material world it is the right one, though I know only too well how much suffering has been caused by it. But it wasn’t just your drugs and your attention that saved me, as you put it. It was the knowledge that all of you and my friends wanted me to live. I have come back at their call. I shall be better now. Don't worry I shan't make any more attempts to escape.'
She smiled brightly, while I stared at her in blank amazement. This was simply incredible. She laughed softly at my expression, which, I admit, must have been amusing enough.
'I suppose you think I'm a silly old woman making up fairy stories, but you're mistaken, and I'll prove it to you that I knew all that was happening.' She smiled again.
For all her devotion to her beliefs, she tempered them with a sense of humour - a rare gift among zealots. 'You didn't carry out the operation you first intended, did you, Mr. Sava?'
I started with astonishment. 'Well, no. But . . .'
'In fact,' she went on calmly, 'you kept my body lying there under the anaesthetic while you and the others discussed whether it was strong enough to withstand what you proposed to do. You took away some pieces of bone and some other parts that I don't recognize. I don't know much about these things. You were chiefly troubled about the anaesthetic, and you said at one stage to the anaesthetist: "Do you think she can stand up to a good three hours of it? Heart all right?" And the anaesthetist just nodded as though I was some piece of machinery and said: "She's O.K., especially considering she's no chicken any longer." Is that right?'
This time she burst out laughing at my dumbfounded expression. All this was beyond me. I could think of no explanation for it at all. But she tried to give me one.
'You're probably thinking I've been doing a little judicious pumping of the nurses. Well, I haven't. The little doctor is as discreet as can be and has never said a word. As for the nurses, I always steer them off talking about the operation.'
'They wouldn’t know much anyway,' I said slowly, thinking how queer it all was. ‘The theatre staff don’t come into the wards here’
'Good. That's a point in my favour. But I shouldn't want to talk about it with them. Having seen it all, I don't want any more’.
'Seen it all?' I gasped incredulously. 'But - but you were held under deep anaesthesia the whole time – two and a half hours.'
She nodded. 'My body was, that is to say my material body. But I- the real I – wasn’t in that body. My astral body was up above trying to get away, you see, but you were still the stronger, and it couldn't get far, so I had to remain there looking down on what you were doing and listening to what you were saying. And that, believe it or not, doctor, is what often happens during operations.
When you put a patient under anaesthesia you release the astral body from the material body; that's why it can't feel pain any more. But it's still tied, and it has to go back as soon as you put back normal conditions. I fought against it. That's why I wouldn't waken. I didn't want to go back to all that misery.'
'It's beyond me,' I said, shaking my head.
'One day these things will be as commonplace as the anatomy of the body',' she went on, a little wearily. 'It's really not so incredible. Scientists take for granted much more unbelievable things when they talk about the atom and so on. After all, no one's ever seen an atom, have they?'
'No. That's true.'
A little while later I went away. Her conversation had shocked me profoundly, … she had quoted words which, so far as my recollection went, were a verbatim report.