For the first time in my life, I today faced the prospect of an immediate death. I'm sure I've been at points in my life before whereby the choice I made saved my hide, whereas in a parallel universe I would have shuffled off this mortal coil. But this wasn't a "might have been" scenario. It was a very real experience that I could feel every second of, unsure of whether this morning was going to be my last.
I've been suffering quite a lot recently with a nagging infection in my respiratory system. I'm awaiting the results of a blood test that will determine exactly what, but for the most part I have been beset with a hacking cough and a numb head. The fever and shakes have subsided, and I have been back at work for a week and a bit, with only an occasional coughing fit and my regular morning cough, the sort that smokers have - whereby I attempt to dislodge all the crap that has coated my throat during the night.
This morning was no different. I woke up and felt the need to cough. I hacked up the usual amount of green phlegm, but instead of it entering my mouth for me to dispose of at leisure, it decided to drop back down into my windpipe. I tried to cough again, but my gag reflex kicked in and i began retching violently. As I struggled for air, the mixture of phlegm and bile had completely blocked my windpipe. I was choking.
I stumbled down the stairs to the bathroom, wheezing and desperate to get air into my lungs, my mouth hanging open. It had been about 45 seconds without air and I began to feel my chest tighten. The bathroom meant i could properly try to vomit my way clear of the situation (even then I was thinking of not having to clean up sick from my carpet), but another 30 seconds or so without oxygen would lead to me blacking out, alone, in an empty flat in a city where nobody knew me. I turned to the stairs to the front door, for the first time confronting the reality of how to save my own life - my only hope would be to get out into the street and pray that somebody would be able to help me. The only other thing that I could think about was Laura, how she would find out that her fiancé was dead, and had been for hours while she had been in blissful ignorance, until the police arrived.
That was probably the thing that shocked my body into fighting. With tears in my eyes I lurched into the bathroom and convulsed, until i forced the solid matter up into my mouth and spat it out. Wheezing and crying, I managed to get air into my lungs. It wasn't a particularly euphoric feeling - my nose was dripping snot and vomit, my tastebuds were overwhelmed by the acrid taste of my own puke, and my eyes were streaming. But I wasn't going to die. That's got to be something.
It's an hour later now. Physically, I have returned to normal, apart from being a little bilious. Mentally? Well, people tell of how a near-death experience changes them, changes their whole perspective on life. Not me. I still feel invincible. I still feel like there's no way my body is going to give up and die. Apart from feeling shit, I feel great.