With any luck, this will be the last column based on my recent illness. As I look back over six months of hospitalization, operations and complications, what I find most interesting is the time I spent unconscious.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

The mind plays tricks on us. When Carolyn drove me to the hospital in Brunswick, I remember driving down the entrance road, but I don’t remember anything else until the next day when I woke up in the hospital in Portland. Apparently, I was delirious, though I don’t recall being so. What I do recall is thinking I was at a party and when I decided it was time to leave I was prevented from doing so by a bunch of nurses and security personnel. They gave me a shot to knock me out and placed a bracelet on my ankle that said I was a risk for elopement, the medical term for a patient trying to make a break for it.

Most of my experiences of unconsciousness were less traumatic. Each of the five or six endoscopic procedures I had began with the administration of propofol, the anesthesia medication Michael Jackson used until it killed him.

If you have had propofol, you can easily understand what Jacko liked about it. There is no sensation of losing consciousness, just an instantaneous lights-out when the substance flows through your IV. You can have a three-hour operation and wake up wondering when the procedure will start. It’s as though no time has passed.

The only problem I had with anesthesia was regaining consciousness. I was in the recovery area and someone who was supposed to be attending me stepped away for a minute. During that time, I must have tried to climb out of bed, because I wound up on the floor, unhurt but still not fully conscious.

Since propofol is administered intravenously, I kept wondering why the last thing the nurse did as we entered the operating room was to place a plastic mask over my nose and mouth and instruct me to breathe deeply. When I finally asked why the mask, I was informed by the anesthesiologist that the propofol stops your breathing briefly, so oxygen is administered to make sure you don’t suffer any brain damage while not breathing.

“Without the oxygen, you might forget kindergarten,” the doctor explained.

I don’t remember anything about kindergarten anyway, but better safe than sorry.

I wasn’t really present for the worst experience of unconsciousness I suffered in the hospital. A sudden steep drop in my blood pressure alerted doctors that I had suffered a major internal hemorrhage. It seems a stent installed to drain my pancreas had torn a hole in my stomach.

The medical crisis was harder on my family than it was on me. For six days, Carolyn and the girls and my brother Paul took turns in a bedside vigil. When I finally came to, I had no idea where I was or what had happened. My first thought was that I was dead. I had a tube down my throat, mittens on my hands and I was paralyzed with painkillers and sedatives.

Everything I remember about regaining consciousness seemed to me to have occurred with the hour or so it took for the medication to wear off, but my family tells me many of the things I remember happened days before.

What I learned about unconsciousness is that it is nothing, and that’s a very good thing. Whether naturally occurring or pharmaceutically induced, unconsciousness is a blessing when you’re sick.

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