The Significance of Today.

by Brandon

Today is an important day for me, and not just because it’s my birthday…

I mean, yeah, today is my birthday, but there’s another reason today matters to me. April 16 isn’t just the day of my birth… not anymore.

April 16 is the 43rd anniversary of the day I was born…. but it’s also the two-year anniversary of the day I was give a second chance at life.

Two years ago, today…

I was in a coma.

I had been that way for a week. I had undergone an emergency surgery in an attempt to save my life, and the surgery itself was a resounding success. But after the surgery, they just couldn’t pull me back to consciousness. The cancer had malnourished my body to the point of death, so my body was probably just too weak to pull me back to the waking world.

The doctors did all they could, but by my birthday, they had pretty much accepted that I wasn’t going to wake up. They had pretty much accepted that I wouldn’t make it through the week… maybe the night.

It was horrible timing that it fell on my birthday, but the surgeon who had tried so hard to save my life decided it was time to have the talk with my wife and parents. It was time for them to discuss putting me in hospice care until the end came. There was just nothing more they could do for me at the hospital.

I was going to die.

Meanwhile, somewhere else… somewhere… inside

“I could hear them all,” I said. “Hundreds of them. Maybe thousands.”

“Thousands of what?” she asked.

“Prayers, I think,” I explained. “And just well-wishing in general. I was just standing here, then BAM! A thousand voices, all whispering to me at the same time. I heard voice after voice after voice. And they were all saying the same basic things: ‘Please let Brandon pull through… Please, come back to us, Brandon… You can beat this, Brandon… I know you can do this…’ Some of ‘em sounded like prayers… others just sounded like they were just sending me positive thoughts. But I heard ‘em all. They just… assaulted me. All at once.”

“What are you going to do about it?” she asked.

“Do about it?” I repeated. “What do you mean?”

“You have a choice in all of this, you know,” she said.

I took a deep breath. The air was sweet and kind to my lungs (or perceived lungs). “I promised Laura I’d never stop fighting,” I said. “And she’s reminded me of that every day since I got here.”

“A promise is a promise,” she said.

I looked at her. “I have to go back., don’t I.”

It wasn’t a question…

I opened my eyes.

The hospital room was dim, but the lights still hurt my eyes. I couldn’t stop blinking, tears trickling down the sides of my cheeks.

When I tried to take a breath, the air itself hurt.

It felt like at least two tubes were running down my throat, one through the mouth and one through the nose.

My hands were covered in mittens and my wrists were restrained.

Machines were beeping and humming, lights blinking everywhere.

Everything hurt.


I’m a prisoner, my semi-conscience, semi-sane mind thought. Someone has kidnapped me and is doing experiments on me!


At first, I really believed that.

At the time, I had no memory of where I had been, of the prayer-assault I had undergone, or the choice to come back and continue fighting. My time in the coma came back to me a few hours later, and to this day, I make no claims about whether it was real or a dream… but in those first few hours, I didn’t remember any of it. I only knew panic and pain.

And I believed I was a prisoner.

A man in scrubs walked into the room and started looking at a computer monitor in the corner of the room. He didn’t even notice that I was awake. I tried to scream, “Let me go!” but, of course, no sound came.

I frantically tried to get the mittens off of my hands. I had one glove off when the man noticed I was awake.

“Mr. Hale, you’re awake,” he said. I could hear the surprise in his voice.

“LET ME GO!” I tried to scream. Again, no sound came, but the man seemed to understand what I was trying to say.

“Mr. Hale, you need to calm down,” he said. “I can’t let you take those off yet. You were hurting yourself.”

The man turned out to be the head nurse in charge of my care in the ICU. His name was Patrick, and he deserves a medal for putting up with me.

For at least two or three hours, I remained convinced that I was a prisoner. I begged him to let me go. I begged him to remove the restraints. I begged him to take the tubes from my throat.

“That tube is breathing for you, Mr. Hale,” he tried to explain (many times). “If I take it out, you’ll die.”

I didn’t believe him. It was a lie! He just wanted to continue his experiments!

It’s probably a good thing that I couldn’t make any sounds, because I insulted that poor man with every vulgar and monstrous thing I could think of. I wanted to break free and throw him through the wall, Hulk-style.

I hated Patrick with every fiber of my being. I knew he was a kidnapper and some kind of crazed scientist.

But the real Patrick was a pro. He’d clearly dealt with delirious patients before.

He always kept a calm voice, and he just explained – over and over – that I was very sick and in the ICU. He stayed by my side during the entire panic attack, which lasted about three hours or so.

Even though he couldn’t understand the specific things I was saying, I’m pretty sure he understood the sentiment. But he stayed calm, treated me with absolute kindness, and never stopped assuring me that he was there to help me.

Patrick (the World’s Most Patient Nurse) eventually succeeded at getting me to understand and accept the situation. Once I was more or less myself, I apologized profusely (and silently) to Patrick for the way I’d behaved. Once he was sure that I was in control of myself again, he removed my restraints.

I still had no memory of how I had gotten there. Patrick helped to fill in some of the blanks, but all I really knew was that I was in a hospital somewhere, after having been unconscious for a week. The rest was a mystery to me.

That’s when my mind went to its safe place. It’s where my mind always goes to find peace…


I silently asked Patrick if he had something I could write on. Amazingly, he found a small dry-erase board with a pen.

At first, I couldn’t write anything. I had forgotten how.

Eventually, though, simple letters came back to me. On the board, I wrote, “Wife?”

“I’m not married,” Patrick said. To this day, I don’t know if he really didn’t get my question or if he was messing with me.

I pointed at myself.

“Oh, your wife,” Patrick said. “I’m sure she’s asleep. It’s almost 6 in the morning.”

“Here?” I wrote.

“I think she’s at the hotel,” Patrick said. “She’ll be here a little later. She’s been by your side through this, Mr. Hale. All day, every day.”

In my state of semi-sanity, I began to panic. I was afraid she wouldn’t know I was awake, so she wouldn’t come back. At least not soon enough for me.

“Call her?” I wrote.

Patrick hesitated for a moment, then took a deep, merciful breath and said, “Okay. I’ll go call her.”

Looking back, I think he understood just how significant it was that I was awake, so he assumed my wife would want to know.

I also think he was just full of pity for me in that moment.

A few minutes later, he informed me that he did call her and let her know I’m awake.

My heart soared at the thought of seeing Laura. It felt like I had just seen her, but at the same time, it felt like I hadn’t seen her in months.

A few hours crawled by and Laura showed up, and she wasn’t alone.

My parents were with her!

My heart soared again.

I don’t remember a lot after that. Images, really.

I remember they all sang “Happy Birthday” to me. I remember their faces as they stayed in the room. I remember trying and failing to communicate with them several times.

At one point, Laura asked me to squeeze her hand if I love her, and I squeezed with everything I had.

The doctors were stunned. They had no explanation for why I woke up. They called me their “miracle patient.”

And two years later…

Here I am.

The thing is, looking back on that day, I know exactly why I woke up.

I woke up because I chose to.

Now, I’m not claiming I was on “the other side” or in some other plane of of existence. I know what I believe, but I’m keeping that to myself. That said, I have no idea what really happened. Maybe I was having a very vivid hallucination. Maybe I was in some internal place, created by my brain to protect me.

Who the hell knows.

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether what I experienced was “real” or not.

It was real to me. 

Besides, where I was isn’t as important as what happened. You see, what matters is the fact that I remember choosing to come back.

That’s the significance of today.

Today is my reminder that life is a choice.

Life isn’t something that happens to us.

Life is something we choose to do.

Life is an action, not a reaction.

Every second on this planet is precious. Every single one.

And it’s our responsibility as human beings to make every one of those seconds mean something.

It doesn’t have to mean something grand or fancy. It just has to mean something. It can be as simple as looking around you and appreciating the things you see. It can be as simple as enjoying your favorite food or drink. It can be as simple as saying “Thank you” to someone who deserves thanks.

Take it from me, every second of your life matters.

So get out there and enjoy each one.


p.s. I discovered later that Laura had asked for prayers and good wishes on my birthday and hundreds of people responded. There were hundreds of replies with things like, “Praying for him” or “Sending good vibes” or “wishing for the best.”

A few days after I woke from my coma, when I was well enough to get on my laptop, I spent at least a day, just reading the hundreds of wonderful posts from folks who were sending good thoughts, vibes, and prayers.

To this day, I believe I heard them all. I believe that was the prayer-assault I experienced while I was out. I believe they reached me while I was in my coma, and that was absolutely one of the reasons I chose to wake up.

So thank you all. You guys really are life savers.



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