The only time I can recall having a hallucination was ten years ago.  That memory surfaced recently over lunch with a couple we’ve known for years.  He said he had hallucinated while in the hospital a few years ago, explaining that it had to do with the pain medications he was on.  That triggered my memory.

I was in the cardiac ICU, after having undergone surgery.  The ICU nurse assigned to me spent most of the night in question looking out for me and, I assume, other cardiac ICU patients.  The only other person I saw was a respiratory therapist who visited periodically to have me take deep breaths and blow into a device to measure my lung capacity.

Several times during the night, I managed to move so the wires for the cardiac monitor affixed to my chest pulled loose.  Each time that happened, an alarm sounded and the nurse came in to attach the wires again.  And each time I felt bad that I had somehow done something to cause more work for her.  One time, the connections came off my chest when I tried to get up to make my way to the “bathroom,” which was nothing more than a portable urinal and hand sink near my bed.  When she came in to correct the situation, she chastised me for getting up by myself, saying something along the lines of “It’s my job to look out after you; you aren’t disturbing me when the alarm goes off and you won’t disturb me if you need me to help you…DON’T try that on your own again!”

The aforementioned interactions were real.  My intellect tells me the ones that followed are not; they must be hallucinations.  Read on, I think you’ll agree.

About the third or fourth time I pulled the wires loose and set off the alarm, the nurse came in with a look of annoyance on her face.  Her hair was a bit out of place and it appeared that her blouse was only partially buttoned.  Instantly, I suspected she had been with the respiratory therapist when the alarm sounded and was forced to quickly pull her clothes back on to come respond to the alarm.

Not long after she corrected that disconnection, it happened again.  This time, it took her much longer to come to my bedside.  And this time, she was decidedly more disheveled and her blouse was partially unbuttoned.  Her face was flushed and she was breathing hard.  A moment later, the respiratory therapist came in.  They exchanged long and  knowing looks.

The look in her eyes as she turned to leave told the story: she knew that I knew about her tryst with the respiratory therapist and she knew I could report it and she would lose her job.  I knew, too, that she would not believe me if I swore not to say a word.  I knew she and her boyfriend had decided the only way for them to stay safe was to kill me.

My heart began to race and I began to shake.  I didn’t know how I would defend myself if she decided to kill me.  It probably wouldn’t be obvious; she’d probably use a drug that she would inject into my IV.   I got very, very frightened.  I was getting sleepy, but I dared not shut my eyes because I might go to sleep and if I went to sleep I might never wake up.

So, I kept my eyes open.  I watched carefully so I would at least be alert and awake if she returned to kill me.

I have to describe the area in which my bed was located in order for the next part to make any sense.  My “room” was actually a triangular space; two part of the triangle were walls, outfitted with all manner of medical equipment and supplies. The third part of the triangle was a glass wall with a doorway, but no door.  Curtains hanging from the ceiling covered the windows on the inside and could be pulled over the doorway, as well.

Some time later, as I watched the door opening, I saw the drapes being pulled back.  A small boy and a small girl peered into my tiny triangular room and stared at me. Instantly, I knew they were the nurse’s children.  I must have moved suddenly when they pulled back the curtain, because the alarm went off, indicating I had pulled a lead away from my chest again.

The nurse came quickly this time.  Her blouse was not tucked into her skirt and several of her top buttons were unbuttoned, revealing her bra.  She looked at the children by the window, then looked at me, visibly angry.  She said something like “I’ll take care of this,” then I saw her plunge the needle of a syringe into an IV connection.

That’s all I remember of the hallucination.  My memory of the hallucination has no doubt changed over the years, but the way I’ve described it is essentially the way it happened. At least in my mind.

I didn’t tell anyone about it for weeks, maybe month, after my surgery because it seemed very real to me; I thought I might have been losing my mind.  Or that I had barely escaped with my life.  Finally, though, it sunk in; this series of “memories” could not possibly have happened.  I think it was the realization that there was no way the nurse would have had her children in the ICU in the middle of the night that finally convinced me.

That notwithstanding, I simply cannot get over how real it seemed at the time.  It was far more vivid and far more detailed than a dream.  It was as if all of this was really happening. I assume, of course, it didn’t.  Did it?

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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7 Responses to Hallucination

  1. Trish says:

    Like as in, “never say never”! 🙂

  2. Trish, I always say we should give every opportunity another opportunity to change our minds! Ha!

  3. Trish says:

    John, I might as well add to the pot (pun intend). I too had the experience many years back, here in Mexico. Went to a small gathering at my sister-in-laws place where she lived with her crazy painter boyfriend, Paco. Paco had a bottle of mezcal, that had peyote buttons fermenting in the bottom. My husband didn’t drink any, for his heart condition, and my brother-in-law stuck to his beloved vino tinto. But my sister-in-law, Paco and myself did indulge in the mezcal “cocktail.” We ate some of the buttons, as well. It was beyond strange! It gave me a dreamy state, but focused, and well aware of my surroundings in the same. I sat and had the most incredibly deep conversation with my brother-in-law for what seemed some hours. I can still recall the intense look on his face! Shortly after, I saw him again and he went on about our “intense” conversation. Just one problem….I could remember the conversation, and its intensity, but for the life of me I could not remember the subject matter!! Crap! I recall how expanded my mind, and thoughts felt at that time…but the subject….¡¡nada!!

    I’m with you Robin, I was never into mind-altering psychedelic drugs.

    And as far as LSD is concerned, never touched the stuff…had no interest. My 1st boyfriend dropped acid a few times, and finally he dropped and had the evil “bad trip”. Scared the life out him! The biggest fear he experienced….what ever nightmare he was in, he thought was permanent, and he’d never come back. He claimed to have experienced flashback for a while, also. He advocated against using it vigorously thereafter, with good reason!

  4. robin andrea says:

    I was in a hospital once after a car accident in 1977. I was given morphine for pain. When I was being wheeled down the corridor, I remember seeing a window at the end of the hall. I had a sense that I was going to be pushed out the window, and I DIDN’T CARE! I was high and happy and I probably thought I could fly. I really didn’t like psychedelics very much (I tried LSD and psilocybin). I even stopped smoking pot when I was 19 and haven’t had any since. I prefer my mind clear and reliable.

  5. Robin, sometimes I wonder whether this was a hallucination or highly-developed fantasy experience. Or maybe something in between. It was bizarre. I think I was on morphine, at least for a while, but it was not much and not long. Who knows what other stuff they pumped into me. It would have been better to have just had a glass of wine!

    Juan, I sometimes think it would be extremely interesting to experience psychedelic drugs; if I could get legitimate guarantees there would be no permanent damage, I’d do it! Your experience with the mushrooms must have been powerful; to consider that it changed you, you must have felt it was among the most powerful experiences you’ve had. I’d be interested to read the remainder of that poem, Juan.

  6. Juan says:

    When I was a young man stationed in Mississippi, some friends and I came upon a cow pasture of siliciden mushrooms (I will likely be damned for this post).

    We must have collected two large trash-bags of the specimens.

    That night, I ate this large mushroom with jam on toast….and then 2 hours later…vomited …but then the world turned for me. I had serious hallucinations: I was even running, and I kept running … and (later) when I stopped running, I stared into the tall pine trees of a Mississippi forest and saw Christ’s crucifixion, as if I were looking through a prism glass! The whole event was important to me!

    It changed me, John!

    We have to consider that hallucinations are an important action of our psyche — in however way we get them! Frankly, I am under the belief that everyone should take an acid trip!

    And so — presenting only a part of the poem I did that night, I wrote:

    I am summer day breaking eyes and hearts of all alike;
    I am He who died one listless autumn,
    the resurrection and color of light!

  7. robin andrea says:

    That is quite a detailed hallucination. It would be interesting to know what kind of drugs you were on, and which ones have the potential to cause this kind of dreaming/hallucination. I think the thing that scares me most about doctors and hospitals are the drugs. Pharmaceuticals can be very strange things. I’m not a big fan of mind-altering psychotropics. Imagine how much better you would have felt if they’d just given you a glass of wine.

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