From the early fifties I had worked in the construction industry. In 1979 I suffered a massive heart attack. I was a Senior Industrial Relations Manager in a major offshore company, in Personnel, Labour and Industrial Relations.
In many ways I typical of so many senior personnel. I was hardworking and working very long hours, with lots of travelling both on and off shore. My wife, Jean, and I had married as childhood sweethearts in 1951.
We were normal, God-fearing, church-going people, comfortably off and enjoying good health. One the requirements of offshore industries, whether working or visiting oil platforms, was to undergo a very strict medical at least every three years. I had undertaken one of these in March of 1979 and, whilst a moderate smoker and minimal spirit drinker, I was pronounced as fit as a fiddle.
That year however, the workload became intense. By September I had not had a day off. I was constantly travelling all over the country by plane, train and car, and also flying by helicopters to offshore rigs. After a great deal of persuasion from my wife and secretary, I agreed to take a few days off, well at least the weekend. I arranged to play golf on the Sunday morning with some friends. I did enjoy a lazy Saturday morning but at lunch time there was a phone call from the Offshore Construction Manager about a potential labour dispute. Because of the direct radiophone system we had with the rigs, it was easier for me to go into the office to link up and monitor the situation, and issue advice and instructions as and when required.
I did try to unwind that night. The following morning I was up about 05.45 a.m. to get ready to play an early round of golf. Being a good husband I decided to make Jean a cup of tea. As I poured out the hot waster I had a severe pain in my chest and numbness in my left arm. It eased a moment as I walked through to the bedroom but then returned with a vengeance making breathing and moving difficult.
I lay down on top of the bed and felt myself sinking into it. Sounds starting to recede as if I was going deaf and I was only partly conscious. My doctor and friend arrived. He gave me an injection to make me more comfortable, and then arranged for my transfer to hospital. I was aware of very little of the whole journey, or arriving at the hospital. What I experienced was something very different.
It must have been when my heart developed an abnormal rhythm that I found myself in a very bright, white, and lighted place. There were no feelings of pain, discomfort or distress. In fact, it felt as if it was where I wanted to be. I was experiencing a lovely feeling of peace when I became aware of someone saying, ‘Come this way David’, and I was looking forward to going. In many ways it was like a television set where the scene would change as the channel changed. I found myself looking down from the top corner of a room, floating just under the ceiling. Beneath me was a group of people gathered around a hospital trolley, talking together very excitedly, but they seemed to be far away. Some were dressed in green, others in outdoor clothes, and one man in a dress shirt with fancy patterned braces on. On the wall, quite high up, I was conscious of an unusual clock. It was almost opposite me and I though it rather odd. The man in the fancy braces had something in both hands with wires attached, and said something to the others, whilst placing these things on the person on the trolley.
Immediately I felt intense pain return, and everything went black. Then as light returned I looked down and suddenly realised that it was my body on the trolley. I was very angry at what was happening. I wanted to stay where I was, because it was peaceful and pain free, and I was waiting for someone to come and get me. But once more the man in the fancy braces bent over the trolley, and again I felt intense pain. After that I felt nothing until I came round on the Tuesday.
When I came round there were Jean and Mike, the man whom I had been with on the Saturday sorting out labour problems. He had actually done something almost unheard of in the oil industry, in that he arranged to come onshore before his replacement arrived. This was because he felt he had to be at the hospital with me. I started to tell them about the strange experience that I had experienced, but could see by their faces that it was being accepted only with a large pinch of salt. Jean casually remarked, ‘That’s God giving you another chance. You’ll definitely have to change and slow down in future.’ Mike, being his usual cynical self, ignored what I was saying and supported what Jean had said about slowing down.
At that point they had to leave because the consultant had arrived. I was asking for something to eat and drink, as well as a wash and shave, because I knew I must look awful. Whilst he was checking me over I quite calmly said to him that he had quite a taste in braces. He stopped and asked, ‘What do you mean?’ I explained about what had taken place and he stood upright, somewhat astonished. He wanted to know if someone else had been speaking to me since I had come round, but the nurse assured him that he was the first member of staff to speak to me since I had regained consciousness.
The consultant explained that it he had been in the hospital on the previous Sunday when I was brought in, and that I had experienced a cardiac arrest on the trolley. What I had called jump leads was actually a defibrillator he had used to treat my cardiac arrest. And yes, he did have on a dress shirt and fancy braces. But how did I know that, as I was seriously ill with a cardiac arrest at the time. The room I was in was not the one he was used to and when I mentioned the clock, he had not noticed it. He did say that he had been told of a few cases of similar experiences in the past, but he was obviously puzzled by my comments. Later that evening he returned to say that he had been down to the room concerned, and there was a clock just as, and where, I had described it.
The next person I told about my experience was the Minister of my church, but he appeared totally unaffected by it. I really did not understand what had happened until some years later when I finally committed my life to Jesus Christ. Although she had only partly spoken the truth, Jean was right that day in 1979. God had indeed given me a second chance. He had given me a glimpse of the peace of eternity.