Chapter 5

Jesus, I Trust in You

For the next few days, I was in and out of consciousness. When I was more cognizant, I came to understand that during those three days, I had endured two heart surgeries, including open-heart surgery to repair a punctured atrium and operations to inflate my lungs. It was discovered the wire from the defibrillator had pierced my heart. When I had first entered the hospital on the previous Sunday, the emergency-room staff was in full panic over my condition. They could not diagnose what was wrong with me. The ambulance had taken me to the hospital closest to my parents’ house, not the facility where the ICD implantation had been performed. The personnel at this hospital weren’t familiar with the device, and in their panic, my parents had forgotten the card with its model number. As far as I understood, the staff members were unable to get in touch with my original doctor at first. Complicating matters, I had specifically asked for the ICD to be buried deeply so that it would be less noticeable cosmetically. As a result, they couldn’t get a good picture of the wires inside. I was dying before their eyes, and nobody could figure out why. Quite miraculously, my life was saved by an off-duty cardiologist who happened to be walking through the emergency room on a Sunday evening. Dr. Charanjit Khurana had come into his office in the hospital complex earlier in the day to catch up on some paperwork. He decided to take a break and stretch his legs. As he was going down the hall, he ran into a colleague who was on his way out of the building, and he asked Dr. Khurana to accompany him to his car, which was in the parking lot next to the emergency room. And so it was that Dr. Khurana happened to be walking through the ER when one of the physicians working on my case recognized him as a cardiologist. Not only was he a cardiologist, but he was a pacemaker specialist and former colleague of the person who performed the original implantation Months later, sitting in his examination room, I asked Dr. Khurana how close I had come to irrevocable death. “This close,” he said as he narrowed the space between his thumb and his index finger to a sliver for emphasis. “Somebody was looking out for you.” That someone, I became convinced, was Jesus. While I was lying in the hospital, I felt as though images of Christ and Mother Mary were resonating in my imagination, in my “mind’s eye.” They appeared to me as outlines of light, usually in the most physically excruciating moments, such as when I had to do breathing exercises to strengthen my collapsed lungs or my chest tubes were being pulled out. They didn’t say anything and seemed to come and go like dreams. I was heavily drugged at the time and didn’t know what was going on, but there was no doubt that these images were providing me with strength and comfort. I was slowly easing out of shock and into awareness of what had happened to me. Emotionally, I was stable and just taking the days, minute by minute. I was filled to the brim with opiates. All I felt was floating, unless I was being physically disturbed. Sometimes when I opened my eyes, an elderly man was sitting in a chair in my room. There were several gentlemen who took turns keeping me company every couple of days. They were from an open-heart surgery support group called Mended Hearts and were all open-heart surgery veterans who looked to be in their 80s, at least. They would come to my room, sit down in a chair, fold their hands, smile at me for a while, and then leave without saying a word. Their motto was “It’s great to be alive and helping others.” Two days after I came out of my coma, a stranger came to my room, a mere wisp of a woman in a navy blue nun’s habit and vintage 1970s owl glasses. Her name was Sister Paulette, and, she stood at the foot of my bed, intoxicated with excitement. She was by far the happiest guest I had received. Sister Paulette worked at the hospital and had heard about the miraculous recovery of a young woman who had been resuscitated. She introduced herself and told me immediately that her first cousin, a canonized nun named Saint Faustina, was the saint of near-death experiences. She said that Jesus had appeared to her cousin many times in a certain image and that other people who have had near-death experiences have been known to see the same image. She took out a prayer card and held it out in front of my eyes. It was an unusual image of Jesus: He was floating in a white garment with a rainbow of light beaming out of his heart. I would learn later that a nearly identical image of Jesus had appeared to Saint Faustina in her room in Plock, Poland, on February 22, 1931. She referred to this vision as the “King of Divine Mercy.” In her diary, she wrote what Jesus told her: Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I Trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. In my hospital bed, I started to sob. I felt a profound resonance with all my heart and soul – a recognition beyond words. I knew that these pictures I was seeing were not from the drugs. This prayer card was my confirmation.