Monday, April 14, 2014

A Near-Death Experience--How to Write One

I have a character that needs to have some sort of medical emergency that would bring on a near-death experience. A trip to the hospital, but not staying longer than a day. What will work for this?

By a near-death experience, I'm assuming you want the victim to be unconscious and require some sort of resuscitation--yes?

A respiratory arrest from any cause would work. Choking on a chunk of steak, for example. It would close off the airway. As the blood oxygen level drops, the victim would pass out. You can do a Heimlich on an unconscious person. The Heimlich depends on forcing air out of the victim's lungs and dislodging the obstruction.

Other respiratory arrests would be chemically mediated (drugs, legal or otherwise), smoke inhalation (fire victims), and respiratory arrest associated with cardiac arrest. If you have a cardio-respiratory arrest, it'd be a handful for a layman to manage alone.

A cardiac arrest (or an ineffective heart rhythm) can cause the person to quit breathing--low blood flow to the brain. The most common cause of cardiac arrest is coronary artery disease--blocked arteries to the heart. An acute blockage--what most laymen refer to as "a heart attack" blocks blood flow to the heart muscle, resulting in irritability if the heart's electrical system; this can degenerate into deadly rhythms--ventricular tachycardia (V-tach) or ventricular fibrillation (V-fib). CPR might work. If your rescuer has quick access to an AED (automatic external defibrillator) that would be better. 

The other thing with cardiac arrest--patients with a history of bad heart pump function (from any cause) are prone to rhythm disturbances out of the blue. This can include young people all the way up to the elderly.

I hope this helps; if you can give me more details about your scenario, I can offer more specific suggestions.

Good Luck!

Questions? Comments?
elly has worked in the medical field for over twenty years, mainly at large medical centers. With experience in a variety of settings, chances are Kelly may have seen it.
Sometimes truth seems stranger than fiction in medicine, but accurate medicine in fiction is fabulous. Find Kelly’s fiction at

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1 comment:

  1. I do believe all of the ideas you've offered to your post. They are very convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for newbies. May you please lengthen them a little from next time? Thank you for the post.

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