Woman’s nightmare on the operating table

By admin
21 January 2010

She listens as the anaesthetist in the operating theatre talks about the anaesthetic he’s about to administer. A few moments later she lies wondering when he’ll inject it into her arm - she’s still wide awake.

Then STEPHANIE OELOFSE (51) hears one doctor tell another he’s about to cut open her stomach. She tries to tell him she’s still conscious but her lips won’t move.

Earlier that morning she had been rushed to Union Hospital in Alberton after suddenly having difficulty breathing at home. Now doctors are operating to see whether she has a burst ulcer - and she’s aware of every moment.

They find nothing wrong. Then her weird experience takes on nightmare proportions. “I don’t feel a pulse - her heart is shutting down,” she hears the theatre sister announce anxiously somewhere above her head.

Stephanie sees a doctor shock her body to get her heart started. Still she feels nothing. He shocks her again. And that’s when the unthinkable happens.

A doctor walks to the waiting room to give her family the sad news. Her husband, Hans, refuses to accept it.

In the theatre they’re still trying to get Stephanie’s heart going. Eventually there’s a pulse but it’s so weak they know she’ll never survive without a ventilator and breathing equipment.

That night a miracle happens. And when Stephanie opens her eyes in the high-care unit the next morning the medical staff can’t believe it.

Her heart has strengthened suddenly and dramatically. Three days later she walks out of hospital unassisted.

Although it’s unclear what happened Stephanie probably experienced a condition called anaesthesia awareness. This happens when the anaesthetic isn’t strong enough for the patient to lose consciousness completely.

Dr Tjaart Venter, the cardiologist who was summoned when Stephanie’s heart stopped, says anaesthetists often administer a smaller dose when a patient is in a critical condition. “Then there’s less of a risk of the patient not waking up after the operation.”

“God must really love me. I keep wondering whether there’s something he wants me to do or this was just a training miracle - to show the doctors He, not them, decides whether a patient will live,” she says thoughtfully.

“There must be something God wants from me. I must just find out what it is.”

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