The Next Breath: New Life Near Death

by Joe Fisher

Detailed Synopsis

Chapter 1: A Survivor’s Tale

Describes the immediate medical emergency, my personal reaction to it, and the barriers to seeking treatment and diagnosis.

  • The Attack — Hyperawareness & Self-Triage
  • Response – Delay, Denial & Magical Thinking
  • Seeking Treatment – Obeying ER Protocol
  • Diagnosis – Giving the Disease a Face

Chapter 2: Hospitalization

Discusses the introduction and immersion of a patient into the hospital routine, a chaotic world of diffused responsibility, information overload and the need to evaluate treatment options and ways to obtain the “best” treatment in that context.

  • Information Overload
  • The Structural Delivery of Care — Hospitalists
  • Making Treatment Choices – Coumadin or Not?
  • Release — Fear & Expectation

Chapter 3: The New Normal: PTSD & Beyond

Considers the physical and psychological adaptation to the life threatening experience, symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), medical treatment and self-help.

  • PTSD – Definition, Prevalence, Brain Imaging & Manifestations
  • Treatment – Medical & Chemical Therapies
  • Psychological Repair – Self-help & Meditation

Chapter 4: Victimization: Fate & Forgiveness

Examines the origins of depression following a life threatening event – answering the question Why Me?; the need to find a cause, place blame, find fault and bring those responsible to account; and gaining wisdom through self-understanding and freedom from depression through forgiveness.

  • Fate or Cause
  • Accountability — Fault & Blame
  • Balancing the Scales — Malpractice
  • Personal Contribution to Cause
  • Forgiveness — Self & Other

Chapter 5: Facing Oblivion

Discusses the implications of the sudden and stark confrontation with death, mortality and oblivion and considers the questions: What’s God got to do with it? Where will I find peace?

  • What is it Like to Die?
  • What is Death?
  • Prayer – Does it Work?
  • Cultural Visions of the Afterlife
  • Immortality – Consciousness or Memory?
  • Near Death Experiences
  • The Voice of God? – An Agnostic Doubts

Chapter 6: Winnowing: The Window of Opportunity

Explores the process of simplifying one’s life by deciding what is important, a process that includes answering questions such as, Who do I love? What do I want to do with my remaining time?

  • Hitting Bottom – Emotional Low Point
  • Death and Dying vs. Life and Living
  • Winnowing — Relationships
  • Winnowing – Finding Purpose

Many of the points are illustrated by the chance reconnection and conversations with an ex-spouse who is terminally ill.

Chapter 7: Relapse

Describes additional life threatening events experienced by the author– a near fatal Coumadin-related bleed out and consequent DVTs and PEs – and considers these events in the context of modern medical decision-making.

  • Bleeding to Death
  • Therapeutic Dilemma — Deciding Between Contradictory Options
  • A Second PE – Starting Over

Chapter 8: Epilogue

A summary of the insights gained from being brought back from the edge of death and experiencing a new life event.


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