What's the closest you've ever come to dying?

I had a weird thing a few weeks ago where my heart was skipping beats. It didn’t hurt. It was like being tickled by God. I don’t know if it was actually close to dying, but it certainly got me to thinking. I figure I’ve been lucky at a few crucial times. I’ve been in a couple of car wrecks, a minivan ran over my bike while I was on it, I had a tornado pass over my head, I once would have fallen off a building if a beam hadn’t caught me in the chest, and one time Mark Simpson held my head under the water at the swimming pool.

What about you guys?


Mark Simpson. I hate that guy.

I walked in on a convenience store in downtown Kansas City, KS when it was being robbed. The guy robbing the place had a pistol and he immediately turned it on me. I held up my hands in the air and responded to his shouting at me with ‘I have nothing to do with this. I just came in for a Slurpee.’ I could see that there was already another customer in the back on the floor and could tell that having more come in was making him increasingly agitated. When the clerk dropped a handful of change on the floor, the robber jumped and pulled the trigger on his pistol while it was still pointed at my face. The gun clicked. He looked at it, looked at me, then purposely pointed it back at me and pulled the trigger again. It clicked again. He then grabbed his money and ran out of the store. Once outside we all heard a loud bang as he fired into the windshield of one of the cars parked out there.

I never had to face him in court, as he apparently plead out.

It’s one of the few memories I have that can affect me just to think of it.

In 2004, I developed lesion in my neck. It wasn’t cancerous, so I wasn’t too worried, and took my time getting it removed since I was oh so busy making Goldeneye: Rogue Agent.

Yeah, I know.

Anyway, had it removed, minor surgery, no big fuss. My doctor did a biopsy on the thing - turns out that while the lesion wasn’t cancerous, they detected evidence of cancer in the surrounding cells; I had cancer of the perotid gland, same as Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. Needless to say, I went right back into hospital, underwent a 14 hour operation that was, in retrospect, absolutely horrifying and left me out of commission for the rest of the year,and then explored the joys of radiology. Thankfully, they got the cancer before it metastasized and a few months ago, 5 years after the fact, I was declared cured.

If I hadn’t dealt with the lesion right when I did, and if my doctor hadn’t been diligent and, well, awesome, I’d most likely be dead or dying now.

As is, I just have my life, this story and a pretty awesome scar running from behind my right ear to the bottom left corner of my throat. I tell people I used to be a pitfighter, but I don’t think they believe me.

When I was three or four I fell into the swimming pool at the house (a house in Hong Kong is a big deal!) of my grandaunt (my maternal grandmother’s twin sister). Luckily, my older cousin, Cletus, dove in and rescued me. Cletus died 15 years ago at a joint US-Canada military endurance competition. When I heard of his death it scared me because if a fit soldier in his early 30s could die of a heart attack then death could come to any of us at anytime.

I can only think of two times it was really possible, even in theory, both when I was growing up. A car almost hit me when I ran across a street (a busy small town intersection with no traffic lights). The other time was when I was swimming in the ocean in southern California and got caught momentarily in the undertoe (sp?) current.

That’s about it.

Good god, that is terrifying.

About twenty feet away from an oncoming car, relative speed around 170mph, whipped back into my lane. Not surprisingly, when you’re that close, there’s no screaming or anything. It took us 30 seconds to even make a noise.


When I was about 11 years old I was riding my bike home from a friend’s place just on the other side of the block. I came across my neighbor, who was out walking his two dogs just around the corner from my house. I had played with the younger dog, Luther, since he was a puppy. I stopped to pet him and he immediately leaped at my throat. I remember the owner pulling the dog off and me running home covered in blood, but not a whole lot else. My mom freaked out and drove me to the hospital, of course, and said she thought I was going into shock on the way there (not that she’s an authority). The doctor’s told me they missed my jugular by less than a centimeter, so I lucked out.

Within that same year I was riding that same bike around that same corner rather recklessly only to find myself immediately facing a moving car. I fell and slid underneath the car, which stopped right over me. I got back up with only a few minor scrapes and bruises.

So either that corner or that bike was really bad luck for me.

  1. When I was a little kid I fell into a neighbor’s swimming pool when the neighbor went inside the house, I think to answer the phone. I couldn’t swim. If the neighbor hadn’t come out and grabbed me I probably would have drowned.

  2. A local dealer (who consumed his own product) held a knife to my throat once. I wasn’t part of his scene, I was just heading towards a bus past where he was set up that day. I don’t actually think he had a particular intent to hurt me, he was just twitchy and impulsive. His behavior was essentially random. And happily he eventually drifted away.

  3. Once on the highway the muffler dropped off the end of a car in front of us, bounced once off the ground then flew right at our windshield. If it had hit my side of the windshield it could have killed me directly. If it had hit my mom’s side of the windshield (she was driving), it could have either killed her or caused us to go out of control at 75 mph. Mom jerked the wheel and instead it just removed the driver’s side mirror, as cleanly as if it had been snipped off with a giant set of wire cutters, and then gouged a furrow along the rear half of the car.


  1. Walked into the deep end of the pool (nobody told me!) when I was really young. Under water for about a minute before someone noticed.

  2. Driving on the highway in Memphis, TN, about 2 in the morning, in a Chevette. I looked down, probably to change a cassette, and looked back up to see a stalled car in the middle of the highway – with idiots standing around it and the lights all off! Swerved and missed it/them by inches, was probably doing 70. If I’d hit the car in my Chevette…

  3. Flying through Dallas in a DC-9 in the mid-80s, we got caught in the wake vortex of a 747. (Got details from the pilot after landing because I wanted to know why I almost just died.) Plane all of a sudden rolls about 50 degrees on one wing, pilot overcompensates and rolls about 70 degrees on the other, looking at the ground almost directly below the wingtip I can see we’re losing altitude rapidly. Pilot corrects again a couple of times and then hit full power on the engines and we climbed like we were taking off. Half the plane was screaming, the other half never looked up from their newspapers. Had that been a 737 instead of a DC-9, we’d probably have been goners.

When I used to live in the frozen north, there was a morning when I was driving to work. I had a massive Volvo station wagon in those days as I felt safer in it. This particular morning I was driving during a pretty stiff blizzard. I was going over a bridge that had about a 150 foot drop to a frozen river below. All of a sudden when I’m at the dead middle of the bridge, I start to spin totally out of control. After a couple of spins, my rear wheels grab hold, unfortunately I was facing the side of the bridge. So my car shoots for the side of this bridge. Did I mention the bridge sides were wood? I’m in a 4,000 pound car, shooting for the sides of a wooden bridge at about 45-50 mph. I just know this bridge is not going to hold me. I actually remember having the thought “today is the day” going through my head in the second before I hit. Well, miraculously the car bounced off the side and I started spinning again until I was well off the bridge. There had been a state trooper a couple hundred yards behind me who saw the whole thing and told me he thought I was dead for sure. I remember it taking the cop about 10 minutes to pry my hands off the steering wheel. My then-wife had to come and get me and drive me home. I shook pretty violently the rest of that day. Terrible experience!

I don’t have any really good ones:

  1. When I was 19 I noticed getting out of the shower one morning at the dorm that one of my ankles was swollen way bigger than the other one and upon further inspection, the swelling went up to my knee. Health Services took one look at me and sent me to the hospital. 24 hours on heparin later and the blood clot I had was gone. They’re not kidding about those birth control pill warnings, folks!

  2. When I was about 3 my parents were having a pool party and my dad was carrying me around the shallow end. He eventually decided he’d rather have a beer and put me on the ladder on the side of the pool. Fun fact: metal pool ladders are ridiculously stupid things to have. Since I was on the first rung I was barely in the water, but it was enough so that when I moved, I immediately slipped off. I still remember the water level going up and down, up and down over my head as I thrashed about until like three people jumped in to get me.

  3. When I was digging in Israel you had to be careful about the scorpions. Now the big ones that you could see weren’t the problem, though when one huge one crawled out of a hole right beside me I didn’t really stick around to tell it that its sting wouldn’t particularly bother me, the little black or white ones that you wouldn’t notice until they were killing you were the ones you had to worry about. So during lunch break one day we’re sitting around shooting the shit in what little shade there was and one of the guys in the group turns a shockingly pale shade of white and tells me ‘You have a scorpion on your neck.’ I freeze and the four other guys around me start looking horrified and backing away. I say through clenched teeth, trying not to move, “Someone get it OFF ME!” but they just stand there staring at me like I’m already dead. So after what seemed like five minutes but was probably only a couple of seconds I said, ‘Fuck you guys!’ Then I reached up and brushed it off as quickly and firmly as possible.

It turned out it was just an ant. The black ants in that area all carried their butts in the air so that they LOOKED as much like scorpions as they could. But I was both scared to death and fucking pissed at those guys. WAY TO STEP UP COWARDS!

This last summer I hit a freshly dead squirrel while leaned over on my motorcycle at about 40mph. No big deal, seemingly, but that caused a severe headshake/wobble in the front tire which decreased my turning radius which put me into the oncoming lane. I recovered badly shaken, but the real wake-up call is when a pickup truck came into the lane just 10 seconds later. 10 seconds of time and I would have met him head on, at which point there is very little hope of survival for any rider.

Younger days, riding BMX dirt jumps in makeshift stunt parks built by local riders in the backwoods of suburban PA, took a jump way too quickly and came down nearly vertically onto the front tire. This wasn’t deadly in itself, but my head hit the ground pretty hard, which only resulted in a daze. However, when I got up I saw a 2x4 with a big rusty nail in it just inches from where my skull hit the dirt.

10 seconds, several inches… that’s all it takes. I should probably stay away from 2-wheeled transportation.

Jesus dude, way to stare death in the face!

I, thankfully, don’t really have any good near death experience stories. My Dad has a story about how he was hanging out on a street corner, when a neighborhood kid tried to pull a drive by on someone’s house that my Dad was standing near.

The bullet was either fired from far enough away that it didn’t penetrate his skull or merely grazed his head. Either way, a bullet touched his skull. He said it felt like a pebble hitting his head at an extraordinary speed. He walked a block or two and found his friends and said “Guys, I think I just got shot in the head.” To which they said “Bullshit” and started laughing, just as blood started to poor from his head.

He got some stitches and other than routinely misremembering names of things (he recently called the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” - “Hungarian Rhapsody”) he seems no worse for the wear.

That is 1 of about 15 near death stories he has told me though.

Spent a night in ICU with several pulmonary emboli. I wasn’t expected to make it through the night.

That, and the night I was a teen and I got beaten and stabbed by a bunch of junkies, and left to die in a bad neighborhood after midnight.

I shouldn’t have made it to daylight either time, but here I am.

Many of you know this already.

Cystic Fibrosis, and a yeast infection colonized my port while I was in for pancreatitus. It spread to my lungs - so one day I’m talking with co-workers, the next day I’m babbling incoherently because I have a temp of 105* and my body can’t exchange out CO2. I’m put in a cold shower to try and cool me off, then placed in a bed full of ice. I fall into a coma and my breathing sputters to a halt. I’m placed on life support and they see my lungs are trashed and overflowing with fluid. Doctors tell my family I have a 1% chance of survival as my pulmonary system has been decimated. Organs start to fail. Family calls in our Priest to read me last rites while I’m still clinging to life.

3 weeks later I suddenly awaken from the coma, start vomiting and rip out all the vent equipment (thankfully I don’t remember doing this). Following is a year of hell trying to regain functions to do the simplest of things - like sitting up and walking. My lungs and heart were so decimated that even peeing would put me into Ventricular Tachycardiac Arrest. Weak heart and low on Oxygen my heart would race to 200+ bpm. Defibrillator would have to be on hand each time I peed while I was in ICU for several weeks.

It was very sobering having to use a walker for months. At 30 years old I looked like a 100 year old person hunched over slowly shuffling their walker forward.

And in happy news I saw our baby red mohawk squirrel today.

Shit. This was brutal right away. I have nothing even remotely similar to what you guys have been through. I almost wanted to stop after Bahimron’s post.

I feel lucky and or blessed. All I have is a handful of really, really stupid drunk driving stories that are all of my own doing. ANd some diseased tissue on my hearing bones and mastoid that got drilled out.

Almost drowned as a kid when going down a water slide and slamming my head against the side. Lifeguard wasn’t paying attention, fellow swimmer saved me.

Almost choked to death as an 8 or 9 year old at home. Was ready to jump off the stairs onto the railing to heimlich myself before I coughed up the blockage.

Stabbed as a 11 or 12 year old on the way home from school, right in the leg. Severed femoral artery. Was bleeding out and don’t remember who saved me or who attacked me. No idea why I was stabbed, I suppose it was mistaken identity or some random attack. Nothing I can imagine feels as close to death as bleeding out. The cold… I’ll always hate the cold.

Driving back from a company trip down a one lane highway with the sun setting down, the highway being full of little hills. Driver wanted to pass some slow car or truck ahead of us. I didn’t want to, because I told him it was impossible to see where the road was and if there was a drop-off ahead we’d never see it or a car behind it. As we were arguing and he was calling me a pussy, a semi-truck going the other way popped over the invisible ridge line. The pussy calls stopped shortly after. We got home maybe 5 minutes later than we would have. We got home.