When I Was a Ghost: My Journey Back From the Other Side by Dan Rhema.
I’ve had moments in my global travels when I realized I was tiptoeing a fine line between adventure and tragedy, when the journey that I thought I was on suddenly veered off in an unexpected direction. One such moment occurred in the hours before my near-death experience when it became excruciatingly clear to me why dengue fever is also known as break-bone fever. As I lay in a hospital bed, with the Centers for Disease Control specialists struggling to save my life, I thought that those travel health advisory printouts my travel agent gave me, didn’t really prepare me for the experience of contracting three different types of dengue fever all at the same time. The bloody delirium, piercing headache, light sensitivity and pain— every touch felt as if I was being hit with a hammer—all went away as I left my body and took an unexpected journey to the other side. I did not return to this world as the same person. I came back a stranger in my own mind. The three strains of dengue fever had morphed into meningoencephalitis resulting in a personality-changing brain injury. Upon my release from the hospital, I embarked on my greatest adventure, the journey to find my way back to myself.
When I Was a Ghost: My Journey Back From the Other Side is the story of two journeys. The first journey follows my work around the world as an international development worker in Kenya, Peru and Mexico. In northwest Kenya, I survived the third world trifecta of malaria, dysentery, and pneumonia. Amoebiasis did me in in Puno, Peru. Years later, the three strains of dengue fever I contracted in Santiago Tuxla, Mexico, finally put an end to my international work. During my recuperation, I found myself navigating an uncharted dream path through my unconscious mind. I began to chronicle these dream journeys by compulsively creating sculptures, paintings and masks and soon discovered that the art was leading me on an incredible journey—a journey toward healing. This second journey brought me back as far as the gateway to the last border where I stand with one foot in this world and one foot planted firmly on the other side.
Chapter One, It’s Never Like The Postcard.