Kaya: Through Hell and Back

Letters / Notes

Kaya writes about her operation, fears and painful recovery and how she made it through

Hello to all of you, to all my friends, all around the world, and all in my heart. I made it, I am back from the ‘other world’…

Finally I am back home now from the Tweed Heads hospital, where I was allowed to leave yesterday, Monday afternoon. So many friends have been calling and emailing me from around the world, telling me how happy they all are that I made it and wanting to know how I am doing. I would love to reply to all of you individually and thank you but I am feeling too weak and fragile. I can’t focus for long times, nor sit very well, and I am mostly floating between the worlds. I am still trying to find my bearings, back in this world, and don’t know what to say. But I would like to share a bit, if I can. I will give it a try!

rose by Neelamber

My body is OK now, on the way of getting better with every moment passing, and I can feel how I am getting stronger by the hour; yet regularly I slip back into the formless world of ‘beyond’ and nothingness – so much silence surrounding me.

As most of you were aware, my surgery was scheduled for last week Friday at the Tweed hospital. Unfortunately, Thursday night the tumour in my right kidney burst again and started bleeding profusely, with full-on pain, and I was in so much agony. Almost pissed off with my body that it couldn’t hang in there for a few more hours, till the next day for when the surgery was planned. But what to do.

I had hoped to have one more good sleep, a good night before ‘the big storm’ would hit me, but, nope, bad luck, that chance was lost. So I was suspensed in agony for the next 8 hours, till the next morning light, when my partner Roland raced me up to the hospital.

Although I was upset with what was going on inside my body, there was a sense of deep peace with it all inside of me. I had weeks to prepare myself for the surgery/ kidney removal – mentally, emotionally and physically. I finally had accepted my situation as honestly as I could and had surrendered to the fact that I had to have the surgery, there was no way out of it, no way back, no detour. The only way through was right through the middle of it all, through the centre of the cyclone.

On my arrival at the hospital more blood tests were done before being prepared for the actual operation. Lying there in this weird hospital gown, slowly my sense of humour faded into nothingness, and even the most courageous thoughts I tried to make up and try to hang on to, just disappeared. The raw truth of reality hit me, and fear flooded into every cell of my being.

All my spiritual concepts of ‘surrender’, ‘acceptance of the moment’, ‘relaxing into it’ and ‘just be with what is’ and also the well-known ‘this too shall pass’ went out the window! It was obvious to me that the past 30 years of meditation were ‘gone with the wind’. All I wanted to do was to get the Fuck out of there.

My body instincts started to kick in, the rational mind and the well-trained, over many years so hard attained ‘spiritual awareness’ left me in despair. Still, for some reason, they didn’t chain me down, so I wouldn’t run away. I think it was Roland in those moments who held me, and held the space for me to go through all the anxiety I had to go through, before I headed into that room, and onto that table in the operating theatre…

My team of doctors and anaesthetists was absolutely amazing. They were so warm hearted, so human, and yet the energy was totally ‘Zen’ and ‘no-bullshit-no-joking-around’. The operating theatre was ice cold and when I was wheeled in there I thought I would die of hypothermia in five minutes. The team were all rugged up in surgical coats, head wraps, gloves and face masks, and I felt so naked and vulnerable and fragile in-between all of those unidentifiable blue-coats-only-eyes…

When they set the intravenous needle into my arm to deliver the anaesthetics, they all shouted in one chorus ‘We are all here for you, we will take care of you!’ I couldn’t believe my ears, I was sobbing, and then ‘gone’ in an instant.

The next thing I remember is hearing Indian music, Sitar playing…and then this horrible feeling of a big B-Double-Truck driving over me, forward and back and forward and back, endlessly. That was the moment when I had to come back into my physical body, waking up from surgery. It felt like I had to squeeze back into a very tiny space, and it felt rock-hard, so unbearable, so dense.

The problem was that they couldn’t get me back into my body. I had been under full anaesthetics for 5 hours, the operation was about 3 1/2 hours on the table. 1 1/2 hours later the doctors started to worry, because I just didn’t wake up. Don’t know what they did, but in the end they got me back from that threshold, and I was painfully catapulted back into my physical body.

Unable to open my eyes I was carted along endless hospital corridors until I arrived in some place that was called ‘a room’. I remember Roland walking through the door, that was it. Faded back into nothingness. Waking up, hooked up to countless cables and tubes and oxygen machine. It was dark and I figured it was evening.

The following 20 hours were pure Hell… (with lots of ‘L’s at the end…). Nobody and nothing could have prepared me for what was to follow. I was caught in an endless cycle of excruciating pain, incredible nausea and consequent vomiting, and tremors which seemed to the people around like epileptic fits. The nurses gave me medication to help with the pain, which then triggered uncontrollable body shaking, then they gave me medication to counteract that, which then triggered more vomiting, which then triggered more pain, and more fits, and on and on it went.

They told Roland that they have never seen a patient like that (meaning ‘me’), who reacted so strongly to the operation itself and the chemicals they had pumped into me for hours on end. Hours had passed and they couldn’t stabilise me, trying this injection and then that. Nothing helped. I will never forget those lonely hours, although I would like to erase them out of my memory. All I felt was I was totally alone, and wanted to die. But I couldn’t even get up and jump out the window, or find a gun and shoot myself, or take an overdose of pills, just to get out of this agony. All there was, was to master the next breath. And then the next…

My universe ended 10 cm in front of my face.
And I was totally alone.
That was it.

In the body I am alone, in spirit I am connected to a bigger energy. But in this moment I was just ‘body’, just physical pain. And there was absolutely no space for even a single thought of ‘surrender to the moment’. There was no surrender in me, no acceptance, there was no ‘watcher on the hill’, not an inch of an observer, or a distance between what was happening to my body and my ‘inner Buddha’; nothing! All there was, was fear, so big like the bottomless Grand Canyon, and the pure instinct to survive at all costs.

One hundred percent of identification with my body.
And the urge to survive.
That was the reality.

When I was 17 years young, Osho gave me the name ‘Atit Kaya’, which in Sanskrit means ‘beyond the body’. In those moments there was nothing left of Miss ‘beyond the body’, I think I have to work on this haiku for the rest of my life (and most probably for a few more lives…!).

Hours past, Roland was chucked out of the hospital at midnight (he told me he was freaked out to leave me there alone), more hours of grueling pain and vomiting and shaking. Daylight started, and my condition hadn’t picked up one inch. The next day suddenly I couldn’t breathe anymore. My lungs started to fail and I started to freak out even more. The doctors came to my room and explained to me that the lower 1/3rd of my lungs had collapsed during the long surgery, and that they had filled with water.

Stethoscopes flew all over my body, worried faces looking at me.
At this point in time I thought I would now definitely die.
‘Just let me go’ I thought, ‘just let me go’!

As my breaths became shorter and shorter, also my hearing failed and I heard the sounds around me as if I was floating under water, just crackling murmuring sounds. Gosh, was I freaked out! The doctors started yelling at me. I couldn’t hear them anymore. Just looked at them with apparently was this ‘glazy’ look. They pondered about sending me to the ICU-Intensive Care Unit of the hospital.

Then a doctor came with a breathing device and sat down at my bed side. He lifted me up and held me, pushed the device into my mouth and helped me to breathe into it. He sat with me for half an hour and helped me with every single breath. I shall never forget this man, his name was Paul, and he had brown, warm eyes. What a beautiful soul.

Then slowly I started to cough up water and mucus, and I could breathe a bit better.
I was safe.
The panic around me eased, the doctors left the scene.

Over the following hours the pain slowly eased, the vomiting stopped, the shaking finally went, and Roland was allowed back to my bedside. I faded into the space of nothingness and finally was able to sleep a little bit.

Sunday I woke up and felt a bit better, but still spending more time in ‘no-where-land’ than on this planet. I was still on full on oxygen, drips, catheter, regular painkillers administered via IV, couldn’t move because of all the tubes going into and coming out of my body. Couldn’t laugh, nor cry, the wounds in my abdominal area from the surgery hurt so much ! Then my beloved friends Ama and Kayo came to visit me. How wonderful, and although I felt so weak and fragile, they motivated me to sit up and go for a short walk (how far did we make it, 8 or 10 meters?). They held me in support, and in slow motion I shuffled out of my room. We were so slow, that a caravan of turtles could have easily overtaken us in no time…

But who cares, at least I was up!

My friends were so sweet with me, and gave me courage to face whatever would come next. Thanks to both of you for being there in those crucial moments. Kayo gave me a print-out of all the emails she had received from my friends over the past days. I read them later when I was alone, and I was sobbing. I think I have never felt so loved by so many in my life before! Wow, you are amazing !

At midnight the nurses were satisfied enough with my body’s condition, and I was stable enough to be completely ‘unplugged’. What a moment – now I could breathe and function all by myself again. Things we take for granted every day, like going for a wee, I no longer take them for granted. Sunday night to Monday the nausea came back in full swing, just when I thought I was ‘over the hill of the worst’. I couldn’t believe it ! More painkillers, more anti-nausea medication, more tears and feelings of helplessness.

But late Monday morning my body stabilised and at lunchtime the doctors said, if I would feel ready, I could go home that afternoon. I wasn’t sure about it, I was scared, not quite trusting if I was ready to head out into a world without the 24 hour supervision of nurses, doctors and medical machines around me. But then Roland was there for me, organised a comfortable car (no, not my truck!), and then I was wheeled out of hospital in a wheelchair.

Driving home, it was pouring with rain, flooding, aquaplaning on the highway… hey, welcome to Australia! The timing is just perfect in this country… I just saw these huge B-Double-Trucks passing to our side in the heavy rain, and remembered that these were real, and it was not a deja-vu of the moment I came back from the anaesthetics, with trucks driving over me. Roland tried to avoid the potholes on the roads, they were just too painful to endure for my chopped up tummy.

Last night I laid down in my bed and didn’t wake up for 12 hours, sleeping through for the first time.

So peaceful.
What a gift sleep can be.
Today the sun is shining, and my heart is smiling.

I sat my body in the sun this morning, absorbing the warm heat with every cell of my body. My wounds are healing fast, my tummy still pretty swollen from all the gas they pumped into my abdominal cavity for the surgery, to get to the kidney itself. The surgeons removed my right kidney via a 4-point laprioscopy (keyhole surgery) and then pulled it out via a 10 cm incision in my lower right abdominal area. Amazing plumbers they are !

In six weeks I will have a follow-up meeting with the main surgeon who operated on me, a beautiful man with a twinkle in his eyes… Then we will know the final results from my kidney pathology, and hopefully the tumour will have been found as benign, as we all hope it is.

It was so good for me to write down all of this, it gives me completion of what happened and a clear mind. I feel very tired now and have to stop typing. Back to bed for another round of healing sleep and rest, rest, rest.

Thanks to all of you who have dropped off food and presents, and to all of you who have signed up to cook for me over the coming weeks! Also to all the sweet helpers who tirelessly take care of my fluffy ponies; I visited them today, yes, I did, and got smooched all over by some very muddy dirty, but happy looking beasts. You are such good friends, and I so much appreciate your help for me in this difficult time !

In deep Love and Gratitude to all of you.

Kaya (24th May 2011)



Kaya took sannyas in Germany in 1982 and you might have met her either in Switzerland, the US, Canada, India or Asia. After training and working in several modalities of bodywork and massage she developed, together with Nirvano Martina Schulz, Oceanic Aqua Balancing and Hawaiian Bodywork, which they taught all over Europe for 10 years. In 2000 Kaya moved to Australia and is now working with horses as a Natural Hoof Care Practitioner.

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