A week ago, on the afternoon of Wednesday April 2, I was giving a talk to several hundred people at the International Science and Consciousness Conference in the ballroom of the La Fonda Hotel, in the centre of Santa Fe, New Mexico. After the talk ended at 3pm, I stepped down from the podium and was talking to people in a small group that had gathered around me.
Suddenly I felt a violent blow on my left thigh, as if I had been punched. It was totally unexpected, and I did not see my assailant run towards me. He was rapidly pulled away. I looked down at my leg, and to my astonishment saw the handle of a dagger sticking out of my trousers. Without thinking, I pulled it out: the blade of the bloodstained weapon was about five inches long and an inch wide. I felt my trouser leg was wet with blood, and I pulled my trousers down.
Every time my heart beat, a fountain of blood spurted from the wound in my thigh about four inches into the air. I was fortunate that several people from the audience with medical experience rapidly came to my assistance, including a nurse, doctor and paramedic. I lay down on the stage while they fastened a belt around my thigh as a tourniquet and pressed on my leg to reduce the flow of blood.
Quite soon, a team of paramedics arrived, bandaged my wound, inserted an intravenous drip and lifted me onto a stretcher (called a gurney in America). When they carried me out into the street, blue lights were flashing on police cars, and press photographers and TV cameramen soon had me in their focus. I was driven in the ambulance to St Vincent Regional Medical Center, and taken to the emergency room, where the staff examined my wound. A few minutes later my old friend Larry Dossey walked in, having been told of the attack. I was delighted to see him. He is not only a friend but a doctor, and has seen many wounds from his time as a battalion surgeon in Vietnam. Some policemen also arrived, and questioned me about the attack, asked me to write a statement and photographed my leg and bloodstained clothes.(thank you, John Brockman) Previous coverage on BB: Link.
The wound had stopped bleeding, but my thigh had swollen enormously. The trauma surgeon, Dr Caesar Ursic, at first considered the possibility of leaving the wound to heal without surgical intervention, but it continued to swell, and he decided that it would be better to open up my leg to clean out the wound and stop the internal bleeding. He offered me a choice, and I asked Larry's advice. He was unhesitant - go for the operation. So I did. The anaesthetist was very friendly, and after taking my medical details and discussing the procedure, she told me about her dogs that know when she is coming home as I was wheeled into the operating theatre.
My attacker was Japanese, and had arrived from Japan only a few days beforehand. He had spoken to me the day before my lecture, telling me he was hearing voices. He was obviously in distress. I later learned that he had told several other people about the voices, and some had tried to help him.
But no one anticipated that he would turn violent, and neither I, nor anyone else I know of, had any premonition of it. Although the report in USA Today said that he was "disturbed" by my lecture, which was on the extended mind, this was misleading; he was disturbed anyway. In any case, his English was probably too poor to understand much of what I said. The fact that I was speaking in the final session of the conference may have had more to do with it - if he was going to do something spectacular, this was his last chance.
After stabbing me, he was rapidly brought to the floor by an Australian rugby player, and was held down by several men until the police led him away in handcuffs. While on the ground, he apparently said that the voices had told him to attack me. He is now in Santa Fe jail awaiting trial. I feel no anger towards him, but am pleased that he is locked away and unable to harm anyone else.
When I regained consciousness I was lying on my back in a hospital bed with tubes everwhere, but not in pain. A blood-filled drainage tube came out of a hole in my leg, draining the wound. I had an intravenous line through which I could administer morphine by pressing a button, but I never needed any medication. Dr Ursic told me that he had removed a blood clot the size of a tennis ball, sealed off several small arteries that were bleeding into my muscles, and cleaned out the wound. He said that he was surprised by the large amount of tissue damage, which reminded him of what he had read about hari-kiri wounds, caused by twisting the blade. At the time, he did not know that my assailant was Japanese. The dagger had caused a wound about five inches deep and an inch wide, severing the tissue in my quadriceps muscle but fortunately missing the femoral artery by about half an inch. He told me it would probably be few days before I could begin to walk again, using a walking frame.
The nursing staff were very helpful, and I had a stream of visitors, including some of the conference staff, several conference participants, some former students of mine and friends who live in Santa Fe. I also had many comforting phone calls, first and foremost from my wife Jill, in London. My room began to fill up with beautiful bunches of flowers, including organic tulips, and baskets of fruit and other food. I was carried along by a great surge of love and well-wishing, with messages pouring in from around the world conveyed to me via Jill and via Larry and Barbara Dossey. I learned that at the conference itself, immediately after the stabbing, dozens of people formed a circle to pray for me. Other chanted in a nearby church. My family and many friends around the world were praying for me. Several of my visitors gave me various forms of healing, including Reiki, and one of the nursing staff, who was also a practitioner of Healing Touch, visited me at nights just before I went to sleep, leaving me feeling as if I were floating like a feather.
On Friday Dr Ursic removed all my tubes, and with the help of the physical training staff I ventured out of bed for the first time, moving a few yards in a walker. On Saturday, for the first time, I began to put my weight on my left leg and hobbled about a 100 yards with the frame. That evening I was due to be speaking at an event in the Lensic Theatre in Santa Fe, part of an election year "Festival of Optimistic Voices", organized by my old friend Nina Wise. I felt strong enough to do it, and Dr Ursic arranged for me to be able to leave the hospital for a few hours. I was taken to the theatre by Larry and Barbara Dossey. I was the first speaker after the interval, and after being introduced had to walk to the middle of the stage with my walker, in front of several hundred people. The story of my stabbing had been on the front page of the local newspaper, the New Mexican, and I was given a very warm reception. I spoke on Science and Hope. (The video of my talk should be online soon with a link from my web site, www.sheldrake.org)
I had expected to be using the walker for about a week, but on Sunday morning Dr Ursic thought I might be able to graduate to a four-legged walking stick (known in America as a quad cane). He was right. I was discharged from the hospital soon afterwards, and came to stay with Larry and Barbara Dossey in their beautiful house, amidst pine and juniper trees in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. The next day, as I was walking around the house, I realized that I had forgotten my cane and was walking without it. My left leg still feels clumsy, stiff and weak, and my thigh is swollen, but my healing has been exceptionally fast and I have experienced no pain throughout the whole process. I have also felt no fear, and have indeed felt calm and happy, even blissful at times. I attribute all this to my good fortune in having such a skillful surgeon in Caesar Ursic, who in all my encounters with him was completely present and trust-inspiring, excellent care at St Vincent's, the love and support of my family and friends, the prayers of so many people, and the healings I have received. I am also very fortunate to be able to recover at the home of Larry and Barbara Dossey, which is like a sanctuary. They are looking after me wonderfully well, and it is great fun being with them. As I said on Saturday night at the Lensic Theatre, if you have to get stabbed, Santa Fe is the best place for it to happen.
I am due to fly to Tucson tomorrow to attend the Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference at the University of Arizona, where I am scheduled to give a keynote address on Saturday morning, and I plan to fly home to London on Monday. As usual I am not traveling with a computer, and will only start to answer emails when I am home again. There are more than 2,000 in my inbox, so if you have written to me, I apologize for the delay in replying, and it may be a while before I can respond.
I am very grateful to all those people who have helped me here in Santa Fe, and to all those at home and around the world who have been praying for me and sending me their love and support. It has made all the difference.
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.