The Gleaner
Nanette Workman

Have you ever had a near-death experience?

In 1974, I was living with Angelo Finaldi, an accomplished musician and songwriter. We wrote and recorded three albums together that were successful in the mid-seventies in Quebec. The first song released – the first of a list of several hits – was Lady Marmalade in 1975, the very beginning of French disco in Quebec.

One day in the fall of that year, a musician who worked with us whose name I won’t mention (I’ll call him “J”) had just gotten back from visiting Toronto. He had purchased a .22-calibre rifle there and brought it back to show us. When he came into the house and took the gun out of the bag, a strange sensation came over me. I don’t know how to describe it, but I had the feeling that I didn’t want to be in the same room with “J” and his new toy.

I asked him if it was loaded, and he said that it was not. But still, something didn’t feel right. I should have asked him to give it to me so I could check it for myself, but I didn’t. Instead, I went into the bathroom and laundry room, closed the door, and looked for something to do. I didn’t want to be anywhere near them.

I was folding laundry, and suddenly I felt like I had been slammed in the ribs with a sledgehammer. I didn’t know then, but a bullet had come through the bathroom door and hit me. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor holding on to the drainpipe of the sink.

All of a sudden, I felt myself moving upwards to the ceiling of the room. I looked down at my body, feeling calm and wondering where I was going next. I believe that the time that I was separated from my body was only a fraction of a second, as I had no sensation of linear time. There was only “thought.”

While I was questioning where I was going, I thought about my mom and dad and how devastated they would be if I were gone. I knew I couldn’t leave yet. Immediately after that thought, it was like a bungee rope had jerked me back into my body and then a burning pain consumed me.

I was choking on the blood coming up my throat and I was swallowing as fast as I could to keep the blood from coming into my mouth. Another thought flashed through my mind: as a kid I used to watch old western movies, and when the cowboy was shot, if the blood came out of his mouth, he was dead.

I wasn’t ready to die.

Angelo heard me cry, broke in the door and saw me on the floor. In a state of panic, he called an ambulance.

I was told later that “J” had been showing Angelo the rifle and how it works. He had obviously loaded it at some point.

So, when the gun went off, the bullet found its way between two of my ribs. But I was really lucky, because if I had been sitting on the toilet, the trajectory of the bullet would have gone through my head.

The police and the ambulance arrived at the same time. They arrested Angelo and “J” for attempted homicide. I think they believed that I was not going to survive my injury. I remember lying inside the ambulance and holding the medic’s hand, crying, “I don’t want to die! Please don’t let me die.” I had an overwhelming fear that I wasn’t going to make it.

I was taken to Sacre Coeur Hospital where I spent six hours on the operating table.

They removed my spleen and appendix, but they didn’t find the bullet. It did come out eventually, as most foreign objects are miraculously rejected by the body.

I’m still here, I feel blessed, and I give gratitude for every day that I am above ground!

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