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Between Heaven and the Bright Blue Sea

I was right finally. Once again, I was stubborn and everything went well. I didn’t rest as I was told by the doctor yesterday. What happened in Angoulême was only a bad dream. I even so learnt some things. At the end of the week, I went to my doctor’s in Ormesson. He decided me to consult a cardiologist. My blood pressure was too high and my new drugs were not effective. Dizziness and blurry seesight were back. I got pins and needles black in my arms and legs. I was used to them since my childhood.

I felt a heavy threat, a kind of pressure which didn’t go away, as if all my body worked under duress, as if each part of it was using so quickly. I was often wondering myself if it was linked to the accident I had in November 1997. Totally unexplained and maybe the same I had on stage yesterday. I was driving out of the parking lot with my white Citroen when I embedded the car in a huge light post. The shock was so violent – so I was driving too fast, which I never did – my 2 incisors broke when they went through my higher lip.

After I was brought to the emergency of the Saint Camille Hospital in Bry sur Marne by the firefighters, the emergency doctor stitched me with no anesthesic for the scars, being the less noticeable. He thought the accident happened because I had lost consciousness. He recommended me to do some more extensive medical examinations.

I couldn’t find the time to see a specialist. Three months later, my general state was totally deteriorated. I had more and more troubles to stand during the concerts and especially during the rehearsals with my singers of the Saint Martin Choir from Sucy en Brie and of the 4-wind Choir from Rosny sous Bois. My wife, Florence, insisted on me to go and see a specialist and I finally agreed. He found nothing, he only told me I had to treat more efficiently my damned blood pressure!

But I felt I was bad. This headache, heartache… My meninges were burning all the time. I couldn’t focus on anything this time while before, I had managed to study years. This time, everything was unbearable. When I was playing the violin, I always felt an heavy pain in my right arm. But I didn’t worry. Florence insisted on me to see our family doctor, Dr. Lavaquerie, once again. He gave me drugs to try to make my blood pressure go down an ordered several extra medical exams. I made numerous scans and cerebral MRI in Creteil hospital. The doctors did find out I had hypersignals and a white stain. They learnt to me I had already done a hemorrhagic stroke!

It was serious. Suddenly I realized my life was in danger for years but I was strong. I had to do and consult new specialists, even if I refused to be considered as a seriously ill man or to play victimization. Some of my doctors’ friends recommended me to consult Pr. Simon form Georges Pompidou Hospital cardiology service in Paris. He examined me quickly.

On March 28th, 2011, I was hospitalized for a whole day to have some more detailed exams. A heavy treatment against my persistent high blood pressure was developed. It was based on 3 molecules, the doctors hoped for good results.

As I believed, the treatment I took and prescribed by shitted specialists protected and I could come back to my various activities rapidly. I managed to build my life according to my dreams and to fight against skepticism through sheer hard work. Since 1989, I have been teaching at the Academy of Arts in Thiais. Painting like music is full-part of my time. I have been painting, writing poems to reveal my lights, my faith, my convictions, my hopes, the brief pictures which have been in my mind, haunting my nights and changing and Going beyond under my pencils in colorful expressionist paintings. So all my pains offer joy where hopes join all the mood of my mind.

I’m the “Altiste Peintre” (Viola-Painter). It’s the way I introduce myself. I’m kind of a very enigmatic person for some people. A human being apparently who expresses himself thanks to the harmony of sounds, chosen words and colors. At the beginning, I got so many disappointments when I was with professional painters. My musician nature made me feel like the “nice amateur”, the kind of guy who refused the total commitment required by the expression of an art. “Serious musicians” imagined my taste for painting was developed only because I was conscious I wasn’t as good as they were. I couldn’t find my place everywhere but time fixed everything.

On the Wednesday, May 24th, 2011 morning, I left the house as usual. I didn’t tell my wife about my awful headache which remained me of the pain I had felt in Angoulême. My sight is blurry. It wasn’t new but I had this deeper impression to walk on a very soft carpet. I didn’t feel the floor under my feet but I was used not to listening to myself. The height of for a musician! Yes, I have learnt to live with my pains, my insomnia, my nightmares which always brings me to my childhood xhere danger and death seem to lurk around me. I don’t care of my dizzy health as Paganini used to say when he was sick every other day or as red-haires

Father Antonio Vivaldi who played so well with it between 2 episodes of dizziness, saving him from some duties.

Like every week, I had to drive my son, Constantin, to his sport lessons. While I was walking in the street, I had the impression the floor was opening under my feet and I was going to fall. My members were shaking. I felt an unpleasant electric voltage passing through my muscles, contracting them. Sitting in my car, I felt better and my usual optimism was back. I even tried to make a joke to Constantin which looked at me anxiously. Did he notice something on my face? I didn’t ask any question. At the tennis court, my son took his bag and at the moment where I was about to kiss him goodbye, I almost fell. He took my hand. I had the impression to sink into a huge bottomless well.

I could hardly hear his voice. It took a short while before I was up and about. It is completely crazy all you can think and see about in only a few seconds !

Constantin was not good. At 15, he already knew a lot of things. He didn’t know about my health troubles. Florence and I agreed not to talk about them to the boys. But they worked out everything. My son turned around many times before he reached the tennis court. I took my car back, I was sure nothing could happen to me. This morning, I checked on my blood pressure : 18.9. It was too much but I didn’t say a word about it to Florence. I didn’t want her to be worried. Later, I was told Constantin called his mother to tell her he was worried about ma. Florence called to the secretaries of the Academy of Arts in order them to secretly look after me.

At 10, I went in my class in Thiais. My classes take place in the annex of the old city hall. I started working with my enthusiast and attentive students. I’ used to living with my dizziness. I know how to walk when I’m half-awake and everything is all right… Except this day, the small dizziness I felt made everything danced around me. My head ached a lot. It was not the first time. And I was still there.

Around 10:30, Emma, one of the secretaries, came to see me and asked me if I was alright. What a question! Why wasn’t I alright?

It was very serious this time. I felt it in my whole body. It wasn’t just a thought. My brain wasn’t working. I was sure I was out of my body, out of myself, of my soulwhich seemed to come out of my material sheath. People were running in the corridor, were rushing in the stairs to go in my seconf-fllor rom. The voices were shouting in the empty room. The immaterial being I had become heard everything. Men burst into the room, leaned on me, talked to m, shaked me. I didn’t answer them anymore, didn’t do the lower movement. I was thinking of God. Was it my time to meet Him ? I heard the doctor of the rescue squad urging everyone because my case was very grave.

“His life is at risk!”, he told to people gathered around me and I didn’t know. I was sure Florence was not here.

Once I was down from the second floor –I was seated on a chair, then laid on a stretcher – the emergency team tried to speak with me. I heard what they said but I was not able to say a word. I tried to open my eyes. My eyelids were as heavy as lead but I had the impression I could see everything. I heard my own “time of death”.

As the situation was so desperate, one of the firefighters put electrods on my chest when we were in the vehicule. The sounds of the machines merged with the sound of people’s voices. A mask was put on my nose. I heard Laurence, the new director of the Academy, coming to the red ambulance:

“His name is Michel Hilger. His wife called us because he was not well this morning. His blood pressure was too high.”

I listened to myself crying with the voice of the child of nobody I was, from the depth of my heart.

This inside scream made an old picture emerge. For a long time, it had remained buried: a little blond boy with no parent, who looked like a puppy in a kennel. All the noise around me – screams, shots, blood everywhere. Memories from the depth of my mind kept haunting my nightmares. And there were these words I heard I didn’t know where but which stayed in my mind: “Your first name may have been Freric. But for us, you’re only a number: 220666!”.

People were busy around me. The doctor desperately tried to administer me intravenously but didn’t succeed in because he couldn’t find my veins. Suddenly, he shouted:

The ambulance rushed off like a shot. The siren was screaming. We drove through Thiais, took the highway to go to Henry Mondor Hospital. The driver violently braked, sped up and gave sharp haul on the wheel. He didn’t even care about us. What was urgent was taking me to the ICU before my life, which was flickering, was gone forever.

At the hospital, the medical stuff was waiting for me. They brought me upstairs. Neurologists took care of me and talked abruptely. I was suffering a lot despite the weird feeling of being out of my body. The doctor managed to put me on a drip on my left arm. I could feel the liquid passing through my veins and burning me.

I wanted to stop my mind, not to hear the quick beatings of my heart which looked like a drum before the executions. I told myself “Our Fathers” and “Hail Maries” again and again. I sang psalms on the tuning folk time inside my head. One of the neurology chiefs arrived and evaluated my state: it’s a catastrophe! According to him, there was no hope. Doctors were openly talking about taking from me what could still be used… My organs spared by the stroke. I kept praying – stronger this time. Even my breath was short sometimes and my thoughts were fading away.

I was slowly sinking in a bottomless hole. I heard screaming: “No, no! Not yet! I want to live!” I didn’t know why, I saw myself at this moment in front of my violin teacher. I was 14 and he kept telling me “Michel, you’ll never be a professional musican… At least, not a violinist !”

Then, a lot of pictures of my past appeared. The number written in letters of fire in front of my conscience: 220666. I saw me when I was little: a blond boy, who looked like my fourth son Constantin, was running in a yard surrounded by big high grey walls with barbed wire at the top of them. I was so afraid. I was alone. I was looking for a place to hide. Then I prayed my God again. Suddenly, I made a sign I didn’t really know which one but I heard the neurologist shouted:

“Ho! He’s reactive. Hurry and take him to the MRI!”

I didn’t know how the team knew I was a musician. But while they put me in the stretcher to go to the MRI, I heard a neurologist telling very seriously: “Violin is off for him!”

Florence was informed around 1PM by the Academy director. She arrived at 4PM at the hospital. She was taken to the waiting room of the ICU where she was completely forgotten.

Finally, two hours later, she was told I was back from the exams and that she could see me in a medicalized single room. I was “connected from everywhere”. I kept my eyes closed, as death would like. Then she was bluntly asked to get out of the room and go home after they told her:

I half-opened my eyes for a short time. Florence grasped my arm with her hand, gave me a kiss and told:

She went away. It was already late. Florence had to pick our four boys who were at my parents’. The day after, after she had used pressure, my wife succeeded in meeting a person in charge for the service. He told to the nurses before he didn’t want to talk or see the family. She learnt my condition was no longer desperate, only very serious.