Coming back from death – a life-changing experience

Lisa Gilbert recently returned to the beauty salon she owned and operated for 19 years, and for her, it was a miracle.

That’s because a year and a half ago she essentially died en route to the hospital.

“I’m a miracle, they say. I shouldn’t be here,” she said.

As she told about reopening her salon We Got the Look on Monday, Gilbert opened up about the ordeal she experienced over the past 20 months.

Lisa Gilbert

More than three years ago, while cleaning an apartment in the building she and husband Randy own that also houses her salon, Lisa took a tumble into a crawl space and broke her leg. The leg never seemed to heal properly, and she underwent a wound care process in an attempt to foster the healing. But the leg wouldn’t fully heal.

Then on March 18, 2017, a Saturday night, Lisa’s body crashed at the family home in Penrose. She was rushed to the Powell hospital, then flown to St. Vincent Hospital in Billings. She went code blue en route.

“She was in full arrest,” Randy said.

“I died,” she said simply. “Everything shut down.”

The medical flight crew kept her alive with life support procedures, as did the hospital staff when she arrived. But her family was called, and a priest came to administer last rites.

“After the last rites, my numbers started coming up,” she said, but she was still unconscious.

“She was in the deep down under for four days,” Randy said. “They started comfort care, but I said, ‘Don’t give up on her!’ On Wednesday, she opened her eyes.”

Incredibly, Lisa started to gradually improve, little by little, but the road ahead was long and arduous.

“I came back, but I was like an invalid,” she said. “I had to learn everything again. I lost my hair, and I couldn’t walk. My legs would not work.”

She spent about a month in the hospital, including nine days in intensive care, and received 29 units of blood, then spent another month in a rehabilitation facility undergoing physical and occupational therapy.

There were more setbacks. In December doctors removed “the hardware” from her leg, but a staph infection returned. Her leg was full of infection as she suffered from osteomyelitis.

Doctors started building her back, and she underwent two surgeries, one to scrape her bone, and had daily trips to the hospital for intravenous antibiotic treatment and four hours a day of hyperbaric oxygen treatment, five days a week, as a last resort to save her leg. It worked and she can walk again, though the osteomyelitis is chronic and could return.

Seeing Heaven

But the real story Lisa Gilbert has to tell is about when she went code blue on the helicopter. She had an amazing, life-changing experience during that time and when she was “in the deep down under,” as Randy called it.

“I saw Heaven,” she said. “I saw the other side. It totally changed my life. It was a tremendous experience. I saw a beautiful lady in white, who was with me the whole time. Her eyes were amazing. I just stared at her eyes. I believe it was either a guardian angel or Mary.”

She also saw many people, though she didn’t recognize any of them. She also saw one unforgettable figure.

“When I woke up, I told my sister Gina, ‘I’ve seen Jesus, I’ve seen Jesus.’ She asked, ‘What did he look like?’ but I couldn’t describe it,” Lisa said.

Later at the rehabilitation facility around Easter, Lisa was watching the History Channel and a program came on about the Shroud of Turin, which some believe is the actual burial shroud of Jesus. The shroud material has the image of a man burned into the fabric as essentially a negative.

Seeing the figure on the shroud during the show, Gilbert told her sister, “’That’s exactly what I saw!’ It’s in my mind. It will never go away.”

The experience “on the other side” was awe-inspiring for Lisa.

“Randy tells me, ‘You were dead,’ but I said, ‘I was with you guys. I never left,” Gilbert said. “I felt happy. I had a feeling of warmth and love. It was so beautiful. When I came back I was caught in two worlds. But I know what happens now. Something beautiful is waiting for me.”

With her leg saved, Gilbert started slowly building her strength back during the spring and summer. By August she started doing hair for a few of her friends, then made the decision to open We Got the Look again.

“I need to start getting back to normal again,” she said. “My purpose is to make people happy and tell them about my experience, but I’ve got to get back into my life and be normal again – and be around people. I’m trying to build myself up.”

We Got the Look will open Monday by appointment, and Gilbert will be available Monday through Saturday. Customers can call 548-7311.

By David Peck