Life

I Survived Being Stabbed 35 Times

I couldn’t feel anything; I could only see white. And I knew the person holding the switchblade.

by Prosper; as told to Noor Spanjer; photos by Raymond van Mil
29 November 2019, 9:15am

Prosper. Photo by Raymond van Mil 

This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands.

The weird thing is, I didn’t actually realise I had been stabbed. The adrenaline numbed the pain. As they carried me to the ambulance, I asked the paramedics what had happened. They told me that things “didn’t look good” and asked if there was someone they could call. I gave them my mum’s phone number. This was back in 2008.

I couldn’t feel anything, I could only see white.

The ambulance made its way to a hospital in the east of Amsterdam, but right before we got there the paramedics changed their minds, saying my wounds were so bad we needed to go to a bigger hospital. That’s when I thought: OK, this is the end.

Three days later, I woke up in the intensive care unit, with a tube down my throat and and a thousand wires on me. The doctors told me I would have died if I had come in ten minutes later.

It happened on the 7th of November, which is also the anniversary of my dad’s death. Two years earlier, he and I were in Panama together because he was considering moving there. That day, he had gone out by himself for some errands and had planned to buy some weed on the way home. He was robbed and shot in the head. When I got the call that night, I felt like I was in hell. A few days later I flew home, without my dad.

Over the next few years, I started acting up. I wasn’t afraid of anyone – I hung out with a lot of bad guys and did stupid stuff. Sometimes when we went out, we would end up getting into fights. But nothing ever went really wrong, until I got stabbed.

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That night, I went into town after work to have a drink. Subconsciously I might have been thinking of my dad, but it wasn’t in the forefront of my mind. It was pretty late when my then-girlfriend called; she was in a club on the Rembrandt Square in the centre of town, and asked if I could meet her. I walked over, wheeling my motorised scooter.

On the way, I ran into two guys I knew from school. I used to hang out with one of them, we rapped together and made beats. I’d been to his house and knew his mum, but hadn’t seen him for a year. He had always been a bit of a hood rat – someone who associated with the wrong crowd, in a more serious way than I had.

Something felt off right away. He said something about my girlfriend, like “Where is that ho?”. I decided I wasn’t up for a fight and walked away. I didn’t realise one of them had left a plastic bag with a bottle of Red Label Whisky on my scooter. I wanted to get money out at an ATM, but every machine I tried was broken. That, coupled with what he’d said about my girlfriend, made me more and more annoyed and agitated.

Then, one of the guys called me and started yelling about his booze. I knew it was still on my scooter, but I didn’t care. I’d never had a bone to pick with this guy before, but now I was flipping out – I wanted to hurt him.

I spotted them on the square and told them to follow me for a chat. Behind Rembrandt Square there's a small bridge over a canal. When we got there, I punched him in the nose. We started fighting – some other guys showed up but they were just standing and watching. It was dark and we were both hyped up on adrenaline. I think I kicked him in the head.

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But then blood was running down my face and I wasn’t feeling good. I slumped to the ground. One of the guys asked me if I’d got what I was looking for. I told him to shut his face and call an ambulance. Some other people showed up and those two guys ran away. One of them did call, because within minutes the cops and an ambulance showed up – luckily it was on standby at the square.

Three days later I woke up, my mind fuzzy from the morphine. I was surrounded by family members and my girlfriend. The tube down my throat prevented me from speaking. Everyone wanted to know what had happened, because they had no idea. But I didn’t either.

The doctors had told my family that they didn’t think I’d survive, and by the time I woke up, I’d had three operations and a collapsed lung. I was stabbed twice in the liver and the other wounds were mostly on my back and arms. I had stitches on my head and face. The doctors had to open me up to see where exactly I was bleeding from. I had about 300 stitches in total: my whole abdomen was stapled shut. I received 12 litres of blood, while the human body only has about six litres in total. I was leaking like a sieve.

The surgeon said I had about 35 stab wounds, but I can’t count that many scars – I get to a number between 10 and 20. But there is one very large scar that might have lots of little ones hiding in it. Either way, it’s a crazy amount. Stabbing someone once or twice might be a defensive reflex, but that many times is another story.

I ended up staying in the hospital for almost two months. It was pretty hellish at times. I had three surgical drains inserted – tubes to drain fluid from my wounds – and after a while, they thought I was ready to have them removed. But it turns out I wasn’t ready. There was still too much fluid, which almost caused my lung to collapse again and made it hard to breathe. So they made a hole in my chest, with a scissor-type device. I could breathe again right away, but it was very painful. Now I knew what being stabbed actually felt like.

After the incident, I decided to completely change my life. My dad was a musician and had left many of his instruments. I decided while I was in hospital I should do something with them. I asked a friend if he could bring one of the guitars over – I figured it would be something useful to do.

All told, I was in recovery and received unemployment for two years. One of my dad’s friends started teaching me the guitar. These days, I’ve become a pretty good guitar player – I play with several bands and have done a few bigger shows at music festivals and at [iconic Amsterdam venue] Paradiso. I cut out the so-called “friends” who hadn’t visited or called. I threw myself into life as a musician and have met many wonderful people because of it.

I think my dad had something to do with what happened to me. The way I was living, something had to give. It’s harsh to think I had to be stabbed before that shift could take place, but it did help me a lot. It’s like my life has been reprogrammed. I believe a part of my dad came back when I woke up in the hospital. We’re living this life together now. I don’t miss him, I know he’s inside of me.

The guy who stabbed me was arrested that same night. The police found the weapon – a switchblade – at the scene. There was a trial, but I didn’t go. I wasn’t physically or mentally ready to see him. He got two years behind bars and was advised not to contact me. I never saw him again – I think he moved to the countryside.

I knew him, and I know that he can be a good guy. I did wonder how things got so out of control that night, but I think I can understand in a way. He wanted to prove himself to the tough guys he was hanging out with, and was really into gangster shit. He and his friends aren’t really gangsters, though.

During the first few years after his release, I’d fantasise about what I’d do if I saw him. Maybe I’d wait for him somewhere, surprise him and kill him? But I know this is just a fantasy, and I would never do it, because it wouldn’t help. We’ve both learned our lesson.

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