Maria Del Carmen Gomez described insects as large as birthday balloons on the hospital walls, a serpent 100 feet long inching its way across the ceiling, bugs the size of her good left hand crawling on her feet.
It was Saturday, the last day tiny Maria, dying of cancer, would talk before slipping into a coma. Morphine hallucinations came and went.
Sometimes, as though something was eating her insides, she would gasp and cover her abdomen with her hands - one was covered in bandages - when the morphine couldn't blot out the pain.
When she wasn't hallucinating, she would thank her friends in her room for beating on the walls and furniture, for trying to rid the place of strange creatures. Sometimes she would laugh with them when she realized she was just seeing things.
"I hope she gets to see funny clowns like my 12-year-old daughter did before she died of leukemia," Maria's brother, Victor, whispered.
Maria, bless her heart, only saw scary animals before she died Wednesday at age 53 at Kindred Hospital.
I met this woman who knew so much pain - far too much pain - shortly after a March savagery that saw her nearly beheaded in a machete attack, one that left her hands hanging from her wrists by a few pieces of flesh.
Authorities say ex-boyfriend Armando Vergara-Martinez ambushed her in the parking lot of the convenience store where she worked. He is in Clark County Detention Center on a $250,000 bond, awaiting an October trial on charges that include attempted murder and domestic violence.
"God will take care of him," Maria moaned Saturday. "I know he will."
Doctors say blood from her wounds was everywhere at University Medical Center when Maria was transported there. There was transfusion after transfusion. They never thought she would make it.
But she made it until Wednesday, and she did it most of the time, with a smile on her face.
Ernest Hemingway said courage was the ability to maintain grace under pressure. Maria had the ability to make other people feel better when she was under incredible pressure - remember, no one knew whether her hands could be saved.
She never complained of her pain. But even her doctors, Carl Williams and Albert Capanna, knew she had to feel it. Repeatedly she joked that her "doctor angels" would help her live to be an "old lady" working against domestic violence in Las Vegas.
"But if they can't save my hands, I'll just use my voice," she would say. "I can talk without my hands."
Month after month she geared up for another surgery to repair wounds to her hands and head.
"I'm going to be fine," she said, glowing after her next to last plastic surgery on her hands this summer. "These doctors know what they're doing."
And then came last month's cancer operation, just as she had almost overcome the physical effects of the machete attack.
She seemed weary, so weary. She smiled, but was so tired.
The official version is that cancer, which attacked her ovaries and uterus and then spread throughout her body, killed her.
I'll always wonder, as will Williams, the plastic surgeon who saved her hands, how much stress had to play in contributing to the cancer, or at least her ability to fight it.
"I know her immune system had to be way, way down," he said. "I don't think she could fight anymore after what she went through."
What she went through, Williams is convinced, will change how Las Vegas views domestic violence in the future.
"I know I'm seeing the brutality of this terrible crime in a whole new light," he said. "I think others will, too, and we'll do more to stop it in this community."
Today, because of what happened to Maria, Williams has vowed to do plastic surgery free of charge to remove the scars on any woman who has been the victim of domestic abuse.
Williams had one more procedure to do on Maria to make her right hand, like her left, almost completely flexible.
He said he prayed she found some joy in her last days alive.
On Saturday, as her friend Francisca Torres gave her a foot massage, Maria listened to Rebeca Ferreira of Safe Faith United, a group dedicated to aiding victims of domestic violence, joke that Maria would have to pay for what made her ooh and ah.
Maria gave as good as she got.
"Then stop the massage," she said, "I want to save money to buy a house."
The three women laughed until they cried.
Contact reporter Paul Harasim at email@example.com or 702-387-2908.