It must be around 9 pm. I know my heart is in auricular fibrillation and has been for the last two hours, as I have learned to recognize the uneven heartbeats. After years spent going through the rounds of doctors who diagnosed only ‘nervous’ symptoms, I have been having medical treatment of my arrhythmia for the last four years. The eminent cardiologist who prescribes my treatment cannot seem to understand that it is not working. ‘You've never been very keen,’ he retorted the previous day, after I told him about my discomfort when I took Cordarone.
I am exhausted, nearly passing out, when I ask my husband to take me to the hospital emergency room where my cardiologist practices.
The intern, seeing me for the first time, confirms the diagnosis. As I expect to go home when the electrocardiogram is done, I ask him to pass the result to my cardiologist tomorrow, as he is not there today. I hope that when he sees it he will realize that, if I am lacking ‘enthusiasm,’ maybe there's a good reason for it.
After the electrocardiogram, the intern refuses to discharge me. He insists on getting me into an emergency room cubicle at the end of the corridor. They are so busy. A drip is put in place, and I tell myself that I will be out of the hospital in an hour or two.
The Cordarone slowly infuses my veins. Suddenly I feel a glacial cold gradually surrounding my heart region. I don't say anything to Bernard, who is at my side. I think it will pass. I don't want to worry him.
But it doesn't pass. I feel worse and worse. I'm going to lose consciousness. My body twists this way and that, seeking a comfortable position. My breathing becomes more difficult. I make a hand-signal to Bernard to tell him I am not good. I see him rush out of the cubicle to seek help.
Now I'm all alone. My perception is confused. I would like to quickly lose consciousness and leave this intermediary and very painful state, which in theory comes just before unconsciousness. But oblivion does not come. However much I summon my remaining strength to call it to me, I remain stuck in this no-man's-land, which is both dark and light, where the air reaches my lungs with greater and greater difficulty.
Then, suddenly, it's as if a loud popping has disconnected my systems of circulation of air and blood. Everything stops. I have no more air! I'm suffocating! I can't move at all.
I am right at the other end of the corridor from the nurses' station. After an interminable moment, I have a broken perception of the presence of two women in white, and Bernard who is saying to them, ‘She can't respond to you, she can't breathe!’ One of them turns to him and retorts, ‘We must ask you to leave, sir!’
I'm in a panic. He is the only one who seems to understand what is happening and he has to leave. The light becomes more definite, but the shape of the silhouettes more vague. I would like to shout, to struggle. I lose consciousness intermittently, I believe. It must be so, as Bernard later on will explain that the two nurses spoke to me, asking me to breathe, then one of them asked the other, ‘Quick, go and get the doctor!’ Of all that I have no memory.
Then I again become aware of the shadows. I see a doctor leaning over me. ‘Can you hear me madam? Madam?’ I would like to call out to him that I can't breathe any more, that I'm dying. None of my muscles responds. I can't even budge my little finger, nor make any sound.
In intense distress, I feel crazy! I can't even tell the doctor how I feel. About the nightmare, I am living through. So how can I make myself understood?
In the background, I can see a young doctor, in a yellow-ochre light. He takes off his jacket and puts it down. He is observing the scene from a distance, impassively. The intern is busying himself, the nurses too, but my consciousness changes and I can’t say exactly what is going on. I understand that this new doctor is just taking up his shift, and has not yet had time to put on his white coat.
Suddenly, he looks at me with a dazzling, childlike smile, his eyes opened wide in astonishment, as if he has just discovered something unique or rare, and he blurts out, ‘Cordarone allergy?!’ His almost triumphant tone draws the intern's response, ‘But she's already been taking it!’
At this point, I thought of my daughter. She was barely five years old at the time and we were in front of our garage, at the side of the road waiting for a van to pass by. But a cat unfortunately jumped out just at that moment. The wheel of the van literally made the little animal explode. Not at all overcome, she looked carefully at the little bloody mess, and then she cried out, ‘Wow! I never saw a cat run over before!’
I remember thinking, in the emergency room cubicle, that the look on the doctor's face and that on my daughter’s face were alike. It hit me like a wounding blow. The lack of compassion. For this doctor, I was just an interesting case.
The lack of air was dreadful. I said to myself, ‘Even condemned prisoners are sedated.’ I did not think I deserved a death like this.
Just when my whole body was paralyzed, I told myself that my brain continued to function, as there was enough oxygen for thinking, but no longer enough to work my muscles. When asphyxia reached the brain, it would be the point of no return. I had to rationalize because that helped me to accept my death. The next stage would be the progressive extinction of perceptions, then finally the nothingness we are familiar with when we undergo a general anesthetic. I would never have thought that death would make me so afraid. As far back as I can remember the desire for death has always lived inside me.
I don't know at what point I swung into another dimension. It was very violent and sudden, to the extent that nothing would be the same again. I told myself that even if I did not die, I would be in a disabled condition. I clearly saw my heart contracting, twisting, and becoming fixed. This perception of the heart is the most difficult to describe. It was my heart, both myself, my whole being, and part of myself. It was as if I had knowledge of every cell in my body, with all the colors of an unknown universe. I was terrified by this place, is the only way I can express it. I seemed to be all alone on another planet. No one had ever taught me about this. I was the observer of my body, which had become both more-than-real and unnecessary at the same time. A lightning-quick series of thoughts came to me. Not least, that I had lived about fifty years next to my own body, and that seemed impossible.
I could see the medical team working on my body, but I could not perceive it as I, as a being who thinks and suffers.
I felt myself slowly abandoned by human beings, and then by life.
So I swore to myself that if I got out if it alive, if I found myself faced with someone's inert body, I would speak to them anyway, give them my hand, tell them they are not alone, to keep on trusting.
They were in the throes of an emergency, which I understand, but my God, how I missed a hand in mine, a little comforting phrase, or even just a look! Leaving life in these conditions is, I believe, was more difficult than putting up with physical distress.
And then, everything became more peaceful. The light softer. I no longer seemed to be short of oxygen. Fear took off and left me. I felt myself floating. Everything seemed so light, so calm. My last thought, in this state of well-being, in an atmosphere of somber gold (which seems to me as close to a description in familiar words as possible, but which is not the reality), was, ‘My name is Marie. I was born on August 30, 1957 and I am dying in four… three… two...’ The gaps between the numbers got longer and longer, and then I felt myself slowly sucked out through the right side of my skull. I was wrapped in a sort of infinitely gentle and beautiful light. I was so light, in a feeling of fulfillment such as I had never felt before, a complete letting go.
I could see, while remaining detached from it, the scene unfolding inside the cubicle. One of the nurses took out my drip and said to the other one, ‘Dopamine!’
I felt so good.
Suddenly, with a shock, I was back to the examining table, feeling very strongly nauseated. I came to with difficulty, like a fish out of water. I was gasping for air. It entered my dormant lungs in a jolting way. Then, in chopped-up sounds, I managed to bring out, ‘I'm... going... to... be... sick...’ A hand passed me a kidney-dish. I was lifted up, and then was sick. Between each retching, I was gasping for air. I felt movement return to me, painfully, but bringing life back with it. I squeezed the nurse's forearm as if to crush it, with unheard-of strength. To get my machinery going again, they gave me the maximum dosage of oxygen.
I know I had a brush with death. I hadn't had the time to reflect on the date. November 5, 2005. The date when my life should have ended.
I resent the dopamine, which revived me. I had paid such a dear price for my heaven in the interminable minutes of suffering. Several days of anguish followed, in fear of taking in nourishment or medicines, which would bring back the allergic reaction. So great was the ordeal prior to death, the agony which preceded the short moment of nirvana.
For some days, I was very sensitive to smells and loud noises. If Bernard just went into the garage, I would get a full-on odor of gasoline. At the hospital, it was the odors of urine and sweat. I could hear the sounds through the partitions. Then this all faded away bit by bit.
Later, the experience I had ‘up there’ before reluctantly returning to my body, came back to me. I was ‘told’ in a telepathic way, ‘You cannot die, and you haven't yet seen this street’. And I was teleported above a great bridge. My perception of colors and the wonder of the world was increased. I was opposite a little street going up past a restaurant called ‘Rhul’. It is true that I did not know this street.
With hindsight, I was sorry I didn't share my experience with the hospital doctor, not with my cardiologist, who just said, next day, ‘If the treatment doesn't work in two weeks, we'll fit you with a pacemaker,’ but with the one who had looked on me as a rare case, rather than as a still-living person.
I left hospital the same day, with a new treatment, without being able to share anything at all. Not knowing what to do about what I had experienced.
Being silent for a long time about it led to my condition being treated as a psychiatric one, diagnosed as mental confusion.
Date NDE Occurred: 05/11/05
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Allergic reaction Other: réanimation (dopamine)
How do you consider the content of your experience? Both pleasant AND distressing
The experience included: Out of body experience
Did you feel separated from your body? Uncertain There were moments of confusion. I don't know now whether I was in or out of my body.
I clearly left my body and existed outside it
How did your highest level of consciousness and alertness during the experience compare to your normal everyday consciousness and alertness? More consciousness and alertness than normal I was very scared by the sight and perception of my heart, an unfamiliar world of colors, and very strong sensations! I was very distressed. I did not understand what was happening to me. It was as if I was a cutting-edge camera, with all the functions of zoom and sound. There was a total cessation of suffering. An immeasurable well-being when I was sucked towards the so-gentle light, complete letting go, happiness in its pure state, unknown on this earth. A very abrupt return to the body, very painful, as if it was too small for me.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? At the point when I saw my heart twisting then stopping. When I saw the look on the doctor's face, when I was drawn out toward the light, then when I was above the bridge and was returned abruptly to my body.
Were your thoughts speeded up? Incredibly fast
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? Everything seemed to be happening at once; or time stopped or lost all meaning
There was no more notion of space or time from the moment of my vision of my heart stopping.
Were your senses more vivid than usual? Incredibly more vivid
Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. It was as if I could see in every direction. In front and behind. I could zoom in and out, and feel what I saw as if it was part of me. As if my senses (multiplied to the nth degree) were joined up.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. I didn't hear, I perceived.
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? No
The experience included: Tunnel
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? Uncertain A tunnel or not really a tunnel. It was a sucking out upwards through the right side of my head.
Did you see any beings in your experience? No
Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings? No
The experience included: Darkness
The experience included: Unearthly light
Did you see, or feel surrounded by, a brilliant light? A light clearly of mystical or other-worldly origin
Did you see an unearthly light? Yes It was gentle and lovely. Strong, but not dazzling.
The experience included: A landscape or city
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? A clearly mystical or unearthly realm An abrupt and violent incursion of a world which was unknown, strange, and supernatural. Completely unlike our earthly life. The senses there are ten times stronger.
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? First of all, terror, then incomprehension, amazement, then total happiness, then despair. I think because I had to come back to my body.
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Incredible peace or pleasantness
Did you have a feeling of joy? Happiness
Did you feel a sense of harmony or unity with the universe? I felt united or one with the world
The experience included: Special knowledge or purpose
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? Everything about the universe I perceived many things which it is difficult to re-experience with our limited senses.
The experience included: Life review
Did scenes from your past come back to you? No
Did scenes from the future come to you? No
The experience included: Boundary
Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure? Yes I only remembered once the time of anguish had passed.
Did you come to a border or point of no return? I came to a barrier that I was not permitted to cross; or was sent back against my will I was ‘told’, ‘You can't die, you haven't seen this street’. The return to my body was very abrupt and painful.
God, Spiritual and Religion:
What importance did you place on your religious/spiritual life prior to your experience? Not important to me
What was your religion prior to your experience? No comment D'abord catholique, puis témoin de Jéhovah, puis athée, puis ouverte à tout, donc à rien de particulier
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Uncertain I have no belief, no practice. I stick to the facts.
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Unknown
What is your religion now? Unaffiliated- Atheist Il y a quelque chose après, mais quoi exactement ?
Did your experience include features consistent with your earthly beliefs? Content that was entirely not consistent with the beliefs you had at the time of your experience J'avais envie de croire qu'il n'y avait rien après la mort pour pouvoir me reposer définitivement. J'ai senti que j'y étais enfin. Or, "on" me demande de faire encore certaines choses qui ne sont pas claires. Je me sens un peu déprimée
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes Material goods are of little account. I love others and need to help them, but after a few failures in goodwill projects I have still not found my way.
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice? I encountered a definite being, or a voice clearly of mystical or unearthly origin It wasn't really a voice. Rather communication through an unknown sense of telepathic variety.
Did you see deceased or religious spirits? No
Did you encounter or become aware of any beings who previously lived on earth who are described by name in religions (for example: Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, etc.)? No
During your experience, did you gain information about premortal existence? No
During your experience, did you gain information about universal connection or oneness? Yes Je suis sûre qu'il existe un lien universel, mais vraiment, je ne sais pas ce que c'est.
Did you believe in the existence of God prior to your experience? Unknown
During your experience, did you gain information about the existence of God? Uncertain Dire que c'est Dieu me semble être une interprétation, du moins à mon stade. Il y a quelque chose, quelqu'un, mais quoi ? Mais qui ? Qui a osé me dire de retourner sur terre ? Je lui en veux ! Je n'ai toujours pas trouvé ma place. Je ne comprends toujours pas.
Do you believe in the existence of God after your experience? God probably exists
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? Uncertain I had to see a particular street, which I have done several times since. This is surely a symbol, but I would have liked a bit more explanation.
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are possibly meaningful and significant
During your experience, did you gain information about the meaning of life? Yes Je dois être meilleure. Je m'occupe des autres, mais je trouve que c'est une goutte d'eau dans l'océan. Là-haut, je me sentais exister. Ici, tous mes sens étant extrêmement limités, je me sens si petite...
Did you believe in an afterlife prior to your experience? An afterlife probably does not exist
Do you believe in an afterlife after your experience? An afterlife definitely exists Yes Je dirais oui, malheureusement, car j'étais tellement heureuse de me sentir quitter la vie. J'en avais assez de souffrir. J'étais tellement déçue de voir qu'il y avait quelque chose après que je n'ai pas pu voir. Encore une grande inconnue. Après cette bé
Did you fear death prior to your experience? I did not fear death
Do you fear death after your experience? I do not fear death
Were you fearful living your life prior to your experience? Slightly fearful in living my earthly life
Were you fearful living your life after your experience? Slightly fearful in living my earthly life
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are possibly meaningful and significant
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant after your experience? Are meaningful and significant
Did you gain information about how to live our lives? Yes Pendant cette expérience, j'ai perçu mon corps comme secondaire, voire inutile. Quand je suis revenue dans mon corps, je me suis sentie complètement décalée de lui pendant plusieurs mois. Il m'est difficile de le percevoir maintenant comme avant. On pourrait croire qu'il devrait avoir davantage de valeur, mais pour moi, c'est le contraire.
During your experience, did you gain information about life's difficulties, challenges and hardships? Uncertain Quand ce sera vraiment mon tour de quitter ce monde, "il" aura intérêt à m'expliquer "là-haut", les difficultés de ce monde et pourquoi il m'a fait revenir, sinon "il" aura affaire à moi ! Ca se voit que je suis un peu en colère ?
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Moderately compassionate toward others
During your experience, did you gain information about love? Yes voilà bien pourquoi il est si difficile de revivre après une expérience pareille. Il y avait tellement de paix, d'amour là-haut, que je ne m'imagine pas comment je peux changer qq chose ici-bàs, il y a tant à faire qu'il faudra des vies, des vies et des v
Were you compassionate after your experience? Greatly compassionate toward others
What life changes occurred in your life after your experience? Large changes in my life I know there is something or someone, but I have not had enough time or experience and know what it is.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes Yes I have trouble seeing the world in the same way. The suffering of others makes me suffer.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes It does not relate to what we experience here below. Our five senses are not sufficient.
How accurately do you remember the experience in comparison to other life events that occurred around the time of the experience? I remember the experience more accurately than other life events that occurred around the time of the experience Je ne peux pas oublier cette expérience qui m'accompagne tous les jours. Les autres sens me manquent beaucoup
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? No
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? All those feelings of richness. Also, the goal of my return to earth.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes With my husband some months later. I didn't manage to explain it to him, but he saw that I was different. I spoke to a physician friend who referred to quantum physics, but this was beyond my understanding. A psychiatrist prescribed me anti-depressants and sleeping-pills. He did not really buy into my explanations.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Yes I had read Doctor Moody's book when I was young. Death fascinated me, but I had rather forgotten about it.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real I have never had the slightest doubt in my own mind. I have become a different person and my return to earth was, for several days, followed by a keener sense of hearing and smell, which faded away again.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real It still seems just as real. I miss the feeling of well-being, of letting go, which was present for some months.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? No
Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience? I can't see how to verbalize such an experience. For me, there remains a trauma, which is difficult to overcome. After my near death experience, I had new cardiac problems, operations, and loss of loved-ones. Painful events, which must mean something (this includes hospitalization with depression). These brought something to me, of course, but despite repeated efforts to climb the hill, I regularly live through periods of sadness and depression. I think that, to help others, we have to be able to help ourselves first. I don't yet seem to have found the key. I feel a bit diminished physically, (missing the senses I had up there), even if my heart is turned more towards others.