Let's get one thing straight. I was barely a practicing Roman Catholic. I simply talked the talk and seldom even walked the walk. I went to church twice a year, on the holidays, yet, I did believe in the power of prayer. Much unlike myself, I knew my parents barely missed a Sunday Mass in their entire lives. 'If you ever need God's help son, simply pray to him and pray hard and frequently and He will eventually answer your prayers,' my Dad would occasionally remind me. My mother, Irene, and my only sibling, Suzanne, were both Eucharistic Ministers.
Cindy, my wife of twenty-six years, made a point of going to Mass just about every Sunday with our two teenage daughters, Amanda and Amber. We agreed that our children should be raised to believe in God. Over the years, we celebrated both their Holy Communions and Conformations at our local Catholic church.
Looking back many years earlier, I believe I began to stray from the church as a teenager, shortly after achieving a coveted Boy Scout Award called the 'AD-Altere-Dei Medal', which at the time was the Highest Roman Catholic Scouting Award available. I remember how proud my parents were when we traveled to a Cathedral in the heart of Trenton, New Jersey and during a High Mass the Bishop himself, pinned the award to my Boy Scout uniform. I thought as a teenager that achieving such a religious prize actually granted me some sort of immunity from any future Sunday Worship. As I got older and moved away from my parent's home, I also slid away from religious activities. However, I always did pray, mostly in the evening before bed, sometimes driving my car or even the first thing as I awoke in the early morning. I generally prayed for physical help for the sick people that I knew. My prayers were never verbal, but they were sincere dedicated thoughts.
Gazing out my office window, I often saw this elderly man shuffling down the sidewalk, and I thought to myself, how horrible it must have been for him to spend his entire life with a curved spine. This man's head was forced forward as if he was looking down at his feet all day long. I began to mentally compare his horrible life with mine. I was healthy as an ox, a big strong guy, and he must have been deformed from birth. I thought that it just wasn't fair to him, or for that matter, anyone else living with discomfort or pain, while my life has been near perfect. I sat there with my head in my hands with my eyes now closed, as I began to silently pray once again. In my deepest thought, I gave a shout out to God. 'If you are listening to me God, and I know you are, I want to get serious here for a moment. God you have blessed me with many things. You have given me a great life, and a healthy wonderful family. I'm not wealthy but I live comfortably, thanks to you my Lord. Please God hear my prayer, and remove the pain and discomfort from the afflicted. In exchange, please give it to me, so that I shall carry this small cross, that they may be healed.'
I reinforced my thoughts again, and confirmed with myself, that I surely felt that I would be able to handle whatever malady God may present to me.
Three weeks later, I was feeling just great and had my yearly physical exam.
Our family doctor after reviewing the results of my blood test diagnosed me as a 'Type 2 Diabetic'. My sugar levels were elevated, and my triglycerides were above the recommended limits. My doctor prescribed two medicines to help my body adjust to these elevated levels.
It was now just three days to our family's Summer Vacation. Cindy had purchased tickets for an evening concert by the group 'Boston'. We had planned to leave after the concert and drive directly to Raleigh North Carolina to visit my wife's family. The second half of our two-week vacation would be spent at the Jersey Shore. The plans have been made. I took off Friday from work to both pack the car and cut our lawn before the trip.
Well it was hot and humid outside; perhaps in retrospect I should have waited until the cooler early evening hours to begin mowing the lawn. I noticed some slight pressure in my chest as I pushed the mower across the yard. I began to sweat profusely as I turned off the mower and entered the house. The pain grew stronger and was concentrated on the right side of my chest. One hand held a sweaty paper towel; the other I couldn't remove from clutching and holding my chest even tighter. Amber looking over the balcony from above asked, 'Are you alright dad?'
I started to feel nauseous and began to feel a tingling down both arms. I knew then that this was very serious and not just indigestion. 'Amber call 911 now', I barely whimpered. She took full control over the situation. Within minutes, there were police and medics helping load me on a gurney. Cindy sped home from work and I overheard a medic tell her, 'It doesn't look good!' I didn't realize at the time that both Amber and Cindy were already in their car and following the ambulance in hot pursuit.
Strapped on my back to the gurney I was reminded of what my religious friend Lee Harris from work had once told me. 'Even at the hour of your death, if you pray to God for his forgiveness, and accept him as your savior, you might still be saved and go to Heaven.'
I started to mellow out and I just thought about all the good times I had with my family over the years. I thought of the great family movies and pictures that we had taken over the years, as we watched our babies grow and mature. I began to pray again. This time I knew I really needed God's help. I closed my eyes and I prayed the Act of Contrition.
Immediately after finishing the prayer, I opened my eyes and the ambulance was gone. It was extremely dark. I heard no noise. I was alone in total darkness.
I seemed to be actually floating or in motion, in a direction. As I was slowly propelled forward through the stillness and blackness. I began to notice a small light ahead. The light grew even larger and brighter and it soon surrounded me to the point that I needed to close my eyes again. It was an extremely bright white light, so bright that when I did open my eyes, I need to blink a few times and squint.
I suddenly found myself standing alone; yes actually upright, in the middle of what was a large, ultra-bright, white glowing room. It was so peaceful and quiet that I didn't want to leave. I felt an overwhelming comfort here, a warmth-like I belonged here. Still partially squinting I began to feel like I knew everything.
I had gained so much knowledge instantly, that I had no doubts or questions as to what was happening. It was as if white sheets were hung all around this room creating walls of dancing light. It was very similar to walking between my mom's white bed sheets as they hung between two clothes lines on a bright sunny day.
I spun around a few times and saw no one else. No medics, no ambulance just a serene sense of peace and quiet. I didn't even look to see if my body was still part of me. It was my mind. I had my thoughts and my sight still functioning.
I had no fears whatsoever. The only thing I didn't know was, where I was. This is not a dream or a hallucination. I am here. But here is where? Is this the entrance to heaven?
At the one end of this long white room there was a slight opening covered with a white sheet that was continually blowing back and forth as if inviting me to pass through it. As the curtain blew open, I could see bits of lush green foliage on the opposite side and the light was even brighter there then it was inside the room, where I was still standing. I wasn't scared at all, but I began wondering if I had died. But this isn't a dream, is it? Where am I going if I'm dead?
Was God nearby? I hardly had a chance to open my eyes wide enough through the brightness to look around the room one more time. I began moving forward uncontrollably towards the blowing sheeted doorway. As I moved even closer, I suddenly began to hear voices. The brightness then slowly faded from brightest white to yellow through gray then back to the original dark black. Once again and I couldn't see a thing, yet I did hear these human voices, as they were now getting louder and louder. From a distance I could now distinguish what they were saying. I actually heard my name being mentioned. Someone was speaking about me.
'Mr. J', 'Mr. J', and a pause. 'My name is Doctor K, you are at the Hospital.' Slowly opening my eyes from the darkness I now saw the face of a man just inches from my own face. 'Mr. J, can you hear me? You have suffered a massive heart attack.'
I was totally surprised to see that I was still strapped to the gurney. The back of it was elevated which was propping my head up. I noticed that I am behind curtains inside the hospital emergency room. This area was loaded with all kinds of people in uniforms with agendas. I now had IV's already into both my arms. About twenty-five feet away from me, I can see through a split in the privacy curtains that my children were crying with my in-laws standing nearby. Cindy was standing on the other side of my bed. She was holding my hand and I could see she looked terrified. 'Call my sister Suzanne in Florida,' I instructed. 'Already did,' Cindy replied. 'You gave us all a scare back there big guy.' Sensing that I had no clue as to what she was talking about she proceeded to tell me what had happened while she was following the ambulance. It had pulled off the road about half way to the hospital. The driver climbed into the back of the vehicle as my wife and daughter watched in horror. The two medics applied a defibrillator numerous times to my chest in an effort to restart my stopped dead heart. She literally witnessed my body arching upwards with every hit from the paddles. In my own mind I was still questioning where have I had just emerged.
I was quickly Medivac-ed by a helicopter to yet another larger regional hospital. Once there a medicated stent was placed into my clogged left ascending aorta also known as 'The Widow Maker. It was a simple painless procedure.
I was then wheeled up the third floor to the ACU (Acute Coronary Unit), which is the intensive care area for heart patients. Once there my blood pressure dropped too rapidly, and I began to get cold and vomit. The doctor's then determined that I must have been bleeding internally as they raced me back downstairs to an operating room.
My femoral artery in my right groin area had ruptured causing a great blood loss. Emergency vascular surgery stopped the leakage, but not after my feet had already swollen and turned purple. My testicles turned into 'Eggplants' and had to be packed in bags of ice most nights of my ten day hospital stay.
A cardiac surgeon entered the room. 'How are you feeling today, Mr. J?' He asked. 'Just great to be alive Doc, great to be alive', was my response. 'You should,' he said. He then looked towards heaven and said, 'Someone up there must have a reason for you to live. You do know you had so much more that just a massive heart attack. Unfortunately, about one third of your heart will never work again. You are going to require major open-heart surgery in four to six weeks. We will need to remove an aneurysm that is growing on the side of your heart and separate the damaged portion of your heart from the remaining good tissue. The procedure we will use is called the 'DOR Procedure'. A left ventricular reconstruction surgery, and while we have your chest cut opened open we will most likely perform three or four bypasses as well. We might even bypass the stint that we installed earlier today.
(Jumping ahead, I did have a third of my heart removed and the remaining working portion has been patched with layers of Dacron and Teflon, and is now held together with medical glue. A nurse had classified me as a 'Triple A Survivor', Heart Attack, Aneurism, and Cardiac Arrest).
I have to tell you this now, because it is the most relevant event of my lifetime.
My daughters were allowed to visit my hospital room. I praised Amber for taking charge and calling 911 and saving my life. When Amanda kissed me, she handed me a little wrapped jewelry box. I was happy to open the gift and see a chain and a small crucifix attached to it. Then I looked up to Cindy with a smile on my face and she smiled right back as if to say, 'I know how you feel.' My eyes quickly swelled up with water and I started to cry. I'm crying now even as I write about it for this story. I wasn't prepared for what happened next. Just as soon as I put that crucifix on around my neck, right there in my hospital room, something very unordinary had overwhelmed me. Perhaps it was a euphoric trance of some kind. It was as if a Spirit had consumed my whole being. I felt as if I had automatically become 'Super Holy'! I almost felt like I became all knowing of everything once again. I had no questions because I knew all the answers.
I was feeling God-like, and powerful. I felt like I had a direct connection to the powers that heal. I couldn't even believe the way I was feeling, but for some reason, it all seemed to come together. I believe that I must have kissed my new crucifix more that thousand times while being in that Intensive Care Unit.
The nurses encouraged the patients to stroll in hallways to get even small amounts of exercise when possible. That night Cindy and I walked dragging my two-medicine bag racks, down the hospital hallway and into a room that I had never seen before. It must have been a grieving room for family members. A young woman and her in-laws, sat off in one corner of the room all by themselves. They were sullen and looked as if they had been crying for days. Cindy whispered to me that this was the wife of a thirty-six year old man who has been in a coma for about two weeks. Words still cannot describe the emotional feeling that overwhelmed my body. It was as if the 'Holy Spirit' itself took control over my life at that moment. I was consumed by perfect-ness and focus. Nothing else mattered to me but this lady crying in emotional pain. I leapt, the best I could, from the chair in which I was sitting and pushed my IV racks directly over to this young visibly shaking woman. Leaning down I asked her, 'Is it your husband who is in the coma'?
She looked up at me, with fear in her swollen eyes. Her makeup was washed away and running down her cheeks from her tears, as she nodded yes. At this point, I reached out my right hand and asked her to hold it. She grabbed my outstretched limb with both of hers. I tried to explain to her that I had no idea what was going on here, or what I was about to do. I said that there was some kind of voice in my head instructing me and directing my movements. I grasped her hands and she held mine quite firmly. I placed my left hand on my new crucifix that hung from my neck and my right hand extended grasping both of hers. I told her that 'the Power of Christ had saved my life and I needed to pass this power over to her so she could be strong and help save her husband's soul'. The simple thought of doing just this must have come from a higher power. It's not like me to even get involved. I could feel a controlling power that created a noticeable warmth and rigidness in my left arm. A surprisingly warm flow, a powerful feeling, actually moved and passed directly from my clutching hand around the crucifix, up my left forearm and into my left shoulder. Overwhelmed by this spiritual event that was happening I could now actually feel this warm movement shooting across my chest from shoulder to shoulder, as I seemed briefly frozen in state. My eyes were closed and I felt as if I were floating off the hospital floor. The women's hands were receptive of mine as this invisible strength now shot down my right arm and I knew, into the crying woman's grasp. We both stood there now silently about thirty seconds, locked together until I too, burst into tears. The woman now continued to cry as well. I loosened my hand from her grasp, and then shuffled towards the doorway. Hunched over, totally exhausted and crying. I stood just outside the room in the hallway leaning my emotionally and physically emptied body up against the wall while still clutching my IV poles. The sweat was dripping from my brow.
Cindy who had witnessed my emotional exchange now exited the room. She stood by my side and said, 'What the heck was that all about?'
I just couldn't explain it, and doubted whether she or anyone else would even believe it. It was as if someone else has taken control of my body and emotions.
I wasn't embarrassed at all. I felt great about what I had just done. All the collected episodes and memories of my entire life to this point, were nothing in comparison to feeling the goodness that I felt during this very special brief moment. I know without a doubt that I had just experienced and felt the Real Power of GOD, and The Holy Spirit! I was once again, just briefly connected to a whole new level of existence. The very first time I felt this similar feeling was upon floating in the bright lights in the white room, just after my initial heart attack. It felt to me as the identical same elevated holy level. It was like being part of a whole greater awareness, beyond our Earthly knowledge. I was leaving every worldly thought behind, except for what good thoughts remained in my mind or perhaps at that point, my soul. It felt like GOD actually became part of my body and wanted me to share his strength with this woman who was experiencing horrible pain and a possible loss.
While still alive on Earth, I will forever pray and I will anxiously await that 'GOD-Like' feeling to return and consume me once again.
I don't know whatever happened to this woman's comatose husband. I don't know if she was ever able to pass on that strength that GOD gave her through me. What I do know is that, for those brief few moments in that room, the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, consumed my entire body, while I was blessed with GOD-Like perfect-ness and knowledge.
You can either believe this or not. I was somewhat of a religious skeptic, and now I am a believer for the rest of my time. Perhaps, just perhaps, doing that very simple thing with this woman was as my surgeon described as 'A reason that someone up there wanted me to live.'
On a church sign, I once read 'Death need not be the best time to meet GOD for the first time' and this now makes a lot more sense to me. 2,600 people die from Heart Attacks every day. I didn't, today! Praise the Holy Spirit!
Date NDE Occurred: 6/16/2003
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Heart attack Clinical death (cessation of breathing or heart function or brain function)
How do you consider the content of your experience? Wonderful
Did you feel separated from your body? Uncertain
I lost awareness of my body
How did your highest level of consciousness and alertness during the experience compare to your normal everyday consciousness and alertness? Normal consciousness and alertness
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
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. Remained the same, colors etc. Just extremely bright and very dark.
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? Yes, and the facts have been checked out
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? Yes Described above in story content.
Did you see any beings in your experience? I actually saw them
Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings? No
The experience included: Darkness
The experience included: 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
The experience included: A landscape or city
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? A clearly mystical or unearthly realm Described above
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Extremely Holy, Loving, happy, at easy, Knowledgeable.
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
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? Everything about the universe
Did scenes from your past come back to you? My past flashed before me, out of my control Reviewed life experiences, while still alive in ambulance.
Did scenes from the future come to you? Scenes from the world's future
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
God, Spiritual and Religion:
What was your religion prior to your experience? Moderate Roman Catholic
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Yes See story above.
What is your religion now? Moderate Same
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes See story above.
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
Did you see deceased or religious spirits? I actually saw them
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? Yes Felt all knowing and GOD like.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes Wife suffered depression.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? No
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Yes For weeks afterwards, I felt like I could control things in nature, like altering bird flights. Felt like I could heal the sick, by touch and talk.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? See story above.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes Just close friends, Right after it happened, up until today.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? No
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? No Lots of daily medications - no reproduction.
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? I am now an Advocate with the AHA (American Heart Association). Have given public speeches where I touched on this experience, but always leery of telling it all for fear of being called crazy.