These notes are from my medical notes, my own recollections of the experience, and the descriptions given by my family and my medical team having undergone two years of follow up treatment and neurological therapy. The medical staff and my family verified the sensations and things I heard as things that did happen, or they could remember saying.
I was taken to the hospital with suspected meningitis in June 2014, having displayed some of the symptoms of the disease following what was originally thought to be just a bad cold. I have a very good medical history with no previous major concerns.
Having felt very unwell for some days, I was very agitated about the problem and was not getting very good responses from the medical team in the hospital. They decided to sedate me and I was taken to the Intensive Care Unit.
A brain swelling, thought to be encephalitis, was detected. So they kept me sedated on Propofol. Unfortunately, I suffered a reaction to this drug that is known as Propofol Infusion Syndrome. This resulted in my muscle fiber being dissolved, and the resultant uric acid build up caused kidney problems. As I had also been intubated on an artificial respirator, the stress on the body became so great that I started having low blood pressure and massive pulse variations. It seems that the drugs given to me to stabilize my blood pressure also caused my heart to race. Then they gave me some more drugs to slow down the heart and that caused my blood pressure to fall. They were also taking lumbar punctures, and giving me drugs to treat what they thought was the onset of meningitis.
During all this time, I could hear and sense where I was. I felt a particularly horrible sensation from the intubation tube. I had very vivid dreams and experiences from the moment I was sedated, which I spent many weeks writing down.
I sensed something wasn't right, as I felt nauseous. But I couldn't wake myself up as I can when I am sleeping. I could hear my pulse and thought I was talking to my wife to try understanding why I couldn't awaken. I could hear the nurses asking her to leave. I could also hear the constant beeping noises from the drug pumps and their associated alarms. There was considerable noise and activity on going. My wife told me that nearly all the duty doctors were attending to me. She later told me that they warned her that things were not looking hopeful, meaning there was a possibility I could die. The intubation tube had also caused a lung infection, so I was coughing like crazy. I was told later that I had picked up a chest infection, and that they had to tickle my lungs internally to stimulate coughing so I would not contract pneumonia.
I went into a very weird state. I could see the whole room as if I was looking down on myself in the bed with all the doctors and nurses around; it was very busy. I was wondering why on Earth I was not waking up, and a maelstrom whipped up, like a storm. I suddenly found myself on a small sailing dingy with a massive storm swirling around it. I was desperately trying to figure out why I could not steer the boat. The tiller seemed to be fighting me and the rudder was just too hard to control against the stormy water.
I was desperately trying to steer the dingy back to shore where I could see my wife and two children. They were all hugging each other and crying, with my wife pleading with me to get back to shore and telling me that they needed me. The sea between the boat and the shore was very wavy, and it seemed impossible to get back. On the other side however, the water was calm. I saw the very calm water and very faint silhouettes of people in the distance and on the horizon. I sensed I knew these people.
Above the boat, I could hear my mother's voice telling me not to be afraid and head to the calmer water. She was like a mist that was heading in the direction of the horizon where the silhouettes were. But also swirling around the mast was my granddad's voice encouraging me and telling me that I could beat this. I had a problem believing what my mother's voice was telling me, as she had been quite a religious woman. It was as if I shouldn't trust her, that she was making this all too easy, almost as if she was being selfish and taking me away from my family. My granddad, however, I did trust. He was being honest, positive, assured and constantly reminding me that I could get back to my family. He kept telling me to look at them and know that they needed me.
But, no matter how hard I tried, I just could not steer this dinghy and I felt drawn towards the horizon more and more. It felt like it would be an utter relief just to take the easier calmer water. It felt very tempting just to let go of the tiller, which I knew would let the dinghy head towards the calmer horizon. The wind was making it impossible to get back to shore and my family seemed to get further and further away as the dinghy was forced towards the calmer water. I sensed whom the silhouettes were, particularly my Nanny and other relatives and friends who have died. There was a very calming atmosphere where they were, no sense of pain or anger or anything, just a very relaxed atmosphere.
I really felt like giving in and just succumbing to the overwhelming sense of hopelessness, but something triggered and a massive sense of love for my family came over me. My heart felt like it was bursting. This was a feeling I don't think I've ever experienced in reality. I was gripping the tiller like crazy and determined to get back to shore. Suddenly, I zoomed over the boat so that I was looking down at the boat drifting off towards the horizon and then the whole scene went dark, and this next bit was a lot scarier.
I was now just a misty figure, almost without definition, with one or two other columns of mist around me. I sensed these columns of mist were other people in a similar state as me. There was a small low-level barrier in front, like a white picket fence but too small, to be any use as it could be easily stepped over. I was then aware of a very formidable presence on the other side. It was like a hooded figure but I couldn't see a face. It had no real form other than being a dark column. I was a light column, so I felt this column was the opposite of me. I could sense that it was Death coming for me. It didn't need to speak because it was almost like telling me telepathically that he was here for me, and was coming ever closer towards me.
It wasn't scary in the classical image of death; it was just intimidating and seemed confidently powerful just to decide that I would go with him. I sensed it was male although it was just a dark form. I was adamant that I was not going with him and told him that I was ABSOLUTELY not going anywhere with him. I was almost shouting at him telepathically, despite being quite fearful wondering if he had any greater power. Emboldened by that feeling in my chest, I was repeating that I was not going with him, despite him now floating over the small fence and heading ever closer until he was almost in front of me. I held my ground and refused to be intimidated even though I did feel like it was probably a foregone decision. The presence then quickly veered to the right of me and I saw it, and another white presence, then move off to the left into a blacker void.
Although the scene was already dark, I felt that everything then closed in on me. I then had a vision of being isolated on a boat, not a dinghy this time. I was now on a fishing trawler, in the hold, surrounded by fish, feeling wet, icy cold, very nauseous, and hopeless. I sensed there was no one else on the boat, and in the hold were various plaques riveted to the metal walls giving instructions on how things worked. At this point, I wondered if I had given it all up. I had a dreaded sense of lost hope and isolation that came over me and I felt really miserable. I thought I had done something good to win over death and not be going to go into the void. So why was I alone on a boat totally isolated? I kept having experiences of floating way above it and realizing that this boat, like the dinghy, was in the middle of an ocean with nothing around.
This feeling of being trapped on the boat went on for what seemed like days, until it all went cloudy and white. Then I found myself in another set of dream experiences.
In all, I spent 10 days sedated or artificially comatose. I finally woke up after having a tracheostomy to allow me to avoid the irritation of the intubation tube. This was something that was stopping the doctors from resuscitating me. I later learned that I had been given the maximum possible dose of sedatives, but they still couldn't work out why I was still fighting the tube. My heart had stopped twice, after racing to over 110 bpm, and my blood pressure had fallen to below 20. MRI scans later showed that Call-Fleming Syndrome, a spasm in blood vessels that shut my brain down temporarily, caused the brain inflammation.
Once I had the tracheostomy a week later, I recalled and sensed the whole episode. I actually felt a lot better and knew I could make sense of the weird dreams and would get better, although I still felt trapped in not being able to awaken myself. I did finally come around when my assigned nurse guessed that I didn't like the fuss when they were trying to bring me out of sedation. She very slowly lowered the sedative dose on the drug pump, until I calmly woke up being finally able to breathe for myself having had the tracheostomy.
Date NDE Occurred: 15 June 2014
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Illness. While under general anesthesia. Clinical death (cessation of breathing or heart function)
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? Yes I saw my whole family crying, huddled together. I later learned that they had done this at home, away from the hospital, so I could not have seen them.
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? Less consciousness and alertness than normal I couldn't understand why my body didn't do what I was telling it to do.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? There were very few times when I was physically awake, due to the sedation, but my hearing was still functioning, and I could sense things around me, even the doctors talking to me. They confirmed many of the things that I would tell them in regards to what they'd said and procedures they performed. They carried out many tests such as the lumbar tests, the tracheostomy, the MRI scans and the anti DVT rollers on my legs.
Were your thoughts speeded up? No
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? No
Were your senses more vivid than usual? More vivid than usual
Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. A little fuzzier, like being slightly out of focus, and colors perhaps not quite so vivid
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. I thought I could hear people normally and I was trying to talk to them and believed I was holding conversations. I just got very frustrated with them not making complete sense in their response to what I was saying.
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? Uncertain It wasn't a tunnel; it was just a black void with no floor or ceiling or walls. I was just floating with this weird white fence like a barrier across the void. I wasn't standing on an actual base or floor. Before that, was the sea, or a watery, very wavy dense mist on which the dinghy was floating.
The experience included: Presence of deceased persons
Did you see any beings in your experience? I actually saw them
Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings? Yes Mother, grandfather, cousin, Nanny, and other friends who have passed on, although I sensed them as less than relatives
The experience included: Void
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 When I was looking out to the horizon, it was like a fluctuating light, like a sunrise and sunset combined but flickering as if the Northern lights were behind it.
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? Some unfamiliar and strange place Seascape with calm and stormy water and a dark void area.
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Frustration, fear, wanting relief, hopelessness, isolation, depression, but also calmness, extreme love for my family and happy that I had beaten something
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Relief or calmness
Did you have a feeling of joy? Happiness
Did you feel a sense of harmony or unity with the universe? I felt no longer in conflict with nature
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? Everything about myself or others An absolutely powerful feeling of love for my family and the most powerful desire to get back to them, after feeling like I wanted to give up.
Did scenes from your past come back to you? No
Did scenes from the future come to you? No
Did you come to a border or point of no return? I came to a definite conscious decision to return to life Being told by my granddad that I could beat this, and that I was better than this state of illness, and hearing my family plead for me. The feeling in my heart and chest that I must try to persevere. A determination to defy the presence, which telepathically told me that he was here for me and was taking me away.
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? Unaffiliated- Atheist
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? No
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Not important to me
What is your religion now? Unaffiliated- Atheist
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 I didn't expect anything, so my experience was just a set of visions that I never knew were involved.
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes I don't fear death.
The experience included: Presence of unearthly beings
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 As described in the main section. A presence that told me he was taking me away.
Did you see deceased or religious spirits? I actually saw them
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? No
Did you believe in the existence of God prior to your experience? God does not exist
During your experience, did you gain information about the existence of God? No
Do you believe in the existence of God after your experience? God does not exist
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? Yes In that, I felt it wasn't my time and my granddad was right to encourage me to beat it. I felt that my family needed me back to spend more time with them.
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? No
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? I am uncertain if an afterlife exists Uncertain Only that the silhouettes on the horizon seemed to signify to me that all was calm where they were.
Did you fear death prior to your experience? I moderately feared death
Do you fear death after your experience? I do not fear death
Were you fearful living your life prior to your experience? Not fearful in living my earthly life
Were you fearful living your life after your experience? Not 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 possibly meaningful and significant
Did you gain information about how to live our lives? Yes That the calm, easy route when you die is of nothing to be afraid. Although it does give you a sense of sadness that once you take that route there is absolutely no way back. It felt like an inevitable way to go, and a sense of helplessness that you may not beat it, but that it is very calming and won't hurt you.
During your experience, did you gain information about life's difficulties, challenges and hardships? Yes Trying to beat the illness, knowing that I was stuck with it, and not being able to get out of the dream state
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Moderately compassionate toward others
During your experience, did you gain information about love? Yes I had absolute love for my family, and a sheer determination to get back to them. It was more powerful than I have ever experienced in reality.
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 have been a lot calmer and not let so many issues irritate me. I don't get anywhere near too worried about other people's attitudes and behaviors. Far more relaxed about life.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes Less wound up about things, and I was able to talk to my Dad when he was terminally ill and dying from cancer last year, not to fear or worry about letting go.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? No
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 as accurately as other life events that occurred around the time of the experience. The whole episode was very vivid, and when I woke, I was told that I was already recounting things to doctors and family. They were quite spooked as to how accurately I could describe incidents, and I had my iPad in hospital afterwards and made a conscious effort to record all the dreams, not only the NDE.
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? The sensation of the intensity of love for my own family. That was the highest sensation I have ever felt.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes About a week later, when my family helped me to start recording my notes. They were amazed about how much stuff was consistent with actual events. They also said that when they were home, they felt utter desperation but determined almost to will me to get better.
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 I wrote up my notes in the weeks following my wake up. It was only much later when I underwent PTSD support and talking it all through with my doctors and family that we realized that it must have happened when I had the episode of heart and kidney problems combined with the brain spasm.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real It was far too vivid to be just a dream. The sensations were unlike anything experienced in a sleeping dream. I have no religious conviction and had never really thought about death before or about what happens - yes, I've seen the film 'Ghost' but that was very different to what I experienced. Having spoken to my ICU support group there are others who were briefly medically dying during their ICU stay, and it amazes me how many common elements there are between the experiences.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? Yes I recently went on a cruise to the Baltics and one of the cities we visited was Tallinn in Estonia. There is a castle there where there are figures of what they call the Black Monks, robed figures with no faces. They did cause a flashback to the apparition that I saw that was trying to take me with him. I also feel a bit strange when on water now, especially when looking at very calm seas, or images or film shows of stormy seas. However, it's getting better over time.
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? Glad I made the decision to fight the illness and come back, the other option seemed inviting but I clearly wasn't ready.
Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience? Maybe about what the perceived timescale was? Not just if time seems faster or slower.