During a medical procedure on this day, to investigate the goings-on in my heart, I had a most unusual experience. It was not REALLY distressing, not painful, more of nothingness feeling, like perhaps I, or should I say my physical body was in a void, as was my consciousness. Let me explain:
I was in what is termed a 'Cath-Lab' situation, having been prepped for a procedure called a Cardio Angiography or Cardio Arteriography.
I had been laid on a very hard 'bed' and as uncomfortable as I was (back and neck problems are quite profound), I knew it had to be done. Not having slept much the night before, I felt relatively relaxed and a bit sleepy.
Paul, my cardiologist is a really sweet guy and although uncomfortable, I was at ease. I clearly remember the point when he thrust the catheter or catheter leads into the vein at the area near the right groin in order to thread it up the femoral artery towards the heart and remember it hurting like hell. I took a few deep breaths and after a few minutes it wasn't so painful - the worst was that I could not move - or should I say wasn't allowed to move.
At one point early on I reached up by the left hand to scratch my nose that had become intensely itchy (as it would of course when you are not allowed to move), at which I was chastised by Jane the main cardiology nurse in attendance.
'Irene, you cannot move, what's wrong?' she enquired.
'Sorry, I replied, but my nose is so itchy'.
She then proceeded to scratch my nose for me and informed me that that was my last scratch - I was to keep perfectly still! This is when I gave in to the procedure and prayed that my nose or indeed any other part of me would not become itchy until this was over. I took a deep, deep breath.
I was totally unaware of time frames during this procedure but I do remember hearing Paul and Jane and the other nurse talking casually and about when a particular area had been passed by the catheter. I couldn't see the screens monitoring the catheter's journey but was aware that pictures were being taken.
At some point, Paul told me that he was now going to inject some dye into the vein in order to obtain clear pictures of the arteries and that I would feel an uncomfortable sense of heat but only for a short time. I was to just relax and this feeling would go away soon.
I took a deep, deep breath yet again, but wasn't quite ready for the temperature of the heat that came over me. It was like my whole body was placed into a hot, hot bath which had not had any cool water poured in - it was a bit of a shock to feel such heat all over me and all at once. Again, as doctor knows best, it did subside and that's about when things went awry.
As time frames go, as mentioned earlier I was definitely unaware probably due to lack of sleep the night before. The worrying aspect though was that I can honestly say I had a premonition or should I say a foreboding about this little procedure although I cannot accurately describe this.
I did however instruct my sister the day before that 'if anything should happen' etc., etc. and also mentioned to my husband that I did feel a sense of 'concern'. I allowed the smart side of my consciousness to take over and 'stop being silly' in order for the test to take place.
So, there we are, having had the contrast dye injected, the hot yucky feeling has passed and then - all hell breaks loose. I had a very swift reaction in my body which felt like nausea, but about a hundred times worse emanating from the pit of my stomach and enveloping me so quickly all I could get out was, 'Paul, I don't feel very well!' I heard him say, with some urgency mind you, 'Hold on Irene, we're nearly there.'
I felt a backward and downward tilting sensation that was quite surreal - and then from the tips of my toes up towards the top of my head, my whole physical body was vacuumed upward. It then appeared to take rest about fifteen feet in the vertical and as I looked downward, I saw the strangest sight.
I was not frightened but intrigued mostly as I could see in vivid color, 'me' or at least my head, encompassed in a black liquid blanket with Jane to the right of me, the other nurse, whose name I never actually heard, to the left at about the level of what would have been my shoulders.
Paul was standing to the right at the level of my thigh and again all three were in their surgical scrubs - all in vivid color except that we all and the 'bed' remained surrounded by a black surround akin to a floating ink bath.
While I was intrigued by what I saw and memories and scenes of the television show 'The Twilight Zone' entered my thoughts momentarily, I felt no pain, no fear but more a 'matter of fact' sense of saying to myself 'Oh, there I am, down there - but, but, how come everything is surrounded by black?'
I am unsure as to how long I witnessed this scene but the next thing I remember was Paul my cardiologist saying with urgency 'You're back Irene, take some deep, deep breaths for me darling, that's the girl, come on Hon, it's all ok now, breathe deep for me.'
Dutifully, I complied and took the deepest breaths I have ever imagined but I was also aware that in exhaling I groaned and groaned, feeling a sensation of my body having worked very, very hard. I was not sure what I had endured. It wasn't nice and I was definitely not in control - but there was no pain, no fear but a type of fatigue you would not wish on your worst enemy. There appeared to be no other real negative feeling other than a sense of flaccidity all over. Boy, was I exhausted!
I felt Jane's hand stroking my forehead repeatedly and I now realize that this was the first nice sensation since I entered the Cath-lab. The procedure was the obvious catalyst to the event I had un-voluntarily endured.
I distinctly remember at some point thereafter asking in a faltering voice 'Paul, - Paul, what happened?' I heard Jane call to him. I wanted to know what had happened, 'Tell her Paul,' she said, 'tell her what happened.' I figure at this point he must have been quite busy presiding over the business of 'having brought me 'back' and now ensuring I was back.
Just a second or three later his comforting voice said, 'It's ok sweetie, just breath and relax, breathe deeply now. You're ok now'. I must have blanked out at this point.
The next thing I am aware of, and without questioning (strange thing for me not to question) I found myself being deposited in either the coronary care unit or the intensive care unit of the hospital. I was greeted by Michelle. She was the nurse who had looked after me ten days prior in the coronary care unit - this time though I was definitely in the intensive care unit.
I had experienced yet another horrid and debilitating episode of SVT (supra-ventricular tachycardia) at that time which precipitated this Cardio Angiography Test and although I was nursed by this dedicated and most talented lady for only about twenty-four hours, I felt a great comfort knowing I would be in her care once again. I again fell to the sensation of having endured something akin to running several marathons and fell asleep.
I slept and slept and slept. I've no idea how long after all this had begun that I awoke to her second greeting of 'Hi Irene, remember me? I'm looking after you again today.' I reached for her hand, hung on tightly, and said 'Michelle, so nice to see you again.' Without questioning the whys and wherefores (again, not like me ordinarily) without any real idea of where my physical body really had gone and more importantly, what had transpired - I just gave in to trust.
At some point after that, the young Cardiology Registrar came over to check my vitals and asked how I was. During this examination, he asked if I knew what had happened to which I replied, 'Not exactly' and asked, 'What was I doing here in the coronary care unit?' He advised that I was actually in the intensive care unit and that Paul had rung in to say he would be back to see me after finishing his clinic rounds.
The examination was complete but I was asked to keep the oxygen mask on as my levels were down. Then a nurse came along and enquired if I felt I could take a cup of tea and something to eat. I declined the food, but felt a 'cuppa' would feel good right about now. Unfortunately, I fell asleep yet again and awoke to the tray beside me and a very cold cup of tea perched upon it.
I desperately wanted to stay awake, as I didn't want to be asleep when Paul arrived - I requested a trip to the bathroom, but as I was hooked up to a monitor, was not allowed to move off the bed. A senior male nurse saw to my needs. He asked, 'So did you see the bright white lights?' 'Huh?' I replied - oh my, then it dawned on me that I did actually 'go down' as they say and which explained the things I saw in the visual sense and those that I felt in the physical sense. He showed me the two marks on my body where the pads were in place for the 'cardio-inversion'. I told the nurse that I wasn't sure, but whatever it was it wasn't either white or bright.
Raj had brought me some food which I thought I could take in - some sandwiches and a fruit salad with yet another cup of tea. He then ordered a sponge bath to freshen me up and called the female nurses for this chore. Michelle made me comfortable once again.
I couldn't wait until Paul arrived. He took what felt like an eternity and true to form, I dropped off to sleep again probably courtesy of the sponge bath which was wonderful.
Paul finally arrived and explained clearly what had gone wrong. Apparently, although he himself had performed over two thousand of these Cardio Angiographies as a Cardio-Electro-Physiologist he hasn't personally ever experienced one going wrong until now.
Okay then, a first for both of us. Apparently, he explained, at a particular area that was injected with contrast dye that part of the heart went into spasm and tried to expel the dye elsewhere. It then was forced into another area of the heart which refused entry so-to-speak and that's when my heart went to VF (Ventricular Fibrillation). This I am told is the rhythm that the heart goes into precipitating a heart attack and in my case, my heart stopped and required the 'team' shock me back into sinus rhythm.
Whoa! What news! I died? 'For only about ten seconds,' Paul explained. He also reiterated that although he had personally performed some two thousand-plus such procedures, this was a first for him, but that the dye insertion and rejection and subsequent events are common.
I was not to be afraid that it could happen again in daily life - I was to take it out of my mind altogether as it would never happened again unless that procedure was repeated.
The good news was that the coronary arteries were found to be relatively clear with only minimal cholesterol build-up. I didn't at that point speak of my 'somewhat surreal experience'. Ten minutes later my husband arrived, Paul felt it necessary to explain the whole matter again, and it was Nick who asked the question, 'Did Irene's Heart stop?'
'Yes it did, but for only ten seconds or so,' replied Paul, 'But she'll be okay now.' I was to rest for the whole day and when he came back in the evening I would be able to be discharged if I felt okay and he would provide a prescription for yet another anti-arrhythmic drug I am to trial for several weeks.
Final check some hours later and Paul asked if I required a certificate for my workplace, which I did and he also suggested writing a personal letter to my employer explaining some of my recent absences. I was to take it easy for several days and return to his surgery in about three weeks time.
After all final checks were completed, I said my goodbyes and eternal thanks to Michelle, Richard and Raj and left to go home to my bed, with a profound feeling of wonderment that today I was actually and clinically dead for 'ten seconds or so'.
30 November 2005
Date NDE Occurred: November 28, 2005
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Surgery-related Clinical death (cessation of breathing or heart function or brain function) Undergoing Cardiac Angiography.
How do you consider the content of your experience? Wonderful
The experience included: Out of body experience
Did you feel separated from your body? Yes 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 Profound sensation of calmness, bright colors except for the 'black liquid sea' surrounding all that I could see.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? Whilst viewing from above.
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 I had no idea of what day or time it was, everything seemed to slow down.
Were your senses more vivid than usual? Incredibly more vivid
Did your vision differ in any way from normal? Colors were much brighter.
Did your hearing differ in any way from normal? Couldn't hear anything whilst floating above.
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? No
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? No
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? No
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Serenity.
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Incredible peace or pleasantness
Did you have a feeling of joy? incredible joy
Did you feel a sense of harmony or unity with the universe? I felt united or one with the world
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
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? Conservative/fundamentalist GREEK ORTHODOX
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? No
What is your religion now? Conservative/fundamentalist GREEK ORTHODOX
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? No
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? No
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? No
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? Uncertain I appear to be a little psychic.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? Significantly when I had the sensation of my physical body (except for the head) being drawn or sucked upward towards the top of my head, it was painless, but made me feel as though this loss was unimportant - a natural thing to happen. Especially meaningful was seeing my nurses and doctor and my head minus the body completely surrounded by the liquid black sea - it appeared that all I couldn't see was also unimportant.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes I told some immediate family members - in particular my sister-in-law who advised that it sounded like an OBE and that I should document the happenings of that day. Everyone reacted with a feeling of wonderment.
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. Proves to me there is a separate spirit or consciousness.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real. Proves to me there is a separate spirit or consciousness, that surely there can't just be 'nothing' after the physical body has died.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? No
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? There was no fear at all, just wonder and awe.