This is the first time I wrote down my experience. I needed my wife to understand.
The Coconut Effect
On November 9, 2014, in the late afternoon I was truly in the moment, standing on a beach with the Atlantic Ocean’s warm waters lapping at my feet. I was enjoying the sounds of the ocean and seeing people from all over the world playing and enjoying the moment, a warm breeze carrying the taste of salt water, refreshing me. Although the sun was hidden behind grey clouds, its warmth complimented the day. I was far from my home in Ohio, but as the saying goes I felt ‘I have arrived.’ I had journeyed from Ohio to Liberia to work with an amazing international group of healthcare providers training to care for Ebola patients. I was thinking, ‘I am home’ and ‘Doing what I love.’
In one moment it all changed, courtesy of what will be forever known as the ‘Coconut Effect’. This was not the first time I had left the comfort and security of my home in Ohio in response to a disaster or health crisis in the United States or in a foreign land. Each time I left, I could hear my beautiful wife Jackie say, ‘Come back to me.’ Each time I have come back; perhaps a bit worn out, a few bumps and bruises, an emotional scar or two, and once having been sent back early due to an intestinal virus. Every deployment has been well-planned logistically, with utmost security, and medically that it was so easy to come back. But life is what happens while you are making plans and carrying them out.
But I digress, back to the beach.
Feeling serene, calm, and fulfilled, I left the water’s edge to pick up my day-bag, put my shoes on, and prepare to depart with the team. It was so simple. We had planned rest and relaxation at the beach and our return to base was imminent. Dinner would be prepared and waiting. At least that was the plan.
I remember walking under the palm trees where our gear was stowed. Suddenly, I was racked with pain. Though I tried not to, I felt my body falling and I could do nothing about it. As my body crumbled, I stood above it for a brief moment before being plunged into total darkness. In the darkness I realized I was not alone. There were others there and although I could not see them, I felt their energy. Together we seemed to be floating in the same direction, where we came to an old iron gate. I had been here before.
I had seen this gate in dreams months before, experiencing the same sensations I was feeling now. In the dream, I never felt frightened. Now, I felt fear. In the dream I had opened the gate and felt the energy presences flow past me through the gate. Each time I would close the gate and walk back into the darkness. But now I found myself walking through the gate. The darkness gave way to an intense warm, white glow that encompassed everything. Curiously, just as in the darkness, I could see nothing but I could feel the energy presence of others. I was warm, safe, secure, wanting nothing, and needing nothing. I felt no pain, no anguish, and no fear.
Then her voice softly called to me. I felt love. The voice was familiar as if it belonged to a friend from long ago. She told me to rest and heal, so I rested.
Then she told me, ‘You have done so much. You may stay or you may go back. The choice is yours. If you go back, know it will not be easy.’
My choice was simple. Jackie’s request, ‘Come back to me’ was my choice. ‘But how do I get back?’ I asked.
‘It’s simple, just breathe,’ she replied.
So I did. I could feel warmth. I could see faces. I was looking up at a grey sky through palm tree fronds [leaves]. I could breathe. I felt no fear. At first I could not move my arms and legs; slowly, feeling and motion returned. My medical colleagues were now beside me and I let them take control. From there the day and the next few days blurred as pain and heavy medication distorted my reality. An X-ray revealed a fractured spinous process at cervical vertebra C6, the result of a falling coconut from a 50 foot palm tree. I would be going back to Ohio. The journey home was not easy. But there to greet me was Jackie. I had come back.
Upon my return, a CT scan revealed a C6 vertebra fracture of the spinous process and left lamina and bilateral lamina fractures at C-7. They treated me with more medication, 6 weeks in a hard cervical collar, 2 weeks so far in a soft cervical collar and though this past Monday’s CT revealed healing in process, there is still much to be done.
It has been two months today since the ‘Coconut Effect’. It is the first time I have been able to fully share my experience. Coming back has not been easy. But love is. Thank you, Jackie, for always asking me to ‘Come back to you.’
Date NDE Occurred: 11/9/2014
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Life threatening event, but not clinical death.
Struck in posterior spine by a coconut falling from a 50 foot palm tree.
How do you consider the content of your experience? Entirely pleasant
The experience included: Out of body experience
Did you feel separated from your body? No After experiencing the most intense pain of my life, I found myself looking down on my crumpling body. I lost awareness of my body.
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? More consciousness and alertness than normal Total awareness of my senses.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? During the time in the presence of the bright light.
Were your thoughts speeded up? No
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? No There was no sense of time.
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. Awareness visually of only the light, seeing was part of my sense of self.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. Hearing, like seeing, was part of my sense of self...
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? No
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? Uncertain I was in a total pitch dark void which I seemed to be flowing through and could sense the presence of other energy forms in the void.
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 When I opened and stepped through the gate I was immediately basked in intense bright light and warmth.
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? A clearly mystical or unearthly realm Bright warmth
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? During my falling, I felt fear. While moving through the darkness again, I felt fear. While in the presence of the light, I felt overwhelming love.
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? No
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 At the end of the dark void, I encountered an old iron gate.
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 After resting in the light I was offered the chance to stay on the light or to go back.
God, Spiritual and Religion:
What importance did you place on your religious/spiritual life prior to your experience? Slightly important to me
What was your religion prior to your experience? Buddhist
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? No
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Greatly important to me
What is your religion now? Buddhist
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
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? No
The experience included: Presence of unearthly beings
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice? I heard a voice I could not identify The voice was warm, soothing, and gentle and though it felt very familiar I cannot place it.
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? No
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? No
Do you believe in the existence of God after your experience? Unknown
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? Uncertain Sense of the importance of love as evidenced by the intense warmth, gentleness, and comfort I encountered in the light.
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are 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? I was uncertain if an afterlife exists
Do you believe in an afterlife after your experience? An afterlife definitely exists Yes By the mere offer of the chance to stay in the light i felt there was somewhere for me to stay
Did you fear death prior to your experience? I slightly 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 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? No
During your experience, did you gain information about life's difficulties, challenges and hardships? Uncertain Was told that if I chose to go back it would be difficult...
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Moderately compassionate toward others
During your experience, did you gain information about love? Uncertain simply felt total love
Were you compassionate after your experience? Greatly compassionate toward others
What life changes occurred in your life after your experience? Moderate changes in my life Moderate changes in my life
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes I find myself struggling with the everyday and longing for the light. I believe this was what was meant by the voice when I was told I could choose to go back.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes Words do not capture the emotions felt.
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 I remember the experience more accurately than other life events that occurred around the time of the experience
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? I had experienced a recurring dream a few months prior to the accident of being in the dark void and experiencing the iron gate. In the dreams, I never passed through the gate but turned back into the void. When in the void in the dream I had no fear; in the accident I felt the fear.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes These weeks, I shared only with my wife. Now I am sharing with you.
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