My first awareness was that I was in a different place. From my perspective looking from the left wall, it was a wide hallway with a steady stream of people moving largely along the other wall. There were quite a number of people, helping and reassuring people, who were in that line. I was angry. I didn't know where I was or why I was there. I recall exclaiming, 'Where the hell am I? What's going on?' Rather promptly, people whose energy was quite loving and calming surrounded me. They were telling me that everything was okay. At least one female in that group, slightly to my right, was a bit shorter. Later I sensed a familial connection, even though I didn't recognize her.
Looking to the left, where everyone else was headed, it seemed that the hallway ended in a much larger, brighter room, where I could see people moving about. Rather quickly, a taller male, who appeared to be in charge, like a supervisory receiving clerk, came up to me. Though obviously quite busy, he told me that, 'Everything was okay. You were not expected now, but you've done everything that you needed to.' He added that, 'It is your choice as to whether you want to stay or go back.' I recall beginning to mull on that while the others were still there around me. I looked to my right, mentally thinking of the children. I was particularly thinking of my youngest daughter who was getting ready for college. I remember thinking, 'Whatever I am going to do, I'd better do it now.' (Only much later did I learn that my wife used almost the same words from outside the door while the code was underway.) I definitely had NOT made a decision, but found myself 'back.' I was no longer in that hallway, but was in a sometimes dead and sometimes terrifying reality, that I later learned was an induced coma. The intimate sense of the experience stayed with me in diminishing levels over the next 6 months. But I found myself longing more and more for that other state of being. I did not regard it as a religious experience as much as simply the beginning transition to another phase of life.
Date NDE Occurred: 7/25/05
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Illness Surgery-related. CPR given. Clinical death (cessation of breathing or heart function)
I was diagnosed with Hypertropic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy (HOCM) more than a decade earlier. Having had undiagnosed symptoms in High School (syncope in Gym class), I wanted to get off of medications. After moving to another state, I learned that doctors at the University Hospital were doing Alcohol Septal Ablation to remove excess muscle tissue from the septum (central wall) of the heart that was causing the periods of dizziness and syncope shortly after moving from a resting position to walking. Alcohol Septal Ablation is a procedure in which a catheter is placed in the groin, threaded up to the heart, and enters the heart though a chosen vein. A high concentration of alcohol is squirted against the interior of the heart toward the section of the deformed septum. The alcohol causes the heart muscle tissue it contacts to die. In some ways, it is like a myocardial infarct. Over time, the dead tissue sloughs off and is dissipated. Because key nerves run through the septum to provide the essential electrical impulses to the different sections of the heart to pump properly, they routinely place temporary pacing leads that touch key sections of the heart, and are attached to an external pacemaker that ensures proper rhythm.
I was back in my ICU bed, after having visited by my wife and her sister, and talked with my brother and two young adult daughters, by telephone. Following that, having had some juice to drink, and while alone, I used the triangle bar, hanging down over the bed, to adjust my position in bed because my back was aching a bit. From what I've learned from others, particularly the lead cardiologist in my case, my pull and adjustment motion caused the temporary pacing lead to become dislodged from proper contact inside my heart, and it consequently stopped. A Code Blue was called, and a team came in, first performing CPR, and then attempted to cardio-vert me. The physician initially working on me failed in six attempts to get my heart started, and with others still performing CPR, went to the phone to call the cardiologist who performed the procedure.
The conversation was, 'I've hit him 6 times. What do you want me to do?' My cardiologist, said, 'I'm almost there; keep going.' Having heard the Code Blue from the cafeteria, my then wife, (who was a registered nurse) rushed to my room and was kept just outside the door. She was and heard (not by me) to have said, 'Norman, knock this sh#$ off!' She didn't quite realize how serious this was at first. She then quickly meditated sending me the message, 'Norman, you can do whatever you want, but if you're going to do something, you need to do it now.' After the eighth shock, my heart caught and stayed in rhythm. When my heart started again, I was heard to give a huge gasp that later turned out to be problematic. While intubated and unconscious over the next day or so, I began to develop a significant fever that would not abate. Evidently, that first gasp caused me to inhale gastric juices caused from the juice that they had given to me when I initially was awake in the ICU room after the procedure. I developed Bacteremia, Septicemia, pneumonia, Legionella, and a host of other problems that included my kidneys failing and a 106.4 F fever that lasted several days.
To clarify, my hospital NDE occurred when my heart stopped. It ended prior to the induced coma, when after the eighth attempt at cardioversion they got my heart started again. I did not achieve any level of consciousness when my heart started since they then sedated me for intubation, except for a brief moment in each of the two weeks following. However, my perception of the NDE did NOT occur when I was in the induced coma. The time in the coma just seemed ΓÇÿblack' and blank.
My wife and visiting children assisted with packing my head with ice as well as arranging cooling blankets to help ameliorate the fever while I was kept unconscious. She took a picture of me on her phone to show to me later since she was sure I wouldn't believe it. I was kept in the medically induced coma for 2 weeks. I remember coming to consciousness once during the first week. I wrote that my throat was sore, very sore. They re-induced the coma when they saw that I was trying to use my tongue and mouth to remove the intubation while my arms were restrained. I have a more vague awareness of consciousness during, what I was later told was the second week in which I struggled to write, 'Grey cells?' trying to indicate that I was still there, but wondered about my brain. When I was finally awakened at the end of the second week, I was very weak. I can recall having the sense that there was a bubble of energy surrounding that unit which was energetically created by the energy and spirit of the staff. Also created by the good energy of those around the world (I later learned) who sent their good wishes in many different forms to me. The barrier was not a guarantee of life, but I later described it similar to an Army fort in the old Wild West. It was not a guarantee of life, but it did offer a strong measure of protection. A day or so after the event, my bowels started to move, and I insisted on using the bathroom. Not allowed that, they brought in a heavy-duty portable potty. Since I am quite overweight, due to a prior 8.5 year dosing of 80 mg/day Prednisone to treat Crohn's, I was quite large. They gathered four or five nurses around me to ensure that I wouldn't fall. When I was finished, I couldn't rotate my body to clean myself. When one of them did, I muttered that I hated it. They tried to assure me that they do this all of the time, and I told them, perhaps not so pleasantly, that my comments weren't due to modesty, but to inability. They got quite quiet. When I stood, I used mental techniques I learned years ago, to send all of my energy down through my legs to remain standing, and not fall down. It was a struggle. There is much more relating to my physical recovery, but it is probably not germane to this inquiry.
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 These last two questions are difficult to answer. I experienced that I was in my body, but that my body was in a different place (the hallway). At no time, while I was in the hallway, did I have the sense of being in the hospital room. Later when sensing the protective bubble, I did get the sense of traveling along its perimeter. However, I have had other, prior out of body experiences, ranging back to childhood.
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 simply more aware and sensitive to what was going happening. It had the awareness of an acid trip without the drug overlay.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? During the time when I was in that hallway, but also (strangely) when I awoke from the coma, when I wrote about grey cells
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
While I had no real sense that it was rushed, until I found myself back, never feeling like I had really decided to return.
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. I can't completely speak to that. I know that later, after I awoke from the coma, I could feel/sense/see the bubble of protection around the ICU medical ward. After I awoke, I saw my (then) wife, and saw a white aura around her head. Could it have been the sun in the window outside? I didn't know.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. Again, I can't speak to the 'during' as much as the 'immediately after.' I couldn't quite understand the conversation at the medical station right outside my room. Although I initially realized that they were talking about me and other patients and I resented the open conversation, I soon realized that everyone who spoke was speaking with authentic care and concern. Further, I realized that even the comments or questions of the youngest staff, was listened to with respect and given full consideration and response, not at all like the TV/movie scenes of interns and medical students being treated like crap.
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? No
The experience included: Tunnel
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? Yes As described above, it was more of a wide hallway, perhaps 15' to 20' wide, I was on the left side, and looking to my left, I saw that the hallway seemed to exit into a larger, a seriously brighter area in which there was other people. The line going toward my left was orderly, and there were others, like ushers, radiating love and support to those in line. Although I looked to my right when contemplating my children, I didn't really have a complete sense that I was, in fact, seeing them, as much as simply thinking of them.
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? Uncertain At least one person seemed like a relative that I don't think I had ever met.
The experience included: Unearthly light
Did you see, or feel surrounded by, a brilliant light? An unusually bright light
Did you see an unearthly light? Yes Again as described, it was to my left, and appeared to be at the end of the hallway that others and I were in line. When I did look that way, I got the sense that it was the light in a much larger room (perhaps a ballroom?) where there were other people moving about.
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? Some unfamiliar and strange place It was the hallway, I described. It was unfamiliar, but neither mystical nor unearthly.
What emotions did you feel during the experience? First, anger, and then the recipient of a pervasive 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 I don't know for sure, but I may have leaned against the sidewall of the hallway.
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 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- Nothing in particular- Religious unaffiliated Reform Jewish upbringing, but non-practicing, non-affiliated
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Yes I am more opposed to religion and the mysticism that it and those who espouse it try to impose on others, particularly with these kinds of experiences. For example, when I describe the fact of my suddenly being back, without having made my own decision, too many try to impute that I had 'more' to accomplish or learn. I think that is B.S., and if anything, disputed by what the fellow in the hallway said to me.
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Not important to me
What is your religion now? Unaffiliated- Nothing in particular- Secular unaffiliated Non-religous, although I volunteer my computer skills at a Jewish community organization.
Did your experience include features consistent with your earthly beliefs? Content that was both consistent and not consistent with the beliefs you had at the time of your experience I wasn't surprised about the sense of other lives, but I had not recalled the specific hallway experience.
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes I became more certain of the fact that this life is only one small facet of the whole of my life.
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
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? Uncertain Having had such experiences like that earlier in my life, it wasn't so much a substantial factor. Once I got over being pissed, I knew that this was a not my 'regular life' but a transition. I did not so much know it as 'death' as believe it to be a continuation or transition in life.
During your experience, did you gain information about universal connection or oneness? Uncertain Not so much mystical as real. It just wasn't an issue. I had come to the realization of 'unity/oneness' when I was a teenager, and never had reason to think differently.
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? Uncertain I had the sense that we all selected our lives to achieve some awareness or to aid others in theirs. However, this was not a new line of awareness for me, but rather something that I've known about for years.
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? Yes I was told that I had done everything that I was supposed to do. It made sense to me, and I was glad to have had it affirmed by someone else. I knew/know what I've done.
Did you believe in an afterlife prior to your experience? An afterlife definitely exists
Do you believe in an afterlife after your experience? An afterlife definitely exists Yes Clearly, I wasn't in my normal surroundings, but I had no experience of something mystical.
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? Yes While I was thinking about my children, particularly my youngest, I was trying to gauge whether my tasks with her and the other children were truly done, and what impact, if any, would occur if I were to move on. I never came to any conclusion before I was back. I think I could have figured it out.
During your experience, did you gain information about life's difficulties, challenges and hardships? Yes But only in relation to have done everything I was supposed to do. It wasn't so much as specific as it was a sense of the totality.
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Moderately compassionate toward others
During your experience, did you gain information about love? Yes I felt love infusing me from those surrounded around me. It simply was a state of being.
Were you compassionate after your experience? Moderately compassionate toward others
What life changes occurred in your life after your experience? Large changes in my life I find myself much more irritated by the religious overtones that most people ascribe to this experience. This earthly life is a part of life, but there is no reason to impute some mythical aura to anything. What we don't know is something that we don't know, and hopefully have the aspiration and opportunity to learn. That said, I wished that I didn't have to 'live' any longer, had suicide ideation, which resulted in separation leading to divorce, and being psychiatrically hospitalized 3 times in 2009. While I was depressed, I was not self-doubting or upset with my life except in it continuing.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes Within 3 years, with my increasing depression, my wife separated and divorced. I have very few close relationships, and seem to prefer it that way.
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 more accurately than other life events that occurred around the time of the experience. When I came out of the coma, I did not immediately recall the hallway experience, or what specifics happened to get me there. Initially, my mind was both extremely cogent and like Swiss cheese, with plenty of holes. It took a while to realize that I had the experience, but I never had any doubt that it occurred. When I came to consciousness, I was both more and less conscious, if that makes any sense. I was intensely aware of my mind and less aware of things outside of my mind.
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Yes I have had out of body experiences, and have sensed the reality of having lived other lives. That said, this experience crystallized those experiences more concretely.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? The sense of being surrounded by love, and the later experience of wanting to return to it.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes Probably, while I was still in the hospital, with my wife. Although I did not get the sense that she rejected it, I did feel a disconnection with my intense experience of it.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Uncertain I think I had heard about them, but gave them no credence. Immediately upon release from the hospital, I wanted to go to a Palo Alto bookstore to find books about it. I was disappointed to find only spiritual books. Later, I found online 'The Complete Idiots Guide to Near Death Experiences' by P.M.H. Atwater that I found to be invaluable, providing me with non-mystical information about the general subject.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real Language is almost insufficient. It was real. However, and perhaps not surprisingly, its immediacy diminished over about 6 months, with some rare exceptions.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real It was real. There is no why.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? Yes Slightly, in a couple of ways, I have irregularly practiced meditation, and some have frequently produced such states of 'non-being' pure awareness. Also, the permanent pacemaker/ICD, which had been installed toward the end of the hospitalization, had failing leads. One night, after just that day having visited a local cardiologist, my heart stopped 5 times, three at home, one in the ambulance, and one in the emergency room. The experiences varied, but none involved the hallway. One or two were simply peaceful, either in dream or in nothingness. One was cacophonous, but that may have been on the way back, hearing the voices of the emergency medical technicians working on me. Of particular note, for most of them, I could tell them when my heart stopped, just before I lost consciousness.
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? The second experience about which you inquire would not, I think qualify as an NDE. When the leads of the pacemaker/ICD that they installed some 7 years earlier (at the end of the previously described hospitalization) were failing, I had 5 incidents in one evening of my heart stopping: three at home, one in the ambulance, and one in the emergency room. The lead and the ICD/pacemaker were replaced early the next morning, after they taped my left arm across my chest to eliminate the loss of contact problem due to the failing older lead. Ironically, I had been to the cardiologist earlier that day, complaining about increase incidents of extreme dizziness and near syncope; I don't go to that cardiologist anymore!
As I said, those five stoppages were unique, but not at all like the NDE. In the ones at home, there were several variants. In at least one, everything simply went silent until I was shaken, allowing the damaged internal pacemaker lead to re-establish contact with the heart. In one, I sensed a more dream-like state but do not have any recollection of a hallway or tunnel. In another, it seemed quite loud. However, that also may have been my sense as they were getting my heart going again, and I was hearing the emergency medical technicians at home. I was surprisingly calm, however. Except for maybe the first of that series, I could sense when my heart had stopped, and was able to alert them as I was passing out of consciousness.
Subsequent to my wife's separation, I see both a psychologist (now, a woman who regularly leads and practices Buddhist meditation), and now, a psychiatrist who often participates as well. I think that they see me as cheerful, even though they realize that I don't wish for my life to last any longer than necessary, and that I may be forced to end when my financial resources run out. I have had one other experience that I would call close to death (not near death), when I had another bout of sepsis about a year ago. Though I now have an Advanced Directive and POLST (Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment) that calls for do not resuscitate, the emergency room doctor asked me if I wanted antibiotics. I was rather far-gone, and didn't fully grasp that it was to save my life rather than just make me feel better. I'll try not to make that mistake again.
Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience? Remove the mystical and religious presumptions. Perhaps that, in itself, would be a worthy question: Do you regard your experience in a: A. Religious B. Mystical, C. Spiritual, D. Other, or E. N/A context?