On Friday, July 8, 2005, the second day of a rafting trip, I was kayaking on the Rogue River in an inflatable kayak. This type of shallow kayak allows the passenger to sit nearly on top of it against an inflated 'pillow' rather than inside of it. I was positioned between the third and fourth six-passenger rafts of our trip. I had successfully kayaked through some rapids and was getting a little bit bored with it. There was quite a lot of calm water between the rapids in this portion of the river. I decided to stay in the raft for the next set of rapids and then I planned to get out of the kayak and back into the regular raft.
As we approached John's Riffle (Level Two rapid), I was unable to approach the glacial rocks on the right side the way I wanted because the strong current was pulling me left. My kayak flipped and my body was slammed into a giant glacial rock where I was pinned with my back against the rock and my face was mid-way level with the surface rapids. The strong currents were pulling me further down into the water as I was fighting with all of my might to get back up to get a breath of air. My kayak followed me into the rock and struck me in the head before disappearing down river; luckily, I was wearing a helmet and my life vest had been sufficiently tightened before I started kayaking.
The current was incredibly loud and swirling white water was surrounding me from head to toe. I was pinned against the rock and couldn't see anything through the rapids but I was confident that I knew which way was up towards the sky. As I was fighting to get to the surface, I could feel how strong the current was and I was losing hope that my strength was any match against the water but continued to fight. The strong current suddenly sucked me down under the first rock and around to my right side. As I was told later, it actually pulled me around to the back face of that first large rock, again, pinned by the current and below air level. I could see the sky but I couldn't get to the air no matter how hard I pushed. I am pretty sure the top of my head was just a few inches from the top of the water but even when I tilted my head back, the water current flowed over my face and I couldn't feel any air. I was trying to stay calm and think my way through things. I couldn't believe the strength of the current! I was beginning to panic as I was pushing against the rocks with all my might and absolutely couldn't budge against the strong current.
I felt myself being pulled down bit by bit. Although I was fighting with all of my strength, I was again pulled under the water and this time through a tunnel under the second large rock. I could hear the bubbles and water noise as I was pulled along under the rocks. I was incredibly frightened. I had seen many caves leading under the rocks on our trip and I didn't know where the current was pulling me. I was so afraid I would be pulled into a cave under the rocks where I would be stuck and suffocate, but again, my strength was no match for the strength of the river and I had no choice but to go where the water was pulling me.
Suddenly, I came up nearly to the surface between the second and third glacial rocks, my left leg was pinned between the rocks and I couldn't move the trunk of my body. My right foot could feel the small point of a rock below me and my right elbow was able to move a bit so I was pushing with my right foot and right elbow trying to get to the air. Since my foot was pushing on the point of a rock, my foot kept slipping off as I pushed. At this point, I was using all of the strength I had left and was extending my body as much as I possibly could and I had my head tilted back as far as it would go. Although I was swallowing a lot of water, I was able to get sporadic very small breaths of air between waves of water. My back was to the main river, but out of the corner of my right eye, I saw one of our rafts pass the huge rocks. I saw someone in the front of the raft point at me and then I saw the raft disappear down river. I remember being so relieved that I had been spotted but I didn't know if I would be able to get enough air to last until they returned. I opened my mouth to scream for help. I was able to yell 'Help Me!' and was surprised at how panicked my voice sounded when water suddenly poured into my mouth. It was almost like the voice came from someone else. My cries for help turned to gurgles as water filled my throat and I immediately knew that I had made a serious mistake.
I was beginning to see 'stars' and my vision was starting to get dark. I was praying with all my might and asking God to please help me. A picture of Cameron and Jared flashed like a slide show to the front right of my face but there was only one sepia colored slide repeatedly. I had knowledge that it was a picture of my boys but it was of them when they were older; maybe in their twenties. I fervently asked the Lord to save me. I know I was crying but the water was washing my tears away so I couldn't feel them. I was in a panic as I continued pleading to God to save me. I wanted to live SO badly and was almost certain that I was about to die. I could only pray that He had plans to save me. I didn't want to lose my kids and the thought of that possibility filled me with a profound sadness unlike anything I'd ever felt! I remember praying, 'Lord, please don't let me lose my kids!' Again, the sadness was unbearable; I know I was emotionally dying thinking about my boys. After repeating that prayer multiple times, I remember coming to a sudden realization and urgently praying, 'Lord, please don't let my kids lose me!' That moment was an incredible turning point in my life and I think I finally realized, possibly for the first time, that I had self-worth.
Everything was going black and I felt my body involuntarily relax. As my body relaxed, I was fighting to stay conscious but was rapidly losing the fight as I was being pulled further and further down into the water. All hopes of holding my breath or getting a new breath of air were rapidly leaving me. I felt my body being pulled under the water and suddenly things were black as night and completely quiet, not a single sound. I could feel my body being pulled feet first and face down through a tunnel as I was banging between rocks but there was no pain.
It seemed like I was being pulled by something but there was nothing physical about it, more like knowledge that it was happening but I wasn't as scared as much as I was simply aware. I remember marveling at how peaceful and incredibly dark everything was. I can't find the words to describe how tranquil things were. Now I understand why some people with similar experiences have said 'I didn't want to come back'. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced and I truly don't think I'll ever be at peace like that until I truly die and leave this world. I believe I lost consciousness around that time because I don't remember flowing through the tunnel and coming up in the current again - my body had apparently completely passed under the rocks and popped up on the top of the river, floating downstream about thirty yards downstream from my initial accident. I found out later that the guide who was trying to rescue me said I was underwater from three to four minutes and from my position between the rocks he lost sight of my helmet for twenty to thirty seconds so I guess that must have been a long tunnel that I was pulled through.
I was then floating down the river on my back but I was watching myself from above rather than actually experiencing what I saw. I could see myself gurgling and coughing up water but it was immediately being replaced by new waves of water and I looked as though I was choking while trying to breathe. Watching the water fill and float across my open mouth looked odd to me from my 'rial view but I couldn't quite figure out why; it was like watching a movie in slow motion. I remember telling myself to try to calm down and take calm breaths. I knew I was supposed to turn my body so that my feet were pointing downstream and to use my arms as ballast but I didn't maneuver and I couldn't really figure out why I wasn't doing what I had been taught. I could see my toes sticking above the water but my arms were completely at the mercy of the rapids as they hung at my sides quite a bit under the water. Although I was being bumped around a lot, I couldn't see anything from my physical body and it seemed to be very quiet as I was floating head first down the river. I don't remember hearing anyone or seeing any scenery so I don't think I was conscious at that time. I was just watching my limp body being pounded by the rocks and rapids. I was watching the water continually fill my mouth and I was actually worried about that girl not really realizing that it was me.
Keith, my guide (who is also a paramedic and happily married father of three) said that he couldn't see my face from the angle of the raft but he thinks I was probably unconscious. He told me that he swung his oar out over the front of my face for me to grab onto but my legs and arms were hanging limp in the water like a rag doll - I don't remember seeing his oar. He said he was about to throw the towrope to me but he didn't think I would be able to grab it or hang onto it. Apparently, the women in the raft weren't close enough to grab me either.
The next thing I remember, I was watching myself being yanked around near our raft but I have no idea who else was around or where we were. I watched from above as Keith had a hold of my vest at the back of the raft - one of the highest points of the raft. I wanted to tell him I could get around to the side and was meaning to grab the ropes on the side of the raft but just had no control over my physical self and no words were materializing, it was more of a mental message. I remember seeing my hands simply slapping the side of the raft rather than grabbing anything as I was being pulled aboard but I think that might have just been because I was being pulled around by my vest. I think I was fading in and out because I was aware of being able to finally move myself a little bit around to the right side of the raft and Keith pulled me part way into the raft. I was trying to help Keith get me into the raft but my muscles just weren't cooperating and I watched myself flailing around. I was lying about half-way in the raft across a cooler and one of the inflated cross bars. My body was vomiting water and I remember feeling embarrassed about that and being glad no food was coming out, just water.
I heard someone with an east coast accent repeatedly yelling 'Take off her helmet it might be cutting off her air,' but it wasn't and I thought she was being slightly annoying and panicky for nothing as I was perfectly calm and didn't feel I was even in my body at that time. I was up above the action watching from the right side of the front of the raft. I was conscious of what was happening but I wasn't physically experiencing it; it's difficult to explain. The entire time Keith was very calmly talking to me and telling me to try to breathe. He told me I was 'doing great' and explained everything he was doing 'I'm going to unbuckle your vest now. I'm going to remove your helmet now.' I still felt at peace and like I was conscious of either physically feeling myself being jerked around or I was emotionally experiencing what I thought I should be physically feeling; I don't know. I was a little confused because I was watching my own rescue from above. Keith's calm and professional manner really helped me a lot, as I wasn't able to move but knew he was taking care of me. I remember just lying there like I was trying to gather some energy and remember watching myself after my helmet was removed and thinking 'Gee, my hair doesn't look that bad' (which I later thought was a funny critique).
Suddenly, as if on command or as if someone flipped a light switch, I was physically in my body again. I sat up and tried to smile and act normal so that everyone would calm down but I was gasping for breath. I had moved into my body so fast! I was almost sad that I wasn't watching anymore. I hadn't had any worries about myself in the raft and it wasn't until much later that I realized the importance of what I was watching. I was met with wide-eyed stares from the women in my own raft as well as another one of our nearby rafts. I remember being very concerned for those around me who looked scared and I'm pretty sure I kept reassuring them that I was fine. When I awoke Keith was checking me to see if I had broken my leg or anything else. I looked down and saw that my left leg had deep red indents across the left shin and large bruises forming where my leg had been pinned against the rocks. My prescription sunglasses were all mangled (which made me mad) and my sandal was half way off my right foot. My arms and legs were scraped and I was bruised up but I knew I was very lucky. I did feel nauseous but the thought of barfing over the side of the raft was too embarrassing. I didn't break any bones and I'm so glad I was wearing a helmet and PFD or this could have been much worse. I continue to be sore and find new black and blue marks on me as the days go by but I kind of smile when I see them knowing how lucky I am to be here.
After my experience, things were pretty quiet within our raft. My good friend and next-door neighbor, Gale, was in another raft and we made eye contact. She looked so worried. All of the rafts stopped a bit later at a beautiful piece of land with a historical barn building full of old farm equipment and glass objects. As we left the rafts and walked through the green field to the buildings, a couple of the raft guides walked with me to ask me how I was doing and making sure I was okay. I did my best to avoid crying but it didn't take much to throw me over that emotional ledge. There were great big tears that came from deep inside me and I was doing that gasping thing that happens when someone cries really hard. I just told them that it was 'really scary' but that I'd be fine. They kept asking 'Are you sure, because we can get you out of here. You don't have to continue the trip.' I explained that I didn't want to cause any trouble or ruin anyone's trip. They told me those should be the last of my worries but I insisted that I was fine. Later I saw all of the guides standing together having a serious conversation, which I assumed had something to do with my accident. I was in somewhat of a daze while walking through the buildings and kept to myself more than usual. I wandered around for a while before I found myself looking out over the river by a short white fence and berry bushes; I was mentally and physically exhausted and I was crying my heart out. I was a mess of emotions but I wanted to stay on the trip.
I was able to take a shower at the next stop where we would be staying the night and I don't think a shower has ever felt so calming. To think the best shower ever was in a cold tin floored shower with a rather ragged plastic curtain and a cold breeze blowing in is kind of funny now but I was just relieved to be myself; standing under warm water where I could again cry without anyone hearing me. After I was clean and back with our party of approximately twenty-five women I tried my best to put on a brave front but inside I was just breaking. I had a few drinks that night along with everyone else. I smiled and said, 'Yea, I'm fine, thanks,' quite a few times. The next morning I again put on my brave face and got ready to hit the water. My legs and arms were sore and getting more colorful. I felt self-conscious when I noticed a few of the younger women sneaking glances at me and then talking. Usually I was one of the first in line for any adventure but on this day, I noticed that I kept letting others in front of me to get into the rafts. I certainly respected the river on this day. I had rafted a good part of the earlier legs of the trip without my life vest while in calmer waters but I had that thing strapped so tight I felt some good pressure each time I took a breath. It made me feel safer.
Never in my life have I been as scared as I was when I was pinned between those last two rocks. I don't recall ever praying with as much sincerity as I prayed during that time. I've always loved my kids with all my heart but I don't think I've ever loved them more than I did during those moments that I thought might be my final moments. I am absolutely sure that the Lord saved me that day. I spoke to Keith about the experience quite a lot in the following days after our trip. Although he knows the Rogue very well he has no explanation of how I got from Point A to Point B that day; he said my yellow helmet (which was all he could see when he spotted me) simply disappeared and then he was a happily surprised when it reappeared down river. My only explanation is that the Lord saved me - I'm absolutely sure of it. My life will never be the same again and I am so thankful that I survived - I just can't even put my thankfulness into words.
Date NDE Occurred: 'July 8, 2005'
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Accident Other I drowned and watched my rescue from outside my body.
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 As above.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? I believe I was most alert immediately after blacking out; things were completely tranquil.
Were your thoughts speeded up? Faster than usual
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? Everything seemed to be happening at once; or time stopped or lost all meaning
I went through the black tunnel with incredible speed and felt almost like I went in to it physically but emerged from it as a soul rather than a physical body. When making a comparison of the physical distance I traveled compared to how long I felt that I was being whisked through the tunnel, the physical distance was much shorter.
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 normally need to wear glasses but mine fell during my experience however I could see perfectly once I was out of the darkness.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. The roaring of the water was incredibly loud. Then later, I was unaware of any sounds when I was watching my body float downstream.
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 I was whisked very fast through a tunnel of darkness but it was like I was aware of my body but my body and mind, although traveling together, were separate from each other.
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: Void
The experience included: Darkness
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? A clearly mystical or unearthly realm Although I did not leave the area of my experience, I was above it and witnessing what was happening.
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Wide range of emotions from immediate loss of panic to tranquility to annoyance at some of the people who were around while I was being rescued.
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
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
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 Christian
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Yes I believe in the power of prayer more than ever. I also believe that what I pray for may not always be what I need. The Lord will best provide for me in His own way.
What is your religion now? Moderate Christian
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes I believe in the power of prayer more than ever. I also believe that what I pray for may not always be what I need. The Lord will best provide for me in His own way.
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 I found out that I was important to others. I hadn't ever really felt that type of self-worth before.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes Absolutely! I loved my children with all my heart before the accident but the love became more vivid afterwards; they are the light of my life - even at the ages of fifteen and eighteen. :) My relationships with my family, though never really strained, became more important to me. I acquired a stronger awareness of people and things that I took for granted; I now appreciate those things more and try not to take anything/anyone for granted anymore. Because of my improved self-worth I became more comfortable accepting who I am. I believe that allowed me to get into a loving relationship with someone who respected and loved me for exactly who I am. I've been happily married for the first time ever and for the first time since becoming a single mom approximately fifteen years ago.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes Some parts of it I'm not sure if I was conscious or just feeling like I should be conscious.
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? Yes, while praying I asked the Lord to not let me lose my kids. Suddenly I realized that I didn't want my kids to lose me either. It was an immediate turning point in my life to know that I was needed. That moment also caused me to value life more and let down my huge walls that I'd built up over time. I'm now happily married after approximately fifteen years as a single mom.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes I shared only the physical experience with others in my rafting party the night of the experience. It scared some; others kept asking questions about my feelings, my sense of well-being, etc.
I shared only the physical experience with a few trusted co-workers when I returned to work. Again, they said they would have been frightened and felt I was lucky.
I typed up the experience three days after the incident and shared that with only my immediate family.
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 just knew in my soul that I had experienced both the physical and non-physical aspects of the experience. I'm a Christian and I truly believe the Lord used this experience to teach me that I am more valuable than I'd ever believed. He wanted me to know that I was worth being loved by people other than my children.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real As above.
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? I have had increasing memory and concentration problems since shortly after the accident. I have mentioned this to many doctors but this last year the issues became so big they were negatively effecting my life and the lives of those around me. After approximately a year of test by specialists, a neuro-psychiatrist diagnosed me with possible temporal lobe epilepsy and chronic anxiety which he believes are both directly associated with the lack of oxygen I experienced during my drowning.
Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience? If this experience occurred during an activity (sports, etc.) have you quit that activity or has your enjoyment been lessened?
In my case, I have been on the water since my accident but no longer go on extended rafting trips. Why tempt fate? :)