When I checked in to the hospital the receptionist asked if had a living will and if I brought it. I responded yes I did but I didn't bring it because I was told only to bring what I needed to the hospital. I didn't think I was going to need my living will! My husband was asked to return to the waiting room as I was escorted to the pre-operation area.
Laying on the gurney in pre-op I was candid with the staff. They were asking routine questions regarding my meds and allergies while setting up medicine drips.
My eyes began to tear up from anxiety. The nurse said, ‘you seem upset.’ ‘Well you would be, too, if your heart was going to be in someone's hands.’ She responded, ‘Well, this is not emergency surgery. You know you can get up off this table and walk out of here.’ Was it a premonition she had or a subtle hint that she knew something about the doctor and procedure that she couldn't tell me? In hindsight she seemed fearful for me. The anesthesiologist came to meet me and I candidly said to him ‘I know you are the most important person in the operating room. Take good care of me, my blood pressure drops fast and low.’ He assured me everything would be fine.
I asked the nurse if my husband could come back and be with me. It was comforting for both of us to see each other. Soon they began wheeling me towards the operating room. In the hallway, the nurse asked my husband if he wanted to give me one last kiss. Little did we know that those words would haunt him for the next two days.
As I climbed up on the operating table, I was in awe of the equipment in the room, especially the huge six-screen television. When the anesthesiologist placed the mask over my face, I motioned for him to stop. I asked both he and the surgeon to, ‘take good care of me.’
Two days later I heard my oldest son outside my hospital room saying, ‘What the hell happened? She didn't sign up for this!’ He wanted an explanation of how I ended up on a ventilator and had twelve other tubes coming out of my bloated body.
I had been told the ablation procedure would take about five hours and I would spend one night in the hospital for observation. During my last visit to the doctor's office, I asked him if he was good at what he does and does he know what he is doing. He assured me he was, and he did.
Nearly seven hours since I went into surgery had passed and my husband could not get an answer from the receptionist regarding how much longer would it be. She later said she knew what was going on with me but wasn't allowed to tell him. In a few minutes, the doctor came out and waved my husband into a back office. He told him that they lost me on the table and my only hope was to be put into an induced hypothermia coma. He said I had a forty-two percent chance of surviving, but, no promises if I'd be normal or a vegetable or somewhere in between. They needed his permission to proceed. He agreed.
According to the hospital report, everything was going fine until the doctor made one last swipe and he punctured a hole in the back wall of my heart. I bleed into the sac and the heart had no room to beat. I remember being set up on the side of the table when they put a drain into the peritoneum to drain the blood. And someone was rubbing profusely on my chest and back.
Next, I recall being aware of being beat up and kind of bouncing up and down on my back. Later I found out my heart had stopped for thirty-nine minutes and they did three thousand nine hundred chest compressions and fifteen attempts at shocking me to get my heart to beat. I thought to myself, ‘this can't be right, this can't be right. Something has gone terribly wrong.' I heard a woman say ‘her face is white, her face is gray.’ Weeks later these events were confirmed by the hospital staff.
I saw myself in a four-sided box with thick black walls. Suddenly I felt very peaceful and calm and I thought to myself, ‘I guess this is the way it's going to end for me.’ I felt foolish that I never thought about how I would die.
Everything was pitch black and then I saw a white egg shaped dome beyond my feet, off in a distance. It was made from leaded glass in various shades of white.
I recall myself looking down at my body lying in bed and a nurse coming at me saying, ‘this is your heparin.’ I saw a second person standing behind her. I felt like the nurse was not a good person and I wanted to fight her off, but I felt paralyzed and there was no one to help me. This happened twice.
I was put in a hypothermia coma. They dropped my body temperature to eighty-three degrees through thirty-nine degree saline they put in my body through a tube in my right femoral artery. This would take twenty-four hours and then they would warm me back up for the next twenty hours.
Meanwhile my family flew and drove in from all corners and waited to see what was going to happen. I soon became ‘the code white’ and it seemed like everyone in the hospital knew of me. Everyone associated with coronary care and the hospital director certainly did.
During the next two days, there was a nurse in my room every minute monitoring and recording every change in my body. I had eight IV bags. If my blood pressure went up, they gave me something. If it went down, they gave me something else. I had every machine possible beside my bed to keep me alive and let my brain rest and recover.
Around midnight two days after my heart stopped, I was warmed up and once my vitals were stable. They took me off the paralytic. My family was warned not to startle me for fear my heart couldn't take it. I heard my husband say if you can hear me squeeze my hand, which I did. They my sister asked me to squeeze with the other hand, which I did. The nurses told me to move my toes, no problem. The family was so relieved. I had come through with no damage except I was weak and exhausted.
When I woke up, I knew I was not in a regular recovery room and I was in big trouble. I had machines and tubes everywhere. Most of my family was there and I knew things were not good. Plus, I remembered some of the events in the operating room so I had a clue that this was not normal.
That day the operating room nurses came in when they heard I was awake. I still had tubes in my throat so I gave them a thumbs up. The nurse that had told me I didn't have to stay for the surgery said she had worried about me for two days and felt guilty for what happened.
I had been dealing with a-fibrillation long enough that I could not only feel it, I knew how to read the heart monitor. After all that, I was still in a-fibrillation! When the doctor came in, I told him, ‘I'm finished with ablations.’ He said he was too! The director of the coronary unit confirmed that he had a least three surgeries go wrong and one man died, which he told me about before my surgery.
The rest of the story includes recovery in the hospital for fourteen days and a long time at home as well. I couldn't sleep lying flat in bed for ten days because my ribs and sternum had been broken during CPR. I had nightmares and couldn't stand to watch anything violent on television.
The silver lining is I've lost fourteen pounds, am closer to my family, will be retiring early, and am taking good care of myself by going to the gym two hours a day and eating healthier. I want to come out of this situation in better shape than we I went into it.
I had to die before I could start living for myself.
Date NDE Occurred: 2/12/13
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Surgery-related. While under general anesthesia. CPR given. Clinical death (cessation of breathing or heart function or brain function)
I had had arrhythmia for fifteen years and the meds could no longer control it. My blood pressure was very low. My pulse was extremely quick. It was either to have ablation now or wait longer, but I wasn't getting any younger. I was afraid of a stroke or death.
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 heard a female nurse say ‘her face is white, her face is grey.’ Weeks later this was confirmed when I visited the operating room nurses to say thanks for saving me.
I heard a nurse say ‘this is your Heparin.’ Before my surgery, I had never heard of Heparin. I heard her say it two times and upon reading the hospital report, they had given me two doses of Heparin. When the nurse was approaching me with the Heparin I felt paralyzed and that she was a ‘bad person’ and I wanted to fight her off, but couldn't. I saw the Heparin nurse approaching me when I was lying in bed with a hospital gown on. I was up at the ceiling looking down at my paralyzed body.
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 was in and out of consciousness. My heart stopped for twenty minutes the first time and then nineteen later. This was over a forty five minute period.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? When my heart had stopped and I became aware of ‘getting the hell beat out of me.’ It was the nurses doing chest compressions. Then I heard a female voice saying ‘her face is white, her face is grey.’ Weeks later I visited the nurses and they confirmed that was said.
Were your thoughts speeded up? No
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? Time seemed to go faster or slower than usual
I was aware of being in the black perimeter for a long 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. My vision before the near death experience was normal. I had been awake when I arrived in the operating room and was in awe of all the equipment including a huge six-screen monitor at the foot of the table. During the near death experience everything was pitch black. I saw myself surrounded by a black perimeter. It reminded me of bales of hay covered in black plastic. I saw myself calmly lying there alone. Then I saw a white dome at the end where my feet were. It was egg shaped and looked like leaded glass in various shades of white. Everything was black around me. I do remember the doctors sitting me up on the side of the table (this is when they put a drain in sac around my heart to drain the blood), and someone profusely rubbing on my chest and someone doing the same on my back. They were trying to drain the blood from my sac and massage my body. I saw them put three tubes down my throat. They looked black to me at the time but, upon waking in my room, they were the typical opaque white tubes.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. My prior hearing was normal. I was aware of things being said in the operating room in preparation for the surgery. As the anesthesiologist started to put the mask over my face, I motioned for him to stop. I them told to ‘take good care of me.’ I had a similar conversation with the electro physiologist. During the experience I could hear and feel the staff ‘beating the hell out of me.’ I was in no pain and later figured out it was when they were doing some of the thirty-nine hundred chest compressions on me. I heard a female nurse say ‘her face is white, her face is grey.’
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 Although I didn't see a typical tunnel that so many people describe with a near death experience, I think the black perimeter around me was ‘my tunnel.’ I saw the white dome above and at a distance from it.
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
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 I saw a white dome at the end of where my feet were. It was egg-shaped and made out of leaded glass in various shades of white.
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? No When I was in the black perimeter and the light was at the far end of it.
The experience included: Hellish imagery
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? I was calm, content, and feeling alone. I said to myself ‘I guess this is how it's going to end for me.’ I was not fighting or scared. I was very surprised that I was peaceful.
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Incredible peace or pleasantness
Did you have a feeling of joy? No
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? No
Did scenes from your past come back to you? No
The experience included: Awareness of the future
Did scenes from the future come to you? Scenes from my personal future The fact that I was going to die, that ‘this is how it's going to end for me.’
I was sorry I couldn't say goodbye to my family.
The experience included: Boundary
Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure? Yes The black perimeter.
Did you come to a border or point of no return? No
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- Agnostic I have had very little exposure to religion. It makes to since to me because there are so many religions around the world, so many different gods; how can everyone be right?
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- Agnostic My religious training has not changed. Several friends said they prayed for me and some asked me to come to their church. I politely said thank you and gave credit to the wonderful doctors and nurses that saved me.
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 believe that people actually saw the light, a tunnel, themselves from above, doctors working on them until I experienced it. Many of my friends ask to hear about my experience.
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes I cherish family more and give them priority over my clients and business.
I had to die before I could start living for myself. I always put everyone and everything before myself. Now it’s my turn.
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice? No
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? Uncertain I couldn't believe I saw the "white light" A leaded glass dome for me.
Did you believe in the existence of God prior to your experience? God probably 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? Unknown
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? Yes I was content that I had been a good person and had lived a meaningful life.
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are probably 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 does not exist
Do you believe in an afterlife after your experience? I am uncertain if an afterlife exists Uncertain I don't really think there is but, where did the black perimeter, the white dome and seeing myself being treated by the doctors and nurses come from?
Did you fear death prior to your experience? I greatly 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 probably 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? No
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Moderately compassionate toward others
During your experience, did you gain information about love? No
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 realize how much my husband and I love each other. He was my rock. I am closer to my children and share more experiences with them. It took dying to begin living for myself. I have always worked, running my own business since age twenty-five, raised children as a single mother and have always put clients first. Now, I pick and choose the clients I'm working with and have scaled way back on my commitments. I can say no to a situation I don't want to get involved with.
I can talk to my husband about intimate details that I never shared before. I know I have more love for all of my family than before. Even in the hospital for fourteen days, only three of my children could visit as two live in Europe. No one knew if I was going to live or die for two days. The two children in Europe were told to just wait and see what happened before they book a trip home. I was so worried about all of my children and wanted them to know their mom was going to be ok. I had picture taken of me eating, standing, sitting in a chair, using the walker, just so they could see my progress. I was more worried about them than myself. Now, although I love and care for all more children more than before my near death experience, I take care of myself. I exercise two hours a day, for me, not for anyone else. I eat better. My husband and I have decided to retire and enjoy life while we are both still alive. My injury and near death experience was a real wake up call for both of us. For two days, my family didn't know if I was going to make it or not. When I woke up from the coma, it was a relief to everyone. The operating room nurses even came down while I was still intubated and I gave them a thumbs up. They were happy to see that their efforts paid off.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes Yes I am more loving, and put family first over business.
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 I have no doubt that the things I saw and heard in the OR and the white dome and black perimeter existed for me. I don't know if it was a supreme being or just the brains process of preparing one for death. But, everything that I have described happened. I was diagnosed with PTSS and have sought therpy,
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? It is amazing how much I remember. And that I experienced the tunnel and light. I didn't believe in that stuff and my friends have said that if I saw it, they will believe me. I remember being wheeled from the operating room and all the noise that was being created in the elevator as they crammed all the machines and medical staff in that was keeping me alive. They ran down the hallway to critical care unit and everything was pitch black. It was not a smooth, calm ride as usual. It was like being on Space Mountain at Disney World, which is a roller coaster in the dark. I have offered to speak at a conference on near death experiences and hypothermia, which I think would be very therapeutic for me. I feel better when I talk about it. And I get upset when people joke about dying.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes Two days following. They were very interested in my near death experience. I think I have assured them that death doesn't hurt. It's very peaceful. I feel like our family is closer. Although our five adult children live all over the world, they seem more connected.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Yes From reading and television.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real I knew it all happened. I was amazed and interested in knowing more about the surgery and what others around me did.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real I'm glad it happened. It was hell at the time, but a unique experience.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? No