At some point after open-heart surgery on Sept. 15, 2011, there were some 'big bleeds.' I'm not sure but I think it was in my nose and throat. When I 'crashed' on Sunday, Sept. 18 and had to be resuscitated, it was determined that my lungs had filled with aspirated blood, I was told. On the afternoon of Sept. 18, I was re-intubated, and, after I yanked the tube out, they put me in wrist restraints. I was sure that 'they' were trying to 'do me in.' I was told that I also took a couple of swings at the nurses. To give my heart and lungs the best chance of recovery, I was also reconnected to the heart-lung machine. I am not sure if the NDE occurred when I 'crashed', was resuscitated, reconnected to the bypass machine, or when I was put into an induced coma.
My dear friend, Fran, was a nurse who was in the end-stage of colon cancer at the same time that I went in for surgery. My husband and I had gone over to her home the day before my surgery to say good-bye. After the 'crash', I remember the door to my intensive care room being brightly backlit by a hallway. I was in darkness but it did seem like I was in the hospital room. Fran appeared beside me, dressed in raspberry pink scrubs with her nurse's identification tag hanging around her neck. She came to the rail of my bed and asked, 'Are you coming with me?' I thought about it for what seemed like a minute or two, and then replied, 'I don't know yet.' Fran smiled, patted my hand on the bed-rail, turned around and was absorbed into the bright light of the hallway. I drifted off.
When I was aware again, Fran was approaching my bed with the same backlit from the bright hallway as before. This time, she leaned over the bed rail and asked if I was coming with her? Again, I thought about it, and said 'I don't know. I'm not sure.' I drifted off once more.
When I opened my eyes, the room was flooded with bright light. The hallway was dark like a tunnel behind Fran. She was once more beside the bed; I couldn't move or reach for her and I remember trying. Fran asked, 'ARE you coming with me?' This time, I answered, 'No, I don't think so. Not right now.' Fran smiled, said, 'OK. I love you!' She turned from me, and was absorbed into the darkened hallway. It was like a dark tunnel, and I could not follow her. I regretted telling her 'No'.
About a week later, I was moved to the telemetry floor, and then got to go home on September 28. Fran died on October 3, five days after I went home.
To this day, I am convinced that my beloved Fran 'hung on' to be sure I was out of the woods and safely home again before she left. I definitely felt her presence in the hospital, both in the intensive care unit and in the telemetry unit afterward. I feel that, for a very little while, we were at the entrance to that dark tunnel together. Fran left, but I stayed.
Date NDE Occurred: 18 September 2011
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Illness. Surgery-related. Clinical death (cessation of breathing or heart function)
On Thursday, 15 September 2011, I underwent about 10 hours of open-heart surgery. The cause was a deteriorated mitral valve; the intent was to repair the valve if possible, and, if not, to replace it with a bovine (first choice) or a porcine (second choice) prosthetic valve.
The surgeons spent approximately 10 hours trying to repair my mitral valve, installing sequentially a bovine prosthetic valve, and finally a porcine prosthetic valve; they also did a MAZE procedure on the atrial walls, and 'obliterated' the left atrial appendage, which is a point of origin for many blood clots. Three days later, (after a couple of nose-throat hemorrhages that deposited blood in my lungs), I 'crashed', was re-intubated, and reconnected to the bypass machine.
How do you consider the content of your experience? Neither pleasant NOR distressing
The experience included: Out of body experience
Did you feel separated from your body? Uncertain What I 'remember' about the event, is being convinced that the hospital had moved me elsewhere. I didn't believe that I was still in the intensive care unit room. There was a nurses' strike going on, and there was a lot of upheaval. I learned later that patients who are in extended comas are occasionally 'brought to the surface', and that's what I may be remembering. I also 'remember' snippets of conversation, including the doctor saying that he didn't want me on Lasix -- but when I was re-intubated; an unknown doctor was ordering them to 'hang Lasix!' I remember wanting to jump up and argue with him.
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 Throughout the experience, I felt like my vision was so acute that I could almost see individual molecules of the light, the air, and Fran. Yet, the quality of the scene was grainy like an overexposed photo.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? I was most alert when Fran appeared for the third time. It felt irrevocable, and I was almost panicky. There was no other answer I could give her but 'No', and yet I regretted it.
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
Since I could not 'wake up' or 'see' when Fran visited, I have no sense of time, other than a sequence of three 'visits'. I have used 'woke up' or 'opened my eyes', but those are not technically, what happened. I 'became aware' of the light, the dark hallway, and Fran's presence, in a particular order, but I have no idea of the length of time involved.
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. Throughout the experience, I felt like my vision was so acute that I could almost see individual molecules: of the light, the air, and Fran. Yet, the quality of the scene was grainy like an overexposed photo. At the same time, the range of vision was limited; it was blurry at the edges, intensely magnified in my focal area.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. There was no sound; everything Fran said and I replied seemed to be telepathic.
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? No
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? No
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? Yes At the time of the incident, my friend Fran was comatose, at home, sedated, and in the end stages of colon cancer. I had visited her to say goodbye the day before my surgery, and was certain that she would have died by the time I got home from my heart surgery. At the time of the incident, I was intubated, had been reconnected to a bypass machine, and could not speak after I went unconscious.
About a week later, I was moved out of the intensive care unit to the telemetry floor, and then got to go home on September 28. Fran died October 3, five days after I went home. I did not find out about Fran until 10 days after the incident.
The experience included: Darkness
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 The sliding glass door of what I assumed to be my intensive care room was brightly backlit by a hallway on the first two appearances of my friend, Fran. The third time, the entire room was almost blindingly bright, with a light that almost seemed to pulsate. Fran was not backlit this time; she was in a nimbus of white light, especially her head and shoulders. In contrast, the hallway was dark, like a tunnel.
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? No
What emotions did you feel during the experience? I was not surprised to see Fran; in fact, when she appeared, I felt like, 'Of course!' I was content, and felt loved, cared for, and protected. At the same time, I felt sad, because I knew I would never see her again.
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Incredible peace or pleasantness
Did you have a feeling of joy? Happiness
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
Did scenes from the future come to you? No
The experience included: Boundary
Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure? Yes I wanted to reach for Fran; I couldn't. I wanted to sit up in bed to see her better; I couldn't. I wanted to walk her to the dark hallway (tunnel), but I couldn't. The bed rail was an impassable boundary.
Did you come to a border or point of no return? I came to a definite conscious decision to return to life When Fran asked for the third time, 'ARE you coming with me?' and I answered, 'No, I don't think so. Not right now,' I remember thinking, 'This is a REALLY important decision. Irrevocable.' I remember thinking about it for what seemed like a long time. I remember not wanting to hurt her feelings by telling her 'No,' but I could not choose her over my family. At the same time, I knew as soon as she asked the question that there was only one possible answer. 'Not right now.' I was anchored to the bed. The dark hallway was the impassable boundary.
God, Spiritual and Religion:
What importance did you place on your religious/spiritual life prior to your experience? Moderately important to me
What was your religion prior to your experience? Christian- Protestant At the time, I was not actively affiliated with a church. For about two decades, I belonged to Gilroy Presbyterian Church. I was raised in the Methodist Church, married a non-practicing Jew, and had our children christened in the Lutheran Church.
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? No
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Moderately important to me
What is your religion now? Christian- Protestant I have strong ecumenical preferences. My eldest child converted to Catholicism when she marred 20 years ago, and her children are being raised Catholic. I have researched and written my husband's family's Jewish immigrant history, and wrote his mother's funeral service to combine her Anglican background and her husband's Jewish faith.
Did your experience include features consistent with your earthly beliefs? Content that was entirely 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
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice? No
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? 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? God definitely exists
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 definitely exists
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? No
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? An afterlife definitely exists
Do you believe in an afterlife after your experience? An afterlife definitely exists No
Did you fear death prior to your experience? I moderately 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? No
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Moderately compassionate toward others
During your experience, did you gain information about love? Yes When I became aware of Fran's presence at her last visit during the incident, all the lights in the room were on, and the hallway was darker, like a tunnel behind her. She was once more beside me; I couldn't move. Fran asked, 'ARE you coming with me?' This time, I answered, 'No, I don't think so. Not right now.' Fran smiled, and said, 'OK. I love you!' She turned from me, and seemed to be absorbed into the darkened hallway. The word Love was critical; when she said she loved me, I felt peace and warmth. I was able to accept her leaving. Her last words to me were of love.
Were you compassionate after your experience? Moderately compassionate toward others
What life changes occurred in your life after your experience? Moderate changes in my life Put simply, I am much better at 'letting go'. I've stood on the rim of the abyss, and that has forever changed my perspective about life. Love is important. Connections are important. Making memories is important. I can let go of everything else.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? No
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. Facing open-heart surgery is a stressful time. The weeks leading up to it are pretty much a blur. However, a year later, my friend's husband asked me to write down what I remembered of the experience, to share with their daughter, who was having a hard time after the death of her mother. So, it was about a year before I tried to put my experience into words. I have also checked my memories of that time with my family members, all of whom remember bits and pieces.
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? Love transcends all experience and science.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes I told some of my children and my husband within 3 months; I told a pastor friend within 3 months. I did not tell anyone else for about a year. The pastor said he absolutely believed it was an NDE, and he believed it was 'real'. My daughters did, too. My husband thought it was 'woo-woo'. I still have not shared it with my sons. At that point, I told my friend's widower, and he was profoundly moved. He asked me to write down my experience and email it to his daughter, who was struggling after the death of her mother.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Yes I had read some book reviews and newspaper features; I had read the book 'How We Die'. I do not think that this cursory knowledge affected my experience.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real I had almost two weeks in the hospital after the event and thought about it a lot. When I came home and discovered that Fran was still alive, I knew it had to be real. She was a gifted and incredible nurse, and I felt she was helping to take care of me and make my decision to stay here a good choice. When I woke up on Sunday, Oct. 3, I knew that Fran would die that morning. She did.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real I know it was real, because I have since then had a couple of very close brushes with death. Three months afterward, I had bilateral pneumonia, was hospitalized, 'crashed' again, and did not have an NDE. Two years later, I had a 2-1/2 inch blood clot that ejected from my heart; vascular surgeons where I was on vacation, told me that I came within 30 minutes of losing my right arm, and possibly my life. My cardiologist told me there was only a 0-1% chance of that clot going where it did, rather than to my brain or my lungs and killing me. I believe that I was given a chance to stay, for a reason, which I do not pretend to understand. The NDE set the course for the rest of my life.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? No