I underwent surgery for subluxation of CV4-6. This required donor bone from my right hip. Immediately after surgery, I was placed on a 'Patient Controlled Analgesic' (PCA) connected to an IV in my left arm. The pain, especially from my hip, was significant, though I seemed unable to call a nurse. Even though I could push the button as often as I wished, it only dispensed some opiate from every ten minutes. At exactly 23:00 hours, I woke and pushed the button. Nothing happened. I did not know that this was a bad sign. I continued pushing the button until 23:50 hours. (My bed faced a clock on the wall.) I was told that an orthopedic ward nurse found me in my room later that morning (25 December) in respiratory arrest and very 'blue' (her words). At approximately 06:30 to 07:00 hours, I woke in the intensive care unit very much in pain. (The pain medications were discontinued.) Note: I have copies of my in-patient records at from the hospital. The record states 'respiratory arrest' and that my family was briefed that my recovery was 'unlikely'.
I became aware that I was in a very unusual place. No sense of body, no sense of pain. There was no sense of a 'tunnel' though I felt properly oriented. I certainly felt that I could 'go/move' forward toward something. I would not call it a 'light' but I certainly understand why others would so describe it.
At the very first, I thought this was just the most wonderful experience. There were no normal senses or even a sense of body. For me the immediate lack of post-surgical pain was absolutely wonderful. My first words(?) or thoughts were that this is a very strange and wonderful place. I wondered where I was. There was never any fear. My next thought was, 'Is there time here?' Then I thought, 'Well, I remember just asking that question, so there is at least a 'progression of thought' if not actual time.'
I remember feeling that I should proceed - that I should (somehow) move forward. It is not clear to me if my thoughts were just my own. I had a strong feeling that I was either communicating in some way or acquiring some kinds of answers somehow and from some unclear source(s). In any event, I was in bliss. Slowly I came to understand that this was a mistake. This thought quickly became, 'This is wrong. I'm in the wrong place. Someone has made a mistake.' As this thought became much stronger, I began to experience strong anxiety. 'This is wrong, I must tell someone. They (?) must know that this is wrong.' As my anxiety became unbearable, the feeling of bliss waned markedly.
Then I smelled an extremely strong scent. (Later, I discovered the scent to be that of an Army medic's aftershave) I cannot explain how very strong, sharp the scent was, and not pleasant at all. It felt much like someone stabbing ice picks in my nasal passages. Truly a horrible experience.
As I opened my eyes, the surgeon asked, 'Victor, do you know who I am?' When I told him, he shook his head (seemingly in amazement) and said to the staff, 'I've never had one that far gone come back.' As each of the staff came to my bed, their eyes (if not their mouths) seemed to be open in complete amazement. As the Army medic approached my bed, I smelled again the aftershave. It was horrible and I began to tremble. The intensive care unit staff began to act quickly. I am so thankful never to have smelled that particular aftershave scent again. (I could easily smell it even though there was an oxygen tube in my nose.)
Sometime later, I was returned to the orthopedic ward. The PCA equipment had been bagged, tagged and sealed for the investigation. No one wanted to tell me what happened, though my family was elated to see me some hours later. They told me that the doctor had told them that I had been found in my room and not breathing. He also told them that it was unlikely that I would be resuscitated, and even so, they should be prepared for significant brain damage.
The hospital seemed to struggle for several weeks to explain what had happened. Army protocol required an investigation. The PCA was examined. No fault was found. I was even thoroughly questioned if I had tried to (re-)program the PCA in some form of attempted suicide (I would have no idea nor desire to do so). The doctor was required to testify before an Army Medical board, which investigated the incident. I do not know the outcome of that medical inquiry.
After all this, one very strong feeling persists. I have ABSOLUTELY no fear of death - at all. If I try to explain this to others, they find my thoughts and discussion about death as 'unnerving' or 'creepy'.
I have learned not to talk about this. After I hear your interview on the 'Coast to Coast' radio show, I was shocked to hear what you said and for the first time since the incident have thought of this. My wife helped me find your site and complete the questionnaire - she remembers events from her perspective which I hope you find useful.
Date NDE Occurred: 24 December 1992
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Surgery-related Ortho operation subsequent to a line-of-duty injury Clinical death (cessation of breathing or heart function or brain function) . Respiratory arrest subsequent to spinal (Orthopedic) surgery (Subluxation of CV 4, 5, 6 with bone graft from a donor site on my right hip.)
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 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
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? My level of thought processing was pretty consistent, except for the insult of 'returning'.
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 I had a strong sense of being/self. No sense of time. However, during the experience I asked myself if there were time. I then realized if not time, there was at least a progression of my thoughts, and a sequence of thinking.
Were your senses more vivid than usual? Incredibly more vivid
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 Strong desire to move forward; strong sense of direction.
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
The experience included: 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? No
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? A clearly mystical or unearthly realm Extremely beautiful but unrecognizable
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Exalted, curious, great anxiety.
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? 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 Roman Catholic
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Yes I am COMPLETELY comfortable with thoughts of death. It is now difficult to talk to others about death in this way as it makes others very uncomfortable.
What is your religion now? Moderate Roman Catholic
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes I am COMPLETELY comfortable with thoughts of death. It is now difficult to talk to others about death in this way as it makes others very uncomfortable.
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? No
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes Especially with family. Some things are so much more important to me and other previously important things have become nearly meaningless to me.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes It was a unique experience; unearthly; with no reference points in everyday life or language. Extremely difficult to describe especially in concise written form.
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? There was a strong sense of direction. I understand why others describe this as a 'tunnel', however, it was more a sense that I had to proceed toward some unknown goal.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes Within a week, shared with wife and brother only. Their reaction was more concern for my physical/mental condition. The Army surgeons had already told them to expect the worst outcome from the surgery as I had stopped breathing, etc. None of us had ever heard of an NDE.
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. As real as any experience which I have ever had.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real. The Army physician described it as a 'Personality Changing Event'.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? No Nothing even remotely similar.
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? Yes, just one. I experienced an extremely sharp sense of smell as I 'came back'. As I regained consciousness, my first sense to return to me seemed to be smell. Though I was still 'out', the aftershave of an Army medic felt like ice picks jabbing into my nose. All the senses including pain returned shortly thereafter. After regaining consciousness in the intensive care unit, the same Army medic approached my bed. Just that scent made me tremble. I have never smelled that scent again - thank goodness.
Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience? I have NEVER discussed this event since the occurrence. I remember waking in the intensive care unit with the doctor's face just an inch or two from mine. He asked, 'Victor, Do you know who I am?' After I correctly answered him, he stated, 'I've never had someone that far gone come back.' I do not know much about that doctor's career, but I suspect he hasn't said that to a patient very often.
I have copies of my in-patient records at from the hospital, which discusses the event somewhat and reports to respiratory arrest, etc.
Dr. Long, I wish you and your research well. Perhaps I have added just a little help. I hope so.