A Medical Opinion on Near-Death Experiences

It might surprise you to learn that I never told any of my doctors about my near-death experience. Why?

I guess I hesitated because I've worked as a clinical data analyst on and off for the last 15 years and during that time, developed professional relationships with nearly one hundred medical doctors. I can't say that I know any of those doctors very well personally, but I came to know their professional opinions on a lot of topics. Out of necessity, doctors tend to be very scientific, logical, rational, and concrete. If they couldn't quantify it, it didn't exist. Makes sense - that's their job, after all. So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to learn that most of them were atheists or agnostics, much as I was at that time.

Because of this, I let 10 months pass before even considering asking for a medical opinion on what happened to me during my accident and surgery. While I knew that there had been "trouble" with the anesthesia, and that I was very likely accidentally overdosed, medically-speaking I still didn't know if that was enough to send me out of my body and on toward Heaven. I really just wanted to know if anything interesting happened, medically, during surgery.

I procrastinated some more, but finally decided to talk to my primary care doctor (I'll call him Dr. T) and see what he had to say.

Dr. T is an internal medicine specialist and a hospitalist, but he also has a strong background in infectious disease and integrative medicine from Harvard University. He's incredibly smart, compassionate, honest, and, well, "normal," meaning that he doesn't come off as arrogant or condescending. I figured if anyone would listen to me, he would. I called to make an appointment and the scheduler said he had an opening that afternoon. I took it - I figured that I  might as well get this over with as soon as possible!

I felt nervous all day. My stomach was tight with worry and I hardly ate anything all day. I dreaded what his opinion might be. I honestly expected  him to tell me I was hallucinating, or didn't experience anything other than the effects of anesthesia.

Once in his office, I simply laid out for him what I wanted to know - did anything happen medically during surgery? He asked why I wanted to know. I hesitated a few seconds but then dove right in to my experiences starting with the crash and ending with the surgery.

He didn't say a word while I spoke...he simply listened with an unreadable expression on his face. I'm usually good at gauging body language, but his poker-face left me unsure of his receptivity to my story. When I finished my tale we both paused, then he spoke.

"Wow, what a cool experience!" And with that, the floodgates of conversation opened.

To make a long story somewhat shorter, he related a few accounts from other patients who also experienced the near-death state. He also said that in his work as a hospitalist, he is often present with patients during their final moments in this life. At least monthly, during these moments when people pass on, he's presented with incidents that truly make him stop and think about the true nature of existence. After more than 15 years in this work, he's a firm believer in  the realm of God/Spirit and thought that what I experienced was a true gift...and a calling.

I felt a weight lift off my shoulders and immediately relaxed.

Someone in the medical field actually believed that what happened to me was real. Wow.

I knew it was real, but as someone with a science background, it helped me feel validated to have another scientist tell me that I wasn't nuts - that I had experienced something really special and have been given a huge gift of life and knowledge.

He offered to pull my surgical records and talk to the anesthesia staff on-duty that day to see if there was anything "odd" that happened. Dr. T also said that sometimes near-death experiences happen in surgery even when there doesn't appear to be a medical cause for them. In his experience, in many cases the apparent medical cause is a momentary but drastic drop in blood pressure.

In short, medical clarity may be on the way.

To be continued. I'll update this blog if/when Dr. T finds out more details about my time in surgery....

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2014. Please read disclaimer and Legal Notes here.