People Have NDEs While Brain Dead
|Dr. Michael Sabom Documents One of the Most
Michael Sabom is a cardiologist whose latest book,
Light and Death,
includes a detailed medical and scientific analysis of an
amazing near-death experience of a woman named
She underwent a rare operation to remove a giant
artery aneurysm in her brain that threatened her life.
The size and location of the aneurysm, however, precluded
its safe removal using the standard neuro-surgical techniques.
She was referred to a
doctor who had pioneered a daring surgical procedure
hypothermic cardiac arrest. It allowed Pam's aneurysm
to be excised with a reasonable chance of success. This
operation, nicknamed "standstill" by the doctors who perform
it, required that Pam's body temperature be lowered to 60
degrees, her heartbeat and breathing stopped, her brain
waves flattened, and the blood drained from her head. In
everyday terms, she was put to death. After removing the
aneurysm, she was restored to life. During the time
that Pam was in standstill, she experienced a NDE.
Her remarkably detailed veridical out-of-body observations
during her surgery were later verified to be very accurate.
This case is considered to be one of the strongest cases
of veridical evidence in NDE research because of her ability
to describe the unique surgical instruments and procedures
used and her ability to describe in detail these events
while she was clinically and brain dead.
all of Pam's vital signs were stopped, the doctor turned
on a surgical saw and began to cut through Pam's skull.
While this was going on, Pam reported that she felt herself
"pop" outside her body and hover above the operating table.
Then she watched the doctors working on her lifeless body
for awhile. From her out-of-body position, she observed
the doctor sawing into her skull with what looked to her
like an electric toothbrush. Pam heard and reported later
what the nurses in the operating room had said and exactly
what was happening during the operation. At this time, every
monitor attached to Pam's body registered "no life" whatsoever.
At some point, Pam's consciousness floated out of the operating
room and traveled down a tunnel which had a light at the
end of it where her deceased relatives and friends were
waiting including her long-dead grandmother. Pam's NDE ended
when her deceased uncle led her back to her body for her
to reentered it. Pam compared the feeling of reentering
her dead body to "plunging into a pool of ice."
The following is Pam Reynolds' account of her NDE in her
next thing I recall was the sound: It was a
Natural "D." As I listened to the sound, I felt it was
pulling me out of the top of my head. The further out of
my body I got, the more clear the tone became. I had the
impression it was like a road, a frequency that you go on
... I remember seeing several things in the operating room
when I was looking down. It was the most aware that I think
that I have ever been in my entire life ...I was metaphorically
sitting on [the doctor's] shoulder. It was not like
normal vision. It was brighter and more focused and clearer
than normal vision ... There was so much in the operating
room that I didn't recognize, and so many people.
I thought the way they had my head shaved was very
peculiar. I expected them to take all of the hair, but they
did not ...
saw-thing that I hated the sound of looked like an electric
toothbrush and it had a dent in it, a groove at the top
where the saw appeared to go into the handle, but it didn't
... And the saw had interchangeable blades, too, but these
blades were in what looked like a socket wrench case ...
I heard the saw crank up. I didn't see them use it
on my head, but I think I heard it being used on something.
It was humming at a relatively high pitch and then all of
a sudden it went Brrrrrrrrr! like that.
Someone said something about my veins and arteries
being very small. I believe it was a female voice and that
it was Dr. Murray, but I'm not sure. She was the cardiologist.
I remember thinking that I should have told her about that
... I remember the heart-lung machine. I didn't like the
respirator ... I remember a lot of tools and instruments
that I did not readily recognize.
There was a sensation like being pulled, but not
against your will. I was going on my own accord because
I wanted to go. I have different metaphors to try to explain
this. It was like the Wizard of Oz - being taken up in a
tornado vortex, only you're not spinning around like you've
got vertigo. You're very focused and you have a place to
go. The feeling was like going up in an elevator real fast.
And there was a sensation, but it wasn't a bodily, physical
sensation. It was like a tunnel but it wasn't a tunnel.
At some point very early in the tunnel vortex I became
aware of my grandmother calling me. But I didn't hear her
call me with my ears ... It was a clearer hearing than with
my ears. I trust that sense more than I trust my own ears.
The feeling was that she wanted me to come to her,
so I continued with no fear down the shaft. It's a dark
shaft that I went through, and at the very end there was
this very little tiny pinpoint of light that kept getting
bigger and bigger and bigger.
The light was incredibly bright, like sitting in
the middle of a light bulb. It was so bright that I put
my hands in front of my face fully expecting to see them
and I could not. But I knew they were there. Not from a
sense of touch. Again, it's terribly hard to explain, but
I knew they were there ...
I noticed that as I began to discern different figures
in the light - and they were all covered with light, they
were light, and had light permeating all around
them - they began to form shapes I could recognize and understand.
I could see that one of them was my grandmother. I
don't know if it was reality or a projection, but I would
know my grandmother, the sound of her, anytime, anywhere.
Everyone I saw, looking back on it, fit perfectly
into my understanding of what that person looked like at
their best during their lives.
I recognized a lot of people. My uncle Gene was there.
So was my great-great-Aunt Maggie, who was really a cousin.
On Papa's side of the family, my grandfather was there ...
They were specifically taking care of me, looking after
They would not permit me to go further ... It was
communicated to me - that's the best way I know how to say
it, because they didn't speak like I'm speaking - that if
I went all the way into the light something would happen
to me physically. They would be unable to put this me back
into the body me, like I had gone too far and they couldn't
reconnect. So they wouldn't let me go anywhere or
I wanted to go into the light, but I also wanted
to come back. I had children to be reared. It was like watching
a movie on fast-forward on your VCR: You get the general
idea, but the individual freeze-frames are not slow enough
to get detail.
Then they [deceased relatives] were feeding me. They
were not doing this through my mouth, like with food, but
they were nourishing me with something. The only way I know
how to put it is something sparkly. Sparkles is the image
that I get. I definitely recall the sensation of being nurtured
and being fed and being made strong. I know it sounds funny,
because obviously it wasn't a physical thing, but inside
the experience I felt physically strong, ready for whatever.
grandmother didn't take me back through the tunnel, or even
send me back or ask me to go. She just looked up at me.
I expected to go with her, but it was communicated to me
that she just didn't think she would do that. My uncle said
he would do it. He's the one who took me back through the
end of the tunnel. Everything was fine. I did want to go.
But then I got to the end of it and saw the thing,
my body. I didn't want to get into it ... It looked terrible,
like a train wreck. It looked like what it was: dead. I
believe it was covered. It scared me and I didn't want to
look at it.
It was communicated to me that it was like jumping
into a swimming pool. No problem, just jump right into the
swimming pool. I didn't want to, but I guess I was late
or something because he [the uncle] pushed me. I felt a
definite repelling and at the same time a pulling from the
body. The body was pulling and the tunnel was pushing ...
It was like diving into a pool of ice water ... It hurt!
When I came back, they were playing Hotel California
and the line was "You can check out anytime you like, but
you can never leave." I mentioned [later] to Dr. Brown that
that was incredibly insensitive and he told me that I needed
to sleep more. [laughter] When I regained consciousness,
I was still on the respirator.
For practical purposes outside the world of academic
debate, three clinical tests commonly determine
brain death. First, a standard electroencephalogram,
or EEG, measures brain-wave activity. A "flat" EEG denotes
non-function of the cerebral cortex - the outer shell of
the cerebrum. Second, auditory evoked potentials, similar
to those [clicks] elicited by the ear speakers in Pam's
surgery, measure brain-stem viability. Absence of these
potentials indicates non-function of the brain stem. And
third, documentation of no blood flow to the brain is a
marker for a generalized absence of brain function.
But during "standstill", Pam's brain was found "dead"
by all three clinical tests - her electroencephalogram was
silent, her brain-stem response was absent, and no blood
flowed through her brain. Interestingly, while in this state,
she encountered the "deepest" NDE of all Atlanta Study participants.
theorize that NDEs are produced by brain chemistry. But,
Dr. Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist
and the leading authority in Britain concerning NDEs, believes
that these theories fall far short of the facts. In the
the Unknown: Strange But True," Dr. Fenwick describes
the state of the brain during a NDE:
"The brain isn't functioning. It's not there.
It's destroyed. It's abnormal. But, yet, it
can produce these very clear experiences ...
an unconscious state is when the brain ceases
to function. For example, if you faint, you
fall to the floor, you don't know what's happening
and the brain isn't working. The memory systems
are particularly sensitive to unconsciousness.
So, you won't remember anything. But, yet, after
one of these experiences [a NDE], you come out
with clear, lucid memories ... This is a real
puzzle for science. I have not yet seen any
good scientific explanation which can explain
tradition of equating death with an ensuing
nothingness can be abandoned. For there
is no reason to believe that human death
severs the quality of the oneness in the
universe." - Larry
Copyright 2007 Near-Death Experiences & the