I was a physical therapist employed at Alaska Hospital and Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska and had suffered a ruptured disc in my low back.
For a number of weeks, I was treated conservatively with therapy and injections without improvement. During this treatment time, I spent a lot of my time in prayer and bible study. I had previously had back surgery for a ruptured disc in 1977 before moving to Alaska and the doctor I was seeing in Alaska had advised me that surgery might be needed for this ruptured disc since it wasn’t responding to conservative treatment. He wasn’t certain whether another laminectomy would be all I would need or whether it might require a spinal fusion, which would mean a much longer recovery period and the likely possibility that I might no longer be able to work as a physical therapist. Once the decision was reached that surgery was needed and it was scheduled, I began reaching out to members of my church as well as family and friends back in New York State asking for their prayers and telling them the date of my surgery. I asked that they pray that only a laminectomy would be needed.
The morning of my surgery, I remember the nurse who was prepping me for surgery commenting that I was the most relaxed person she had seen getting ready to go into surgery. My husband Bruce and 2 small children, Krista age 9 and Bryan age 6, were in my hospital room with me when they brought the stretcher to take me to surgery. They walked with me for a while and then they were given directions for the waiting room that they should go to while I was in surgery, so they kissed me and left. Once in the operating room, I remember moving over onto the OR table and having the IV in my arm through which they then administered my anesthesia.
The next thing I was aware of, I found myself very near the ceiling in the corner of the room – so high that I was within inches of the ceiling tiles. I became aware of the doctor swearing angrily and ordering nurses to get more bags of blood. I looked back toward the sound and saw my body being flipped from face down to face up on the table. There was quite a commotion of people rushing out and back in and I remember how pale my face looked. I knew it was my body I was looking at, but felt no alarm or concern. I remember moving effortlessly through the wall of the room and down a hallway out through the double doors of the operating suite. I couldn’t feel any resistance or sense of touch when passing through the wall or doors at all.
As I drifted down the hallway, I noticed an elevator door opening and a man that I didn’t know came rushing past the open elevator door. Something about how he was rushing and his obvious high anxiety drew my attention, so I watched him, noticing that he was wearing a brownish jacket of some kind and that he seemed to be carrying a bag of some sort. He was hurrying toward the doors to the operating suite and slowed near a man by the entry to the operating suite. I don’t recall the words of each of them, but I knew the man who had come past the elevator was a surgeon and he was irritated at having to take time to slow down while the other man didn’t think that this man in street clothes had any right to enter the OR suite. I didn’t hear the sound of their voices, but I was telepathically aware of each man’s thoughts, unlike in the OR where I heard the sound of the doctor swearing. Once the surgeon passed into the operating suite, I no longer watched him.
At this point, I began rising through the ceilings of each floor in the hospital as though I was being pulled by some force outside my own volition until I passed through the roof itself and found myself in the sky above the hospital. Once outside the hospital, I began to move much more quickly past the mountain range near the hospital and over the city of Anchorage itself at the height of an airplane. It was at this point that I realized that if I was moving so quickly, I should feel wind rushing past me and should notice a difference in the temperature of the air, but I felt none of this. I remember rushing into a dark, cave like area where I continued at high speed for some time before I became aware of a small bright light in the distance in the direction that I was headed.
I quickly emerged into this intense light and looked down at rocky ground below me where my feet should be and a rugged, rocky incline to my left. As I looked up the incline, I saw the back of a man proceeding up the incline and telepathically knew that I was to follow him. I examined his back and noticed long dark hair tied back with a leather tie, a short toga like garment in rough, off-white material and sandals on his feet with leather ties wrapping up around his calves. I remember thinking, "That’s not Jesus!" We reached a ledge which opened onto a gorgeous pastoral scene of vivid green grass studded with vibrant colored flowers unlike any I have ever seen. There were enormous shade trees scattered around and beyond the field was a small river about 30 feet across.
We came to the bank of the river and on the opposite bank gathered in a big group were all my loved ones who had passed away. I saw my father and my brother first. They were as thrilled to see me as I was to see them. Then I noticed various Aunts, Uncles and cousins in the group. Finally, I realized that a few people that I didn’t immediately recognize were my grandparents who had all died before I was born, so I had never met them. Still, I knew who they were and could telepathically hear them saying how much they loved me. I don’t remember what any of them were wearing or even what they looked like, but it was definitely their spirits and there was no doubt in my mind who they all were.
Before I could go to them and embrace them, my guide who had led me up the incline communicated to me telepathically that I had to go somewhere else first and that I must follow him. So I again followed him around a bend in the river until I could see in the distance a beautiful Greek style building that was vibrantly white with many steps leading up to it and huge columns in front. Lots of spiritual beings dressed in vibrant white robes were milling around outside, going in and coming out. My guide took me inside where it opened into an enormous library full of tables and lined with books. Many spirits were studying different books and my guide communicated that this hall held the Book of Life, described in the Bible.
We continued to a back room where some spiritual beings were sitting in chairs that circled around a screen in the floor that was like a glass bottomed boat. They communicated that I was to watch my life and then scenes like a 3D hologram appeared. I was able to re-experience myself in all these events in my life, but just as importantly, I was able to experience the impact of my actions and words on those other people with whom I had interacted. Not one of the spirits condemned me for those painful things I had done or not done, but I felt so very sorry and sad about them within my own heart. It all seemed to happen very quickly, but had a tremendous impact on me. I got the impression that these spirit beings had been with me and had helped me plan my life before I was born. They let me know that I would be able to return to my life, if I chose to do so, and then they showed me through the same screen some future events in my life if I chose to return to it – some that would definitely occur and some that were possible but not definite.
At this point, there is a gap in my memory of what took place next and the next thing I was aware of was being shown by my guide the back doctor who had operated on me standing in the waiting room in all his green surgical garb except his mask and talking to my husband while the kids sat behind my husband on a couch. I wasn’t able to hear any words said, only saw the scene. And then I was shown the image of all the prayers being said by my family and friends – each one appearing like a musical note and linking one to another reaching up toward where I was. Lastly, I saw my daughter’s prayer forming the last link to reach us.
Suddenly, all the emotional ties to my husband and children rushed back into me and I remembered being a little girl myself, when at the age of 7, I had prayed so urgently that my father wouldn’t die, but it seemed that my prayer wasn’t answered and my father died. I knew I couldn’t let my children grow up without their mother as I had grown up without my father. Hard as it was to leave this place of overwhelming unconditional love and indescribable peace, I knew I had to return to my life. I was told that the future things in my life that I had been shown would be removed from my memory as well as some other things I had been shown during my experience because the choices I would make in my future life would be tainted and not truly legitimate choices if I were allowed to retain those memories, but that I would be granted enough memories to convince my logical mind of the reality of my experience and I would be given an unmistakable sign that would be proof of where I truly had been.
With that, the next awareness I had was waking in the recovery room with my husband and children standing around me. Everything that I have written here was fully in my mind and heart immediately as I greeted my loved ones and my sign was there, too. My sign was not an object, it was the fact that I was completely enveloped in the "peace that passeth all understanding" and the amazing unconditional love of God, like an invisible bubble of protection! This amazing sensation, this sign, stayed with me at a tremendous intensity for about 3 weeks to come before gradually fading away. After it was gone, I knew, more than I have ever known anything in my life, that my experience was completely real and that the gift of God’s love and peace that was with me for all those weeks was the perfect proof and confirmation to my heart that I truly had been in the spiritual realm with God because it was exactly how I had felt during the entire experience. I know the absolute truth of it to this day.
I remained in the hospital for 12 days following my surgery, first in intensive care and later in a regular hospital room. It was touch and go for a while, but I had complete confidence that I would recover because I knew that I had come back to my life for a reason and was here to stay. At first, I didn’t tell my family about my experience. I remember how surprised I was the first time that the surgeon who had saved my life came to my bedside for a visit. His name was Dr. Gower and we had never met before that time, but he was the same man that I had seen rushing into the operating suite! He had been called to operate on me. Unlike the surgeon who had done my back surgery who barely came in my room and, even then, wouldn’t look me in the eye, THIS surgeon was warm and kind. He clearly cared about me and was pleased that I was recovering well.
About a week after I was home, I had to go to Dr. Gower’s office to have staples removed. My incision ran from by breast bone to my pubic bone and it had been stapled together. Not long after I was home but before the visit to Dr. Gower, I had shared with my husband about my Near Death Experience and wondered out loud about the message I had been given about memories that would ‘convince my logical mind’ of the truth of my experience. I remembered that my experience had included seeing Dr. Gower arriving the day of my surgery and that if he could confirm what I had seen when he arrived that day, then it would, indeed, convince my logical mind of the validity of the experience. Although I already knew it was ‘real’ because of my sign, I also wanted my husband to have no doubt about it either. So, after Dr. Gower had completed my examination and expressed how pleased he was with my healing so far, I said that I wanted to ask him something about the day of my surgery.
I told him that during my surgery on my back, after my artery had been cut and I was bleeding out, that my spirit had left my body and traveled out of the operating room. I told him that I had seen him arriving that day, although I hadn’t known who he was or why he was coming there at the time. I told him about how he was rushing toward the operating room suite and was wearing street clothes – a brown jacket of some kind and carrying a bag. I saw his being annoyed to be slowed down near the doors to the operating room suite, when he was clearly anxious to get into the operating suite. Then, I asked him if what I saw is what actually happened that day. His response was, “How did you know that? I had been at my office when I was paged to come to the OR stat -- that I was needed to do emergency exploratory surgery to locate and stop the bleeding from a vessel that had been cut during a back surgery.” I can’t remember for certain, but I think he may have asked me what else I had seen and experienced. I believe that I shared a bit about seeing my deceased loved ones and a little about my experience, but I don’t remember any details I told him. Dr. Gower never clearly said that he was actually wearing what I described, he only said, “How did you know that?” He was clearly blown away, though, and I think he would have said he wasn’t wearing that or that he didn’t remember it happening that way, if in fact, it hadn’t happened the way I described. I came away convinced that he had confirmed to me the validity of what I had seen. Just the fact that he had come to the hospital in street clothes, rather than having been a surgeon on call already at the hospital in scrubs was an unusual circumstance and he did confirm that much. It was enough to convince my logical mind – and my husband’s as well.
During the surgery, it had been discovered that I had endometriosis so I also visited a gynecologist for follow up. During that visit, he asked about my recent abdominal scar and when I explained what had happened, he exclaimed, “ Oh, that was YOU! I was in the adjacent operating room that day and heard all hell breaking loose in there. The air was blue for a while, I can tell you that!” I didn’t share my NDE with him that day, but it confirmed to me what I had seen in the OR and the swearing I heard taking place there. That was unusual behavior for an operating room, for sure.
After all these years, I have joined IANDS and shared my story in public for the first time. I was inspired to find Dr. Gower, who is still practicing in Alaska, and I wrote to thank him and ask if he remembered my case and my telling him about my NDE back then. He replied that he did remember me and remembered my sharing my NDE with him. Thinking deeply about what I had seen during my near death experience and what might be confirmed by someone besides me, I spoke to my daughter who was 9 then and is 43 now and asked what she remembered of that day. She said that they had waited long past when the doctor had told them he would be out to talk to them and that she was getting very worried. She said that she heard some noise and saw a man come rushing past the waiting room acting like something bad had happened. The man rushed toward the elevators. She said that it was the same man later introduced to her as Dr. Gower. She was more worried later on when no one had come to talk to them yet. Then, the surgeon who had done my back surgery finally came to the door of the waiting room and Dad went over to speak to him. They were so serious that she was convinced that I must be dying and she prayed for me, she said. Before I talked to my daughter, I had asked my husband if he remembered seeing a man coming past the door to the waiting room that day. He then remembered a man rushing past, but said he wasn’t directly facing the doorway at the time. My husband had told me shortly after my surgery that the back doctor had come to talk to him in the waiting room, but I had never confirmed what that doctor had been wearing. I knew from what my husband had told me at the time that the back doctor had asked my husband for permission to have Dr. Gower do the additional surgery to save my life. Until recently, I had never discussed with my husband what I saw the back doctor wearing that day and that I saw him standing in the doorway of the waiting room. So I just recently asked him if he was all dressed in green surgical garb including a hair net type hat on his head, but no mask and he confirmed that yes, he had stood in the doorway and was dressed just like that.
Dr. Gower recently emailed me confirming that he had come to the hospital the day of my surgery from his office and was dressed in street clothes, though he couldn’t remember all these years later what he had been wearing that day or whether he was carrying anything. He did say that he came out of the staircase as he had rushed down the stairs and that he had to slow to press a button to open automatic doors to the OR suite. He didn’t recall another man being present near the entry to the OR suite. I have since concluded that they may not have spoken to each other at all and I was ‘hearing’ both their thoughts at once – Dr. Gower’s anxious thoughts to get into the OR quickly and the other man’s thoughts worried that a person in street clothes shouldn’t be allowed into the OR.