When I was 19, I was a sophomore in college and had one illness after the other. I lived in a dormitory so strept throat, etc. was common. I developed a bad cough that was common when seasons change with my exercise induced asthma and was using my inhaler to no avail. Finally I called my doctor and made an appointment. He told me I had an infection in my lungs after x-rays as well as Bronchitis. He gave me a stronger antibiotic than I was taking from the school infirmary and sent me back to college.
Before I went back to school, two of my high school friends and I went to the old Lycoming County Prison in downtown Williamsport, PA. The downstairs is an Art Gallery now and the upstairs consists of cells, as they were when the prison was in operation. This is where it starts to get interesting. My friend AJ looked into a cell and continued walking along. I was a little ways behind him and when I got to one of the cells, I stopped in my tracks because there was a priest in the cell. He had on the black suit with white collar and glasses and was carrying a bible. He stopped, turned and looked at me and I asked him how he was doing. He said, “I am fine. How are you?” I told him I was ok and continued to walk after my friends came back and asked what I was doing. I told them I was back talking to that priest. They kept asking me “what priest?” and he was gone once they got there. I became very defensive with them telling me I was crazy all day. When I got home, I told my mom about the incident and how weird the whole thing was that he was gone once my friends came around.
I thought nothing of it really until my condition worsened. When I went back to school, I do not remember Friday at all. (My first day back.) I was up and around but until I was reminded of a lot of the day from friends the day was gone completely. On Saturday, my friends knew I was sick so they thought I was sleeping to get better. Around 5 p.m. they tried to wake me up so I could get a shower and something to eat. They could not wake me up. They said I was soaked from sweat and unresponsive. They called the paramedics and were told that I had a fever of 105 degrees and probably would have died in my bed had they waited any longer. They packed me in ice and took me to the hospital where they gave me spinal taps and tests for everything under the sun. I was responding a little bit but have no memory of anything. I had respiratory arrest and was given a tracheotomy, a feeding tube, and a central line. Then I fell into a coma. This is where my next experiences happened.
While I was in ICU for over three weeks, I had an out of body experience where I could see myself lying in bed with the doctors and nurses around me as well as my parents. I also could describe a room to my parents in great detail (where I was) although I never saw that room. They moved me to a room with a window. I could see all of the tubes I had and see the looks on people’s faces. I was then in a wheel chair wearing a priests robe with a cross around my neck. There were others around me wearing the same thing and we were all in white. The whole scene was the brightest white you could imagine.
While in the wheel chair I was unable to speak. Both the wheel chair and not being able to speak later made sense because when I woke up from my coma I was completely paralyzed from my neck down and I also had a trache in my throat. The same priest I saw in the prison was in this experience as well and he kept coming up to me saying, “Matt what do you want, what do you want to do?” I could not answer him and he told me they were having a vote. He didn’t say specifically what the vote was about but made sure I was completely comfortable with everything that was happening. He came back to me and said that vote did not pass. I was upset by this and he told me it was not my time and I would have another chance later.
The next thing I remember I was awake. The light was a very bright, warm, comforting light that made me completely comfortable with staying there. I did not see a tunnel with a light at the end because I believe that I was at the end and the vote was to see whether or not I stayed. The face on the priest was a blur to me, although it was the same blur in both scenes. After I was out of the hospital it was crystal clear to me who the priest was. He was my next-door neighbor growing up. His wife used to baby-sit me and I was very close to him. When I was 10 years old, he was cutting branches off a tree when he fell off his ladder and died. He was the first person I knew that had died and I was crushed by it. It was him for sure in both instances, first I think letting me know something was going to happen and I needed him and second, making sure I was comfortable through the trauma I was going through. The whole experience has opened my eyes to the topic of out of body and near death experiences. I have talked to different groups about my experience and try to help people not take things for granted. I feel I am a much better person having gone through this experience.