During cardiac catheterization, my left ventricle ruptured, and I developed cardiac tamponade. As a result, my blood pressure was reduced to 20/0. Needle penetration through the chest wall and into the pericardial sac allowed aspiration of the blood and relief of the tamponade temporarily. I was taken to surgery for repair of the left ventricle.
Due to the loss of blood pressure for approximately 34-40 minutes, my vital organs subsequently failed three days later. This delay is not unusual if organs are to fail. The totality of the failure cannot be explained. Specifically, my liver enzymes were elevated 400 times normal while my pancreatic enzymes elevated 100 times normal and my kidney function decreased to 1% of normal. My spleen became dysfunctional and I developed disseminated intravascular coagulation with a platelet count of zero. I developed significant pulmonary emboli, and my left lung collapsed. My heart arrested twice, and I was "jump started." It was during one of the arrests that I apparently experienced the NDE.
I left my body, but the exact location was not evident. I found myself in a tunnel of light with a diameter of roughly twenty feet. It was warm, comforting and created total calmness. I was content and without apprehension.
Having read of this phenomenon during my medical training, I was quite aware of the circumstances. I could feel the presence of a devine source, and indicated my willingness to pass from this world. I realized that this was not the end but rather a transition and I was motivated to explore the future. However, I indicated that if my work on earth was not complete as per my Creator, I was ready to return; but I remember thinking, "We better put the plumbing back together again because things don't look very good." It was at that very moment that I found myself again in the hospital bed, intubated and on life support as had been the case for the previous two weeks.
Back on the "home front," my family was informed that if my heart stopped again, they would not attempt any heroic measures since all of my organs had literally failed. However, my heart did not stop and 20 minutes later my blood was drawn for values. Amazingly, the platelet count had increased to 28,000 and within 24 hours was a normal 350,000. Also, within 24 hours, my liver functions and renal functions had returned to normal. By 72 hours, the pancreas read normal blood values. A repeat CT scan of my lungs revealed complete resolution of the pulmonary emboli. Because of the liver failure, I had gained 50 pounds of fluid retention over two weeks. All 50 pounds were micturated within 24 hours of the NDE. I walked out of the hospital four days after the NDE, and was walking/jogging three miles at a time within two weeks.
The event of the NDE feels like yesterday. It is more real than reality. My professional associates have been very supportive in verifying similar episodes that their patients have experienced. Initially, I did not disclose the event, until a good friend/physician asked what I thought about, knowing that I was dying. After describing the event, I was amazed at the openness he expressed, and how other physicians came forth with their own experiences.
As a cancer specialist, I deal with death every day. Obviously, this experience now allows me to deal with patient and family on a level that I never knew before. I was literally ignorant of the true meaning of life. Physicians by their training consider death a measure of failure. I can now, without fear, view death as a natural continuum. I appreciate the beauty of this world more, and have been fortunate enough to glimpse the future.
As a scientist, I can appreciate the need for dedicated research performed in controlled settings...always questioning. I can ot however deny the reality of my own experience. The idea that the NDE can be explained by metabolic, electrical or other physiological parameters is unacceptable...as unacceptable as describing my abrupt recovery when statistics would tell us that there is no way I should have survived.