Investigation of One Classic NDE
Of many possible examples, one that caught my attention in particular was that of Pam Reynolds (a pseudonym). Her case is written up well by IANDS (the International Association for Near-Death Studies) and also appears in a variety of easily accessed articles on the web, so I will keep my account brief.
In order to perform surgery deep in her brain, Pam underwent a rare surgical procedure called ‘Operation Standstill’. The blood was drained from the body like oil from a car, stopping all brain, heart and organ activity – such that the brain waves flatlined. Her body temperature was lowered to 50 °F (10 °C). While fully anesthetized, she was fitted with sound-emitting earplugs that clicked at 90 decibels, louder than a lawnmower, 11 to 33 times per second. This clicking prevented all external sound from being heard, but did not register at all in her brainwaves, which still flatlined. Her brainstem potentials had ceased and blood was completely absent from her brain. Her eyes were also taped over to prevent vision. To all intents and purposes, she was totally isolated from the world, and by all conventional criteria was 'dead' without brain function during the main part of this procedure – and even if her brain had been still active, vision and hearing of events in the theatre had been made impossible.
Dr Spetzler, the surgeon, was sawing into her skull when Pam suddenly heard the saw and began to observe the surgical procedures (despite taped-over eyes) from a vantage point over his shoulder. She also heard what the nurses said to the doctors (despite the ear plugs). Upon returning to consciousness, she was able to describe with accuracy the distinctive surgical instruments used and she was able to report the statements made by the nurses. These details were corroborated independently.
The surgical equipment that she saw and described on return to her body was unique. She could not have seen this specialist equipment beforehand, though confidently described ‘what looked like an electric toothbrush with a dent in it’, and she said that ‘the tool had interchangeable blades that were kept in a tool box that looked like a socket wrench case’ – extraordinarily good descriptions for a person not specialised or knowledgeable in brain surgery. In fact she managed to describe the operation itself and the equipment in great detail even some years later when interviewed, confusing only minor details despite the passage of time, which makes her an extraordinarily convincing witness. The cardiologist Michael Sabom[x] comments further on her case:
Pam was monitored extensively during this ultra-tricky procedure. No brainwave activity. No brain stem activity. So this eliminates the possibility that her NDE was a seizure phenomenon because during the experience she had no seizure activity recorded on the EEG... Could there have somehow been brain activity e.g. memories, dreams, hallucinations, oxygen deprivation etc? NO! There was NO brainwave activity such as characterises these during the operation.
Wherever Pam's memories were forming, it could not have been in the brain!
Many Christians believe Pam's memories were forming in her soul, which is the true seat of intellectual activity into which the brain feeds while alive, but which departs together with the spirit at death. Some research on mice suggests that the brain may remain conscious for some time after the heart stops beating, according to University of Michigan researchers. It may even function more acutely in the moments immediately following a cardiac arrest compared with when the body is in a normal state. Pam's brain waves, however, were constantly being monitored and she flatlined much of the time, so these findings could not explain her observations.
The accuracy with which Pam and thousands of others have described conversations and procedures while supposedly dead can give us great confidence in their descriptions of what happened next to them as they entered into the spirit world. They are demonstrably accurate witnesses. Here are some of Pam's brief descriptions of her experiences as she entered that 'parallel' world17:
There was a sensation like being pulled, but not against your will. I was going on my own accord because I wanted to go.
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. 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...
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. They would not permit me to go further. I wanted to go into the light, but I also wanted to come back. I had children to be reared.
Still in her NDE, Pam recalls being led down the tunnel by her deceased uncle and re-entering her chilled physical body as her heart was shocked back to normal rhythm.
I have read attempts by sceptics to explain away the Pam Reynolds case. Writers locked into a material Universe cannot conceptualise a spirit, or that spirit leaving a body and making observations. Multiple accounts confirm this phenomenon, however. Dr Michael Sabom[xi] published his astonishing research on the accuracy with which comatose and clinically dead patients were able to describe medical procedures. He took special care to examine independent corroborative evidence such as medical records for the visual and auditory observations reported during OBEs. His research data strongly supports the claims made by his subjects, that though they were in a coma or had even been declared medically dead, they were nevertheless conscious outside of their bodies! His data illustrates that those who reported seeing the resuscitation process were astonishingly accurate in what they say they observed. Sceptical at the start of his investigations, which began in 1976, Sabom became convinced by the evidence of the reality of NDEs.
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