Somewhere, a man is jogging. His heart seizes, and he collapses. A reckless driver decides that text just can't wait until he gets where he's going, and he drifts across the double lines into oncoming traffic. Your cat chooses now to finally fulfill his mission, so he rubs against your legs at the exact second you take that first step down the stairs.
On the way to the hospital, each of these patients' hearts stop. They are dead—for a few seconds, or minutes, even. Doctors work frantically to revive their hearts during those precious moments of twilight, the wavering between life and death.
The white light, growing brighter as you traverse a dark tunnel. The visits with long-lost relatives, or complete strangers. Watching everyone attend to your body without you having any connection to it. Complete and total peace.
The near-death experience (NDE). The stories become legendary. Some people say they talked to God, or Jesus gave them a guided tour of the afterlife. People watch the operations being performed on their bodies, or sit with their loved ones as they pray for them. Others report darker, more frightening apparitions. Not everyone has an NDE, and no two afterlife experiences are alike, but the basic traits are similar.
Dutch cardiologist Pim van Lommel conducted a study of three hundred forty-four patients revived after a cardiac arrest. Only sixty-two of those studied reported signs of an NDE. While none reported a negative experience, of those sixty-two, only thirty-four had positive emotions associated with their NDE.
What leads to someone having an NDE? Well, beyond a heart that stops beating and starts up again? A recent study of fifty-two heart attack patients revealed only eleven had NDEs.
The patients' religion, gender, age, race, or even the amount of time it to revive them had no bearing on the likelihood of a near-death experience. Near-death experiences appear to be a world-wide phenomenon. Given the lack of single identifying characteristics of those experiences these images, it seems neither nature nor nurture have any bearing on someone's afterlife visit.
Is there a medical explanation behind these metaphysical experiences? Has science found a common denominator? Is it because neurotransmitters in the brain are misfiring, or an excess of carbon dioxide gasses in the bloodstream? The study mentioned above did find elevated levels of CO2 in the eleven patients that reported NDEs. Of course some scientists point out that high CO2 levels are what cause cardiac arrests in the first place, so the levels will be high in all the patients, including the small percentage of those reporting NDEs.
Post-traumatic care reveals that medications are not inclined to induce these visions. Dr. Ring concluded anesthesia is more likely to cause a person to forget these occurrences. Is it possible everyone is having these experiences, but they can't remember them afterward? The effects of a near-death experience can be produced by certain drugs in the arylcyclohexylamine family. By reproducing the effects in a controlled environment, have scientists negated the possibility of a more spiritual explanation of near-death experiences?
The nature of the NDE makes it impossible to prove or disprove their link to a higher calling. Everyone experiences it differently. It becomes a part of them and affects every decision they make for the rest of their lives.