Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander believed that near-death experiences were impossible until he was attacked by a rare illness which plunged him into a coma and he embarked upon a trip to heaven, according to his New York Times bestseller “Proof of Heaven.” A highly-trained neurosurgeon, Dr. Alexander believed that while NDEs feel real to the people who are experiencing them, they are “simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.”
But Alexander’s opinion was radically altered after he went through an NDE himself. In his fascinating book he recounts how he awoke one morning and felt a wave of pain shoot down his spine. The pain only increased as he further awakened. Believing he was only suffering from a flu virus, he decided to try a warm bath to ease the pain.
As he stood up the pain “ratcheted up another notch”. He described the pain as being a dull, punishing throb penetrating deeply at the base of his spine. Leaving his wife Holley asleep, he headed down the hall to the upstairs bathroom. He believed warm water would do him some good as he eased himself into the bathtub.
He was wrong. By the time the tub was half full, the pain only increased. The pain became so intense he feared he would have to yell for Holley to assist his exit from the tub. Trying to avoid waking his wife, he grabbed a towel hanging from a rack directly above him and pulled himself up. The next “jolt of pain” which shot down his back was so intense that he realized he was not suffering from the flu.
Dr. Alexander, who graduated from Duke Medical School, somehow ambled back to the bedroom where he collapsed on their bed which finally did wake Holley up. She asked him what was going on.
After Holley rubbed his back, it made him feel a little better. He was convinced he would be able to go to work and admitted “doctors hate to be sick.” However by 6:30 a.m., the time he usually left for work, he was still in extreme pain and virtually paralyzed.
Their son Bond came into the room and began massaging the surgeon’s temples gently. That touch sent such an extreme pain coursing through his head that the doctor screamed. When his wife suggested calling an ambulance, Alexander refused, dreading the experience of being a patient in the emergency room of his own hospital.
While Holley took Bond downstairs to prepare for school, the neurosurgeon slipped into unconsciousness. She discovered him lying in bed, his body rigid as a board and jerking violently. His jaw was jutting foward and his eyes were open and rolling back in his head. She called 9-1-1.
Alexander said the Lynchburg General Hospital Emergency room is the second busiest in the state of Virginia. It was clear to Dr. Laura Potter that based on his raving and writhing around that his brain was under heavy attack. She ran through the possible diagnoses in her head while ordering a lumbar puncture. This is a procedure by which a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid is extracted from the base of the spine.
The lumbar puncture and other tests revealed to the treating physicians that their colleague was suffering from bacterial meningitis caused by Escherichia coli…..more simply referred to as e.coli. The organism is estimated to be between three and four billion years old by scientists.
The last three words he uttered were “God help me!” before he sank into unconsciousness for seven days as the e.coli brutally launched its deadly assault on his brain.
The doctors held a conference seven days later and were on the verge of unplugging Dr. Alexander from the life-support system, believing there was no hope left for him when his eyes opened and he “came back to life.”
Dr. Alexander said the journey he took while he was unconscious is not a fantasy. Before he underwent his unusual trek, he was not able to reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. Following his out of this world journey, he is convinced that “true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition.”
Following his unprecedented journey while unconscious, the doctor wrote down his memories of his trip including traveling through what he described as the Realm of the Earthworm’s Eye View, the Gateway and the Core. He claimed he met God and Jesus during his travels.
Alexander has been an academic neurosurgeon for the last 25 years including 15 years at the Brigham and Women’s and the Children’s Hospitals and Harvard Medical School in Boston. Readers may visit him at www.lifebeyonddeath.net.
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