Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Funny, frequently profane and adamantly atheistic"

That's what the Washington Post article called my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience." True. It also labeled as grumpy my thought, when I awoke from my coma, "Goddammit, I just fell back asleep." That's another fair point, since I do indeed tend to be grumpy when I've been woken from a deep slumber. That sleep was about as deep as you can get.

At any rate, the only problem with the WaPo article was inadvertent. It called my SI article "Cover Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience." No one put a sheet over my head, after all. I've been meaning to contact them to tell them about the typo.

The one thing I didn't like about the article was a comment made on it. Perhaps it's that adamant atheism, but this comment by Kathryn Wakeford irked me.
Or perhaps, the relatives knew she wasn't dying.
A wag, Chenopod, responded:
 And that she needed ice cream
That was funny. My reply was more serious.
I was expected to die. My boyfriend overheard one doctor saying to another that I wasn't a candidate for a lung transplant because they should save it for someone who has a chance. Indeed, I've often said that I was about as close to death as you can get without actually dying. 
In my article, I explained that according to the REM intrusion theory, near-death experiences are all a form of dream. I can't get into all the details here, but according to a study, as a lucid dreamer I had significantly increased chance of having an NDE. The reason I didn't see heaven or dead relatives is because I don't believe in life after death. Since I was raised without religion, I instead saw images influence by the '50s sci-fi movies I love and secular childhood influences.
I felt affronted at the suggestion that I wasn't really close to death. But her comment wasn't really about me. It was about her need to reaffirm her faith in the afterlife by believing reports of visits to Heaven during near-death experiences.

Perhaps I shouldn't have responded, but I felt like I needed to clarify the situation for others who might feel as she did. I think the other part of her thought process may have been, of course I wasn't dying because I didn't. Talk about circular logic! My dead relative knew that would be the outcome, so they stayed away. That certainly would've been something my living loved ones would've liked to have known when the doctors were telling them to prepare for the worst.

If I had been a Catholic, I would've received Last Rites. Instead, I heard Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Incidentally, Douglas Adams was also funny, frequently profane and adamantly atheistic. Not that I'm comparing myself to him, of course.

I tend to panic.

Oh, and about that wry commentator...my boyfriend Keith often goes by Chenopod online.

Probably a coincidence.

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.