Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Proof of Heaven or the living dead?

Many NDE true-believers have claimed that the reason I didn't see Heaven was I didn't die. Even cardiac arrest patients who have had NDEs weren't truly dead, just clinically dead. Or, in the words of Miracle Max, they were mostly dead. If they were really most sincerely dead, they wouldn't have lived to tell the tale. But Eben Alexander never actually died, clinically, in the Miracle Max sense, zombified, or in any other definition of the word. Here again is that instructive account from a doctor who was treating Alexander during his bout with meningitis (as quoted in the famous Esquire expose of Eben Alexander).
"And of course he was still in an induced coma," she says. "On ventilator support. They tried to let him wake up and see what he would do, but he was in exactly the same agitated state. Even if they tried to ease up, a little bit even, on the sedation. In fact, for days, every time they would try to wean his sedation—just thrashing, trying to scream, and grabbing at his tube."
Alexander's claim that his brain was basically dead during his coma simply isn't supported by the evidence. My illness and strokes put me into a six-week coma; his coma was induced and he became agitated every time his doctors tried to decrease his sedation. Surely my brain was more incapacitated than his, and it didn't cease functioning. He was mentally altered, to be sure, as I was before I slipped into my coma and every mornings before and since. But whereas my illness caused me to slip into a coma even before my strokes, his coma was induced by his doctors to control him so they could save his life. And, remember, he also claimed that he screamed out while he was intubated. I can attest from personal experience to the impossibility of that claim. 
This pic was taken during my second bout of Legionnaires' disease. Yes, second.
And this is what happens when brain cells die. 
It's not as bad as it looks.
Fortunately, my brain damage was stopped before my "string of pearls" strokes turned into a treasure chest. When brains truly cease functioning their owners do too. This is the National Kidney Association's blunt definition of brain death.
Brain death is a legal definition of death. It is the complete and irreversible cessation (stopping) of all brain function. It means that, as a result of severe trauma or injury to the brain, the body's blood supply to the brain is blocked, and the brain dies. Brain death is death. It is permanent and irreversible.
When I was a small child, my uncle explained to me that Beethoven was deaf when he wrote his later symphonies. But I misheard; I thought he said that old Ludwig was dead when he wrote them. I puzzled over this, trying to understand how that could be. I imagined him dropping dead beside his piano, suddenly coming back to life, playing a few notes, scribbling them down, then dropping dead again...over and over.

Could this be what happened to Eben Alexander? And did he come back in order to blave, which according to Miracle Max means to bluff?


  1. I love the Miracle Max comment, so appropriate, and from a great movie too. Reminds me of Monty Python, "not dead yet."

    1. Thanks! I adore the Princess Bride--it's one of my favorite movies. I love Monty Python, too, and I imagine there is a great deal of overlap between the fans. My comment about "blaving" probably wasn't fair, because I suspect Eben Alexander truly believes his story, or has at least convinced himself of its truth. But for obvious reasons, I am POed at the suggestion that his brain wasn't capable of imagining his NDE because he was in a coma.

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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.