Friday, October 9, 2015

Casting about for an answer

As I've stated before, the first dateable element in my coma-dream was the MRI voice. It was July 22, 2013--the day my brain began to reboot. "Hold your breath...exhale," reverberated the calming baritone. I couldn't make out the words, nor could I hold my breath because I was on a respirator. But I recognized that distinctive low monotone once I awoke. It's clear from reading Proof of Heaven that Eben Alexander did much retrospective interpretation of his near-death experience of his own. I believe that the bulk of my coma-dream occurred in the last few weeks before my awakening. Those MRI voice segments tended to be brief. Interspersed with the more detailed coma-dream serials of my increasingly conscious mind, they were dispatches from an earlier, barely aware state.

I feared a serial killer had implanted a chip in my head. But that voice was different from the stalker/serial killer who kept whispering all those encouraging things in my brain. Could two serial killers have implanted chips in my head? The second one was a kinder, gentler sort of serial killer, praising my every movement. "Good job! You're getting stronger every day. I will always love you. And I will never leave you." That last one certainly sounded like something a stalker might say. It didn't make sense that a stalker/serial killer would say such positive, supportive things, but who else would plant a chip in my head? My brain was instinctively trying to make sense of what it was perceiving, grabbing ideas from movies and TV shows I had watched.

My awareness was likely flickering in and out at this point. At first my eyes were closed, as they would've been during the MRI. Later, when they were open, I couldn't focus my gaze. As often as not, I was still hearing instead of seeing the people around me. In the earlier state, I sensed only a deep, sonorous voice and a feeling of being dragged. This vague memory remained with me as that encouraging voice morphed into my "new" boyfriend (who wasn't Keith because he had a full beard), Far from being a stalker, he planted soft kisses on my forehead and told me all about his future plans for us. He, too, said he would never leave me. And he hasn't.

You may say that this is nothing like what Eben Alexander experienced. But his NDE--or coma-dream--started out simple, vague, and confused. It became progressively more detailed...just like mine did. Needless to say, it took me weeks longer to slowly emerge than his piddling seven days. And like Eben's NDE, I alternated between scenes from a higher state of consciousness and ones where I was barely aware, covertly or otherwise.

Alexander claims that his cortex had been destroyed, a medical impossibility considering that he's not lying in a hospital, a candidate for organ donation. On the contrary, his brain was every bit as functional as mine was. If it weren't, he wouldn't be able to remember his NDE. That requires a working brain. Duh. His brain was straining to piece together a story, as mine was, cobbling it together from whatever it could perceive, based on his own influences. He may not have been religious before his coma, but unlike me he grew up steeped in the Christian tradition. He says so himself in Proof of Heaven.

Was the first segment of his NDE--the so-called Realm of the Earthworm's-Eye View--simply his brain's attempt to visualize its struggle to emerge from a vicious bacterial attack? That's close to what Alexander once thought before abandoning the idea. Yeah, like that's less likely than flying on the wings of a butterfly. Gee, that kind of sounds like a dream, doesn't it? He actually calls his consciousness at this time "limited." Exactly. To me, his NDE seems more like a long coma-dream than a pitstop in Heaven. It even had revolving segments, as he travelled back and forth between the realms of the Earthworm's-Eye View, the Gateway, and the Core. I had some control over my set group of coma-dreams, as well. When I got bored, I could switch the channel to another favorite program. Perhaps, like me, his coma-dream occurred near the end, as he was beginning to emerge from his coma. And it began with an element from his earlier state...one where his consciousness was still mired in muck.

2 comments:

  1. What I find interesting is he has a $3 million malpractice lawsuit against him, gets ill, has coma induced, his brain "destroyed," then comes back, writes a book about heaven being real. Money problems solved. What's not to believe?

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  2. The Esquire piece makes an excellent case why he may have made up the story, delineating instances of his shaky morals in covering up for his mistakes. But there are enough things that feel like a coma-dream to me that I think he actually perceived parts of his NDE, albeit only in his mind. Most of the rest is later interpretation and literary license. He's also self-aggrandizing a great deal, which does fit his portrayal in the Esquire article.

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

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In July of 2013, I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died. When I awoke from the coma, I could barely lift my head. It has been a hard road to recovery. The doctors advised my loved ones to give up all hope for my full recovery, but while they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of consciousness, I was telling them grumpily to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep...in my coma-dream. I was experiencing covert cognition, and the coma-dream was my version of a near-death experience. I'm a skeptic, so I saw surreal images instead of spirits or dead loved ones. According to my research, as many as one in five people with consciousness disorders have covert cognition.

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.