Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Did they feed him Miracle Gro brain food?

This was Eben Alexander on Oprah. He looks awfully articulate for someone without a cerebral cortex.
Proof of Heaven is far from it. But I'm going to take a different tack from the Esquire expose of Eben Alexander. To me, what Eben Alexander claims to have experienced was nothing more than a coma-dream. Certainly, fraud comes to mind when you consider his indefensible assertion that his cerebral cortex was basically dead. As neuroscientist Sam Harris said in a cogent blog post, that would imply that his brain grew back. Now that would be a miracle. Though Alexander continually asserts that he's a man of science, his approach to his own case shows that he's anything but.

If he could acknowledge that his brain was still functioning during his near-death experience, he might be able to see patterns that parallel my own coma-dream. When I began reading Proof of Heaven, I was immediately struck by his description of the continual, deep, rhythmic pounding that rang out in his Earthworm's-Eye View segments, which he likens to a distant blacksmith pounding an anvil. That blacksmith must get around, because I heard him too. But then, I imagined the sound coming from as a giant bell that slowly struck out the melody of "Rocky Mountain High." Usually, that is. Sometimes it would lose the beat, but if I listened long enough, it would eventually pick up the melody again. (I was of course imagining the pattern in the first place.) I would often focus on the sound as I attempted to lull myself back to sleep. As I mentioned in my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," a running theme of my coma-dream was that I was in suffering through a miserably sleepless night. That sound was undoubtedly the machinery keeping me alive. But this supposed man of science never considered that as a possibility. I had my own personal production of Stomp performed in my honor, with my ventilator, heart monitor, feeding pump, and dialysis machine, all rhythmically whooshing, clicking, and beeping, punctuated by the frequent wailing of alarms. It's no wonder that I dreamed I couldn't sleep.

Coming up in Friday's blog, the rest of the low-down on Alexander's so-called Earthworm's-Eye View segment of his NDE and what it has in common with my coma-dream.

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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.