Thursday, December 17, 2015

Because the Bible Tells Me So

The Secular SpectrumBecause the Bible Tells Me So

Some kids feel anxious about their first day in junior high; others are excited. I was a little of both. I had the usual worries about finding new friends, the new teachers, the schoolwork, etc., but I was also eager to be able to stop praying before lunch. I was sure once I left my elementary school, the praying would stop.

This was a major source of anxiety for me as a secular child. I was picked on and/or beaten up on a daily basis, so I couldn't afford for the other kids to know that I wasn't really reciting the words to our lunchtime prayer. So, I mouthed the words, sneaking glances to see if anyone seemed to notice that no sound was coming from my lips. Fortunately, I was never found out.

But in my new junior high homeroom, I chose a desk, put down my book bag, and as I settled into the chair, the teacher asked who wanted to read their favorite passage from the bible.

My heart sank.

I sunk down in the chair and tried to remain invisible. Another girl raised her hand. After the teacher handed her the bible, the girl read. I heaved a sigh of relief.

The same scene repeated every school day until my mother and I moved to LA.

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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 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.