Thursday, December 10, 2015

Riding the Hippocampus Hobby-Horse with Santa and the Coca-Cola Polar Bears

The Secular SpectrumRiding the Hippocampus Hobby-Horse with Santa and the Coca-Cola Polar Bears

I didn't realize that everyone wasn't sometimes aware when they were dreaming until several years ago, when I read an article about lucid dreaming. Later, as I was researching my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," I learned that according to the REM intrusion theory, my lucid dreaming meant I was far more likely to have a near-death experience.

I even lucid dreamed during my NDE. I noticed that my "new" boyfriend looked a lot like Keith--even down to the klugey repair of his glasses he was forced to make when they broke in Sicily. But Keith didn't have a full beard, so he couldn't be the person telling me all about his plans for us when I was better. I went through various names for this new boyfriend (which meant that I thought it was an ordinary dream). I finally settled on Ricardo, for some reason. Perhaps the name was inspired by Ricardo Montalban. I have no idea why, but I did note that he seemed to be exceedingly polite. He kept saying "Thank you, sir" to people. Oddly enough, Keith does that too, though I never really noticed it before my coma-dream.

Later, after my awakening, I was greeted by a respiratory therapist at my new nursing home. His name was Ricardo. Pure coincidence, of course, but weird nonetheless.

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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.