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

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.