Thursday, April 28, 2016

Holy Moses?

The Secular Spectrum: Holy Moses?

I was already an atheist, but I had begun identifying more and more with my Jewish heritage. So one year, my agnostic mother and I loaded up our grocery cart with Jewish foods from the ethnic foods aisle in preparation for a secular Passover. We also picked up a Haggadah, which I barely glanced after we took it home.

To be honest, it wasn't really a Passover seder. We dispensed with all the rituals and went straight for the food.

As I write about in the SecSpec post, I decided that the creamed pickled herring might be useful in case of accidental ingestion of a poison. The borscht, I loaded with more and more sour cream--trying to make it edible--until it looked like Pepto Bismol. But I thought the honey cake and cookies were pretty good--no surprise from someone with such a sweet tooth.

It wasn't really a Passover seder at all, and we never tried it again. Since I didn't grow up with much Jewish culture, my Jewish identity would have to come from within.

And if I never look at another creamed pickled herring, I'll die a happy person.

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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.