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

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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.