14 November 2022
Dear Relatives, Friends and Readers,
The book “Life After Life” by Raymond Moody, M.D., PhD was published in 1975 and written from a psychiatric viewpoint. According to Wikipedia, “It is a report on a qualitative study in which Moody interviewed 150 people who had undergone near-death experiences. The book presents the author’s composite account of what it is like to die, supplemented with individual accounts.”
We read the book in 1976, and my wife and I were totally absorbed with the content, but never did we consider that dying and returning would ever happen to either of us.
Background: In 1970-71, during the Vietnam War, I was definitely exposed to Agent Orange. On tax day 1998, I was diagnosed with Ischemic Heart Disease, congestive heart failure (CHF), and cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart). The cardiologist advised me that the diagnosis meant I had about 5 years to live. The hand of the LORD and self-discipline helped me to overcome that limitation.
In 2002 Tachycardia and Atrial Fibrillation were added to my diagnoses. In other words, I was barely making it. In 2010, cardiologists implanted a two-wire pacemaker/defibrillator into my chest. In 2013, cardiologists gave me less than a year to live and in 2014 they upgraded it to a three-wire. The Good LORD above and a great medical team at Cedars-Sinai in Hollywood, CA saw me through it. Bottom Line: I was a dead man walking, living on borrowed time.
Account of the recent near-death experience from a physical point of view:
Just after midnight in mid-October I felt an extreme pain in my heart, followed by a feeling of collapsing (I was sitting), seeing and feeling a downward black and white spiral, then a triangle of black with a white dot in the middle. In response I felt my pacemaker/defibrillator explode like a bomb inside my chest, thrusting my chest outward and causing intense pain. My brain said to call the Emergency Room (ER), but my shocked body had disoriented my thinking process from my cardiological advice and I went to bed. At 2:22 AM it happened again with more intensity. I woke up my wife and pleaded with her to take me to the ER, realizing later that I should have called 911 for the Rescue Squad; but my thinking process was still in chaos. I was admitted to the ER then to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (C-ICU) where about 10:00 AM I had another firing episode in front of 4 nurses, as I was shouting “HELP, help me!”
The monitoring machine told the story and the nurses were in shock themselves. I described the experience to the attending nurses and physicians as being electrocuted. The shock wave throughout my body was a jolt that is difficult to describe, but it was a total drive forward each time it jolted me. It was later explained to me by several cardiologists that each time I was dead and that the implanted defibrillator brought me back from the passing-away experience.
Reflections on the experience:
From my readings from the introductory book on the subject and several others it is understood how a reader could conclude that I was imagining the near-death experience, but it was entirely real and personal. The machines in the C-ICU recorded the situation and that part was and is objective and empirical evidence of that unqualified fact.
I have struggled with finding a meaning to each level described in the near-death section above. I am impressed that each item in the sequence has a meaning and story behind it.
The punishing pain in the chest is typical of heart dysfunction, whether it be a heart attack or failure. Many people have reported that feeling at various levels of agony from “an elephant stepping on my chest,” to detonations in their torsos, to lesser troubles.
Collapsing when the heart is the root cause is a sign of entire loss of body control. For me I was sitting or in a bed each time it occurred. Weakness and shaking in my knees and other muscles were experienced, as while sitting my head started to fall forward. It is reported that individuals who were standing at that point fall and could and do sustain other injuries. This is why hospitals put “serious fall risk” on their charts and the white board in the patient’s room. They even have an electric buzzer that makes a loud noise when the patient tries to leave the bed.
The black and white spiral was indicative of life leaving my body. It was very fast with a white spiral in the background, and the corkscrew part was the black outline of the coiled sight and feeling. Yes, the phenomenon was both felt and seen. The feeling was one of deflating like a balloon when the end is released by a child seeking flight. I sensed the life being sucked out of me. The downward trajectory led me to the black triangle. Also, I felt a concentrated headache on the left side; a very unusual experience. My left brain was blacking out. What I saw was a descent like falling down into a mountain crevasse or dropping off a tall structure. The experience was taking me away from reality and heading toward point zero of the spiral.
The triangle with the dot in the middle needs some definition. The larger side of the triangle was to my left and the pointed end to the right. The white dot was slightly to the right of center of the three-way character. In previously reported near-death involvements persons have described a black tunnel with a light at the end of it. My situation took me no further because the defibrillator kicked in and fired me back to conscious semi-normalcy. Some have described the light as intense (many stated the presence of a pronounced being), meeting people they had known such as relatives and friends welcoming them and other folks they didn’t know. Some have described music, both familiar and novel. Some envision a filmy entranceway. Could this opaque image be the pearly gates described through the ages by many? This is something to mull but not dwell upon.
A note of appreciation: I am ultimately thankful to the LORD Almighty, for He is the God of second chances in many ways both physically and spiritually. In my particular case I can only coin a phrase, “God ain’t done with me yet.” I will seek His purpose for my future and my “resurrection.”
I am thankful also to William Kouwenhoven, the electrical engineer who in 1930 invented the external defibrillator, and especially grateful to Alois A. Langer, the engineer on the medical team that invented the first automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). This device is inserted in the human body and automatically corrects potentially fatal irregular heartbeat patterns called arrhythmias.
I am indebted to the long line of interventional cardiologists who have kept me alive the past 24½ years and especially to local Dr. Matthew Sackett, whose team recently treated me and are still adjusting medications.
Peace and health to all,
James M. Hoover, CACM
Captain, USAF (Retired)