Cathy L's ADC 

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Experience description:  

There are two parts to the experience.  At the time of the accident, while I was still in the car before the paramedics arrived and while they were trying to free me, I saw my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other people I knew, but also knew were dead, above me in the sky.  They were enclosed in transparent bubbles, like soap bubbles, and they just floated against the backdrop of the blue sky and clouds.  I felt like they were there waiting, in case I would need them.  They didn't speak to me, nor I to them, but they just hovered there like they were waiting for me.  I understood that the bubbles were a barrier, that until I actually died, I couldn't reach them because they were in the bubbles.  Once I was in the ambulance, I no longer saw them. 

I was conscious during the rescue, and I have a fairly good memory of the events until I got to the hospital.  I remember a few flashes of details of the rest of that day and the next, and I remember being taken by stretcher to the helicopter to go to Houston.  I don't remember arriving in Houston, and I have what feel more like "impressions" than actual memories for the next few weeks. 

However, there is one very clear memory I have from the first couple of weeks that I was at Hermann in the ICU.  My father, who died in 1978, sat with me in my ICU room for those first two weeks.  He was equally as real as my mother and my husband.  He talked to me, and I talked back to him out loud.  My mother and Michael would ask me over and over who I was talking to, and I remember telling them it was Daddy, and thinking it was strange that they didn't know that because he was sitting with us in the room.  He sat in a chair to my left at the end of the bed, and my mom and Michael sat in chairs to my right.  I remember warning people not to sit in the chair on the left because Daddy was sitting in it, and again wondering why they didn't see him there.  At the end of the time he was there, I understood that I had to stay here for my children, that there were things I had to do that I hadn't yet done.  He told me that he had been with me until I decided if I was going to live or die, to help me decide, and that once I made my decision to stay, he had to go back. 

Once I was consistently lucid, I asked about my dad--whether what I experienced was real or a dream, and my mother cried when she told me that I HAD talked to him and I had insisted that he was with me in the room.  She couldn't see him, but she verified to me that I had conversed with him and had been a little testy when they would ask who I was talking to, like I though that it was obvious since he was sitting at the end of my bed that I was talking to my father.

Was the kind of experience difficult to express in words? Yes,    I saw people in my family who were in the sky floating in something that looked like bubbles.  The picture in my head is so clear, but the words don't feel like they convey the full experience.

At the time of this experience, was there an associated life threatening event?          Yes     I was hit head-on on a highway.  Both of us were traveling 70 MPH.  The many who hit me was an elderly man driving the wrong way on the highway, and he was killed instantly at the scene.  I was badly injured, and it took several hours to free me from the vehicle.  I was transported to the hospital in Bryan, TX where they stabilized my femur fractures and removed my spleen.  The next day I was life-flighted to Houston (Memorial Hermann Hospital).  The husband of one of my friends was the orthopedic PA on duty during my surgery, and he told his wife that night that no one expected me to survive.  I had 25+ surgeries to repair injuries to both legs, my right foot, my right wrist, my left hip and pelvis, and the spinous processes of my lower T-spine and L-spine, skin and muscle grafts to repair a large soft tissue injury to my left lower leg and ankle, and eventually, to amputate my left lower leg after a year-long course of IV antibiotics.  I had numerous blood transfusions, never woke up from surgery without a fever and hallucinations, and I had tachycardia that required administering adenosine to stop and regulate my heart rate.  After 6 weeks in ICU and four months at an inpatient rehab hospital, I went home. I am now 4-1/2 years out from the accident, and although I have significant impairment, I am here to take care of my children, now 9 and 15 (they were just-turned-5 and almost 10 at the time of the wreck).

At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness?    I would have to say that I was most "overtly" alert while I was in the car prior to being removed by the paramedics.  I remember assessing my obvious injuries and thinking that it would be a lot easier to die than to try to recover.  I also remember thinking that I didn't know if I had the strength of will it would require to recover from the injuries.   

Although I was in and out of consciousness (and anesthesia) during the time that I talked with my dad in my hospital room, I can remember feeling very lucid regarding his and my conversations, but that it was difficult and painful to communicate with my family and caregivers at the hospital.  Now that I am removed from the experience, I don't remember details of our conversations.  I only remember that he was there, that he communicated to me that I had to be the one to choose if I lived or died, that my children would benefit from my presence, and that he was gone once I had made a definite commitment to staying here.

How did your highest level of consciousness and alertness during the experience compare to your normal every day consciousness and alertness?    Less consciousness and alertness than normal

If your highest level of consciousness and alertness during the experience was different from your normal every day consciousness and alertness, please explain:            This was hard to answer.  If anything, I was more highly conscious of life and death, but less able to communicate with my caregivers when they asked questions about my physical condition, my comfort, level of pain, or anything that was of less ultimate importance.

Did your vision differ in any way from your normal, everyday vision (in any aspect, such as clarity, field of vision, colors, brightness, depth perception degree of solidness/transparency of objects, etc.)?  Yes     The main difference I remember is that the boundary between life and death was gone in the sense that when I saw people I knew were dead, they were equally as real to me as people I knew to be alive.

Did your hearing differ in any way from your normal, everyday hearing (in any aspect, such as clarity, ability to recognize source of sound, pitch, loudness, etc.)?
            Uncertain      Only in the sense that I felt like I "knew" things, like I knew that the people in the bubbles were there waiting for me.  When I think back on it, it was like they told me what they were there for directly into my brain, without speaking it out loud.

Did you experience a separation of your consciousness from your body?     Uncertain

What emotions did you feel during the experience?            At first, I felt angry at the disruption in my day.  I had too much going on that day to have to deal with this.  Once I looked down and saw that I was badly injured, I remember thinking, "This is real. This really happened," like I had to convince myself that my reality just got very different.  When I saw the bubble people, I remember thinking that I was going to be ok because they were in the bubbles.  I thought that if my death were imminent, they wouldn't be separated from me by the bubbles.  I wasn't afraid, and I don't have any memory of pain until they started to move me onto the backboard.  I remember worrying that one of my friends who beat me to the hospital and was waiting at the ambulance bay was going to be frightened by my appearance because she is really squeamish.  I really worried more about other people than I did myself.

Did you pass into or through a tunnel or enclosure?          No      

Did you see a light?           Uncertain      I didn't see a light that drew me to it, but I remember that the bubbles were illuminated by a light--they glistened and reflected colors like soap bubbles do on a sunny day.

Did you meet or see any other beings?           Yes     I saw, as I've described, family members and friends who had gone before me, floating in bubbles, and they conveyed to me that they were there waiting, in case I died and needed them.  Later, my father, who had been dead for many years, stayed with me in my hospital room for many days, until I knew that I was going to survive my injuries.

Did you experience a review of past events in your life?    Uncertain      I can't remember anything specific, but I have a feeling that part of what my father talked to me about was how to draw on what I knew to get through my recovery.

Did you observe or hear anything regarding people or events during your experience that could be verified later?          Yes     Only that my mom and husband heard my side of the conversations with my father.

Did you see or visit any beautiful or otherwise distinctive locations, levels or dimensions?           Yes            I have read about the idea of "liminal spaces" in Celtic tradition.  I felt like I existed in a liminal space, that I was in a place where I could move freely between this existence and the afterlife, and that once I had decided that I would stay here, a door closed, and I could no longer access those places I could go for the couple of weeks between the wreck and the time that I decided to stay.

Did you have any sense of altered space or time?   Uncertain
            I have such spotty memories from the weeks I was in ICU.  Some things seemed to take forever, and some things passed by quickly.

Did you have a sense of knowing special knowledge, universal order and/or purpose?     Yes            First, I knew immediately that there is an afterlife.  I believed that there was after some of the experiences my father had as he was dying, and because there had been a few times that I had dreamed of him that seemed more than normal dreams, like he would tell me things to tell my mother--that he was alright, that she was going to be alright--but this was different.  It was like a verification.  It left me with no doubt at all that there is life after we die.  I also came out of the experience of recovery with an incredible belief that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be, and that I could find the strength to get through anything difficult in my life.  I believe that how we interact with people is of paramount importance, and that we are charged with using our gifts and strengths to help the people in our lives.  I learned that receiving can be as important as giving, and that in many ways, receiving is giving someone else the grace that comes from giving to others.  I also came out of the experience knowing that in the end, things happen the way that they are supposed to happen, and hopefully we use the times that are especially good or especially challenging to learn about our own strengths and how we can use them to help others and about our own weaknesses and how others can support us when things are hard.

Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure? Yes     First, I knew instinctively that the bubbles that held the people I saw were there to keep us apart, that they were a way for them to be close and be vigilant, but they were also there to keep me from going to them. 

When I reached the time that my dad was with me, I knew that it was something special that he was finding a way to do for me that he stayed with me until I knew I was going to live.  I felt like I was in a liminal space, but I definitely felt that the space was temporary.  It was there for me to use if I chose to die, and once I chose to live, it closed immediately.  During the time it was there, my father had a physical presence that I could perceive.  Once it was closed, even if there are times that I feel my father is nearby, I can't experience his presence with my senses like I could when he was with me in the hospital.  Now it is more of a "faith" thing--I feel him near me at times, but I don't get the verification of his presence that I did when I could converse with him during those weeks in the hospital.

Did you become aware of future events?       No           

Did you have any psychic, paranormal or other special gifts following the experience you did not have prior to the experience?     Uncertain      The only thing that feels like a "gift" is the knowledge that in the end, things are going to be OK.  I don't fear things the way that I used to, and I've felt compelled to help certain people during times that they are struggling, sometimes when I didn't know that they were having a difficult time, and I've felt compelled to talk to people about the experiences I've had because of the accident, and many times they've told me that they were struggling with points of faith that I had directly addressed when I told them what I'd experienced.

Have you shared this experience with others?         Yes     I've told a lot of people about it.  I told my family as soon as I could describe it to them about the bubbles, and my mother and husband heard me talking to my father, and asked me who I was talking to while it was happening.  People that I've talked to about it have pretty much been open to hearing about the experience and the fact that I feel I've seen that there is an afterlife.  Some people have told me that they had questioned whether there is anything after this life, and that hearing accounts from people who'd had experiences with an afterlife helped them believe that life goes on.  I am sad that my 15-year-old son, who had had a major crisis of faith and belief because of my accident, is the one person who seems to shut out the possibility that what I experienced was real.

Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience?    Yes     My father died of cancer in 1978, just before my 16th birthday.  He was quite sick for most of the last year of his life, and he was very open in sharing what he was experiencing as he came to terms with his own dying.  The day that he died, he drifted in and out most of the day.  My aunt, who is a nurse, had gotten a prescription for IM pain meds that she could administer to him as he became unable to take anything by mouth, and she spent almost all day with him.  She told us that several times during the day, he told her that there was a beautiful bright light, and that he wanted to go to it.  She was afraid that the lights in the room were bothering him, and she turned them out, but he continued to tell her about the light that he saw.  Some of his friends who lived in Ohio and Rhode Island were at a conference somewhere in the South, and because of that, they were able to come to Houston when we told them how sick Daddy was, because there had been a winter storm that would have prevented them from being able to fly down.  When a couple of them arrived to see him, he held their hands, told them that he loved them and wished that he had the energy to visit with them, but that he looked forward to when they would be together again so that they could talk.  After he died, we all talked about the things we remembered from the last few days, and we came to the conclusion that he was having an NDE and was trying to tell us about it as he died.  I've never known anyone else who tried so hard to use the experience of his own dying to teach other people about death. After he died, my mom and I went on a reading jag about death and dying, and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's books had recently been released in paperback, so we both read and discussed the stories in her books at length.  I had a friend who was a NICU nurse, and she and I both trained as peri-natal grief counselors, and we taught childbirth classes for the same hospital for a while.  We spent a lot of time talking about how so many nurses were uncomfortable with dying patients and many times with childbirth because both events were perceived as "uncontrollable" regardless of the training or technology available to caregivers.  We both felt that birth and death were liminal spaces, and that it is true that they are beyond technology.  We both felt that we were more facilitators at a birth or a death than we were in control of what happened at those times.

Were there one or several parts of the experience especially meaningful or significant to you?            The most significant thing to me was that I felt like my father had to go to some lengths to be able to be with me and help me decide if I would live or die.  It just felt like he had to use a lot of energy to be there with me, just like it was taking me a lot of energy to focus on him and deciding, and ultimately healing from the injuries I received in the accident.

How did you view the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened:            Experience was definitely real
            I think that I knew it was real because it was so obvious and yet so normal that it happened, and it happened juxtaposed to the things that were going on in this life.  It was obviously remarkable, but it felt like it was just how dying felt, that people would be there to help me transition.

How do you currently view the reality of your experience:            Experience was definitely real
            Without the experiences that I had, I don't think that I would still be alive.  I needed to know that my family and friends will be there for me, just like my family and friends who are still living are there for me so that I have been able to recover to the point that I have.  I don't think I would have decided to stay if I hadn't had my father there to help me prioritize and make the choice.

Have your relationships changed specifically as a result of your experience?           Yes
I am more open with people and more likely to express my love, my gratitude, and my appreciation of the things that make them special.  I also try harder to be available to people if I can do something to help them or make their life easier.

Have your religious beliefs/practices changed specifically as a result of your experience?           
Yes            Only because I feel absolutely certain that life continues after death.

Following the experience, have you had any other events in your life, medications or substances which reproduced any part of the experience?         No                  

Did the questions asked and information you provided so far accurately and comprehensively describe your experience?         Yes     This gave me a chance to process how I approach life differently since I had the chance to KNOW that we continue to exist after we die.