Cathy L's ADC
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.