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Pam Reynolds (stage name) from Atlanta, Georgia is an American singer-songwriter. In 1991, at the age of 35, she had a near-death experience (NDE) during a brain operation. Her NDE is one of the most notable and best documented in NDE research because of the unusual circumstances under which it happened. Reynolds was under close medical monitoring during the entire operation. During part of the operation she had no brain-wave activity and no blood flowing in her brain, which left her clinically dead. She made several observations about the procedure which later were confirmed by medical personnel as surprisingly accurate.

This famous near-death experience is considered by many to be proof of the reality of the survival of consciousness after death, and of a life after death. However, critics have brought forward several points against this interpretation. See also the Critical Analysis section.

Contents

Diagnosis and operation

A CAT scan revealed that Reynolds had a large artery aneurysm in her brain, close to the brain stem. Because of the difficult position of the aneurysm Dr. Robert Spetzler of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona decided that an unusual surgical procedure, hypothermic cardiac arrest, had to be performed. During this procedure, also known as standstill, her body temperature was lowered to 60 °F (16 °C), her breathing and heartbeat were stopped and the blood was drained from her head. Her eyes were closed with tape. Small ear plugs with speakers were plugged in her ears. These speakers emitted audible clicks which were used to check the function of the brain stem.

For a brief period in the middle of the procedure, she had a flat EEG, a non-responsive brain stem and no blood in her brain. The operation was a success and Reynolds recovered completely.

NDE part 1

During the operation but prior to her being put in cardiac arrest, Reynolds later reported hearing a sound like a natural 'D'. The sound seemed to pull her out of her body. She reported floating around in the operating room and watching the doctors performing the operation. She felt more aware than normal and her vision was more focused and clearer than normal vision. She made several observations in this state, for example:

  • She noticed the doctor using a drill to open her skull. It surprised her that it looked like an electric toothbrush, not like a saw as she expects. It is later confirmed that the drill used by the doctor was similar in appearance to an electric toothbrush.
  • She heard a female voice say, "We have a problem. Her arteries are too small." It is later confirmed that the doctors first tried to connect the heart-lung machine to the right leg. But the arteries were so small that they switched to the left leg.

These examples appear to show that she was able to see and hear during the operation.

NDE part 2

At some point during the operation she noticed a presence. Then she was pulled towards a light. As she got closer the light became very bright. She began to discern figures in the light, including her grandmother, an uncle, other deceased relatives and people unknown to her.

The longer she was there, the more she enjoyed it. But at some point in time she was reminded that she had to go back. Her uncle brought her back to her body. When she looked at her body she didn't want to go back in. Her uncle tried to persuade her, but she kept refusing. Then she saw her body making a jump (caused by the defibrillation to start up her heart). Her uncle gave her a push and she was back in her body.

Timeline

The following time line is based on the book Light & Death from Michael Sabom. It shows that the total surgery lasted about 7 hours and the standstill took less than 1 hour. The events in the operating room that Reynolds was able to recall (the surgeon using a drill on her skull and a female voice saying her veins are too small) happened before the standstill. The entire part 1 of the NDE happened before the standstill. Part 2 of the NDE happened during and/or after the standstill.

The operation The NDE
7:15 Reynolds is brought into the operating room, still awake. -
Reynolds receives thiopental (also called pentothal although the book actually says penthathol) through IV for general anesthesia. -
Reynolds' body is lifted onto the operating table. Her eyes are taped shut. Small, moulded speakers are inserted into her ears. -
A thermistor is placed deeply into her esophagus to measure core body temperature. EEG electrodes are taped to the head to record cerebral cortical brain activity. -
8:40 Reynolds' entire body, except for her head and groin, is blanketed with sterile drapes. -
Spetzler begins the surgery by opening the scalp and then carving out a section of the skull with a Midas Rex bone saw. Reynolds' NDE begins. She hears a natural D. It feels like the sound pulls her out of her body. She looks down and sees several things in the operating room. She feels very aware and her vision is more focused and clearer than normal. She notices that her head is shaved in another way than she expected. She sees the 'saw thing' (bone saw). It looks like an electric toothbrush, has a dent or groove at the top where the saw connects to the handle and it has interchangeable blades which are placed in what looks like a socket wrench case. She hears the saw crank up, but doesn't see where it is being used on. It hums at a relatively high pitch and then suddenly goes 'Brrrrrrrr'.
Spetzler removes the bone flap from the skull. The operating microscope is swung into position over Reynolds' head. At the same time, a female cardiac surgeon locates the femoral artery and vein in Reynolds' right groin. These turn out to be too small to handle the large flow of blood from the heart-lung machine. Thus, the left femoral artery and vein are prepared for use. Reynolds hears a female voice saying that her veins and arteries are very small.
Spetzler inspects the aneurysm with the operating microscope. He finds that it is very large indeed. He decides that hypothermic cardiac arrest (standstill) is necessary to complete the operation.
10:50 The heart-lung machine is connected to Reynolds' body. Her blood is cooled down. -
11:00 Reynolds core temperature is about 75 °F (24 °C). The cardiac monitor (ECG) indicates cardiac malfunction. -
11:05 Reynolds receives a massive dose of potassium chloride. Cardiac arrest is complete. Her brain waves become flat. The brain stem responds weaker and weaker to the clicks from the ear speakers. -
11:20 Reynolds core temperature is about 60 °F (16 °C). The brain stem no longer responds to the clicks from the ear speakers. The brain is shut down. -
11:25 The heart-lung machine is disconnected from Reynolds' body. The head of the operating table is lifted and the blood is drained from Reynolds' body. Reynolds feels like she is being pulled, but not against her will. She is going on her own accord because she wants to go. She feels like going through a tunnel vortex. She comes into a bright light. She begins to discern several figures, including a grandmother and an uncle. They stop her from going further because she would not otherwise be able to go back into her body.
The aneurysm is now deflated and Spetzler removes it. The heart-lung machine is turned back on and pumps warmed blood into Reynolds' body. -
Reynolds' brain stem begins to respond again to the clicks from the ear speakers. Also, waves of electrical activity from her higher brain centers begin to appear on the EEG screen. The deceased relatives seem to be feeding Reynolds, not with food but with something sparkly. She feels like being nurtured and made strong.
12:00 A problem arises as the heart monitor begins to register ventricular fibrillation. Efforts to correct this with additional warming are unsuccessful. Two defibrillator paddles are placed on Reynolds' chest and her heart is shocked two times. This solves the problem. Reynolds' uncle takes her back through the end of the tunnel. She sees her body but doesn't want to go in. It looks dead and she is scared of it. Then her uncle pushes her. The tunnel seems to push her and her body seems to pull her. When she goes back into her body it feels like diving into a pool of ice water.
12:32 Reynolds body temperature is about 90 °F (32 °C) and the heart-lung machine is turned off. Her body is deinstrumented. Spetzler assistants take over the closing surgical duties and music in the background begins to play. Reynolds regains consciousness and hears the song Hotel California being played.
14:10 Reynolds is taken to the recovery room. She is still intubated for respiration, but in stable condition. -

Critical Analysis

Pam Reynolds' NDE is sometimes seen as evidence of the survival hypothesis. Critics have brought forward several points which attempt to refute this interpretation.

When Reynolds heard someone say her veins were too small, medical personnel were apparently still connecting her to the heart-lung machine. At this point she was merely under general anesthesia (which can quite often fail to render a patient completely unconscious as well as causing dysphoric effects including confusion about ones position in their body). However, there is no evidence to suggest that the anesthesia failed to render Pam Reynolds completely unconscious.[1] This appears to show that her supposed Near "Death" Experience began hours before she even "died," and indeed if the second part of the operation had been called off for some reason, many of the supposed "death" experiences would have happened even though all she was subjected to were anesthetic drugs. [2] She may have had the claimed experiences before or after the standstill, when she was merely under general anesthesia and the brain was still active. [2] There is also no explanation as to how Reynold's was able to describe the surgical tool used to remove her skull cap which she had never seen.

Critics also contend that EEG monitoring is not 100% reliable. Sometimes the brain has activity that is not registered by the equipment. However, there is no evidence that suggests that the EEG used to monitor Pam Reynold's brain activity malfunctioned. The ear plugs aren't perfect either at block external sounds. People with ear plugs may still be able to hear sounds in their environment.[3] However, the ear-plugs used also emit a constant bleeping sound.[4] .

It has been pointed out that proponents have generally misrepresented the amount of time which Reynolds was flatlined[5]: the actual surgical timeline suggests that her brain stem activity was fully flatlined for a period of only five to six minutes at most.[6] Her experiences before and after the standstill could have felt coherent regardless: loss of consciousness would not necessarily have interrupted the hallucinations. Most people do not experience or remember "gaps" between being awake, dreams, and awaking again. However, according to the time line, about five minutes after her brain "shut down", she began to experience the sensation of being lifted out of her body. Her brain did not show any activity until after she already had this experience. [2]

Books

  • ISBN 0310219922 Light and Death by the founder of The Atlanta Study, Dr. Michael Sabom, about the case of Pam Reynolds and nearly 50 other cases.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Augustine, Keith (Summer 2007). "Does Paranormal Perception Occur in Near-Death Experiences?". Journal of Near-Death Studies 25 (4): 203–236, pages 220–21. doi:10.1043/0891-4494(2007)25[203:DPPOIN]2.0.CO;2. http://apt.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1043%2F0891-4494%282007%2925%5B203%3ADPPOIN%5D2.0.CO%3B2.  
  2. ^ a b c Augustine, Keith (Summer 2007). "'Does Paranormal Perception Occur in Near-Death Experiences?' Defended". Journal of Near-Death Studies 25 (4): 261–283, page 280. doi:10.1043/0891-4494(2007)25[261:DPPOIN]2.0.CO;2. http://apt.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1043%2F0891-4494%282007%2925%5B261%3ADPPOIN%5D2.0.CO%3B2.  
  3. ^ Woerlee, Gerald M.. "Pam Reynolds' Near Death Experience". http://www.mortalminds.woerlee.org/reynolds.html. Retrieved 2007-11-28.  
  4. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMgW0ZMSXbI&feature=related
  5. ^ Augustine, Keith (Summer 2007). "Does Paranormal Perception Occur in Near-Death Experiences?". Journal of Near-Death Studies 25 (4): 203–236, page 217. doi:10.1043/0891-4494(2007)25[203:DPPOIN]2.0.CO;2. http://apt.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1043%2F0891-4494%282007%2925%5B203%3ADPPOIN%5D2.0.CO%3B2.  
  6. ^ Sabom, Michael B. (Summer 2007). "Commentary on 'Does Paranormal Perception Occur in Near-Death Experiences?'". Journal of Near-Death Studies 25 (4): 257–260, pages 257–58. doi:10.1043/0891-4494(2007)25[257:CODPPO]2.0.CO;2. http://apt.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1043%2F0891-4494%282007%2925%5B257%3ACODPPO%5D2.0.CO%3B2.  
  • ISBN 0742547922 " Irreducible Mind" by Edward Kelly, Emily Kelly, Adam Crabtree, Alan Gauld, Michael Grosso and Bruce Greyson discuss the Pam Reynold case of pages 392-394 and shows many of the weakness of skeptical criticisms.

External links

Asserting the importance of this NDE:

Doubting that the NDE happened during the standstill:

Other:

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