Near-Death Experience

Near-death experience(s) (NDE) were named and studied by Raymond Moody in 1975 but countless examples date back as far as the 18th century, with numerous similarities being documented. Modern references characterize them as “an unusual experience taking place on the brink of death and recounted by a person after recovery. Typically an out of body experience or a vision of a tunnel of light have been described.”

Personal Story

Several readers have asked about my story in anticipation of a memoir, hopefully to be published later this year. Thus, I thought I’d share some excerpts from the book to highlight some of its topics.

In previous posts I’ve referred to the traumatic house fire in which I sustained a major burn injury. Thus, I thought I’d share some excerpts from the book to highlight some of its topics.

At the young age of 16 I was critically burned in a house fire, trapped inside trying to rescue my mother and brother, both of whom died. Three other brothers survived, escaping from windows. My father was out of town on business.

Close to death myself, I wasn’t stable enough to tolerate surgery until ten days later. The first of many procedures included taking me to the operating room to undergo excision and debridement of  necrotic tissue from the burns. The following is the first part of a series I hope to share.

Operating Roomoperation-540598_1280

Stark brightness greeted me in the operating room, where I was positioned alongside the table, alone in the center. Three large circular lights, like flying saucers, were suspended from the ceiling. Several people in scrubs, paper hats, and masks scurried in, out, and around the room. Their feet were covered with paper slippers, causing them to pitter-patter across the floor. Everyone seemed to be talking at once, their voices echoing off the walls. It was frigid; so cold I thought it might snow.

Fighting Off the Fear

Using the bed sheets like a sling, several orderlies hoisted me up from the gurney and positioned me on the operating table. It was cold and hard—ominously like a slab in some morgue, it occurred to me. My head was positioned on a silicone ring they called a “donut.” It was surprisingly comfortable to my scalp. To the side, I could see large tables were draped with green sheets and lined with a monstrous display of stainless steel instruments.

I could feel my heart rate beginning to race. That medicine I had been given earlier to “relax” me did not seem to be working!

Then the anesthesiologist was  standing at my head. “You’re going to be going off to sleep now, Mark,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone. “And when you wake up again, the surgery will be finished.

“You won’t feel anything; we’ll take good care of you.”

I followed his instructions to begin counting backwards from one hundred, though with my throat still raw and hoarse, I could manage only a raspy whisper.

“One hundred, ninety-nine, ninety-eight. ninety-seven,” I began. My eyelids grew heavy, seemingly weighted with lead, my head felt heavier. Everything was pulling me down into nothingness.

My Greatest Fear Realizedfear-2083648_1280

How long it lasted I had no idea. But then awareness came abruptly. I was yanked into consciousness by a terrible burning sensation traveling from my stomach up to my chest and neck. At the same time, a sudden, severe pain flared from along my lower abdomen upwards. My abdominal muscles contracted involuntarily. It was the kind of reflex spasm that occurs when you are tickled, only this one was much stronger, and it was all a gripping pain. I felt awake but could not open my eyes.

Next I felt cutting or peeling down in my abdominal region. It was a curious but horrifying sensation. I was aware of my abdominal muscles slowly contracting into a frozen spasm, one I was powerless to prevent, as though a massive boa constrictor was coiled around my stomach, squeezing the life out of me.

Feeling Everything

Then there was the unmistakable, but at the same time unfathomable, sharp sensation of something sawing back and forth across my stomach. What is happening? There was an icy-cold burning, that otherwise would have had my body writhing on the table were it not for the fact that I was paralyzed.

It reminded me of the feeling I knew from biting my nails, when I’d peeled away skin from around my cuticles, except that this was on an all-together differing and massive scale. It felt as though I was being skinned alive!

I tried to scream out loud, but found that I could not utter a sound. I could hear voices; muffled words from the shuffling of people around me. Oh yes, I remembered, the operating table. I am in surgery. Perhaps I am dreaming. Maybe this is some kind of a nightmare. I must not be quite awake.

         But as more pain assaulted my body, I realized with horror it was much worse. Holy shit! I am awake! The anesthesia hasn’t taken properly!


         Again, I tried desperately to scream out loud, but my body would not obey my mind’s direction to cry for help. I simply could not move my lips and still couldn’t open my eyes. I was unable to voluntarily twitch a muscle. My head was pounding, throbbing like a kick drum, so much that I thought it might explode at any moment. I could hear the rapid beating of my heart, an ocean of pounding pulses somewhere deep behind my ears.

The figures around me were talking to one another. The words were not really decipherable—just jumbled, empty sounds from a distant, cavernous vacuum—but I could tell from the tone that there was no great sense of urgency or alarm. It was all quite businesslike.

Oh, my God, they don’t know that I’m feeling all this! They don’t know that I am awake! Oh God, please let them realize…

Burning and Bleeding

         The cutting and peeling sensation continued, the pain and terror building and building inside my head until I thought it was about to blow, erupting like a volcano and spewing my molten brain tissue around the room. My abdominal muscles continued their forceful, rhythmic contractions. The crushing spasms came as something cool and sharp sliced across my torso; I could feel it violently tearing away my skin.

Along with the steely pressure I could feel soft and icy stickiness rippling across my abdomen and washing down over my flanks, dripping like cold syrup. I couldn’t raise my head to see the cause but the coppery smell in the air confirmed it must be blood.

Panic—More Burning—Bleeding to Death

Then there was heat, and the distinct, sickly-sweet smell of burning flesh. They must be trying to staunch the bleeding by cauterizing the burns, I guessed, further incinerating the surface of my skin with a fusillade of electric shocks. Oh God, not more burning; please stop the burning.

Despite the flaming in my lower trunk area the air was freezing me toward death. Though I was powerless to move, someone suddenly picked up my left arm, yanking it forcefully away from my body. A cold chill rushed upward from the back of my hand to the shoulder, followed by vicious burning as more blood dripped from the lifeless limb to the tile floor below.

Whoever was holding my arm must have then let go, because all of a sudden it dropped like a stone. It fell low over the side of the operating table, as if I was holding a 500-lb. weight in my hand. My lifeless arm swung like a pendulum, blood dripping down onto the hand. The torturous sensation momentarily distracted me from the relentless choking of my abdomen. It was accompanied by a sharp grating, like someone scraping the inside of a bowl, only this was my stomach.

Pain, fear, and helplessness swirled around, welling up inside to where I thought I would implode, sinking into a black hole, unreachable.

         I am literally bleeding to death. At least this will stop the pain.


Lying still and vulnerable, unable to twitch a muscle or blink an eye, to move in the slightest way despite my mind’s frantic commands, was like being buried alive. I cannot stand one more second of this agony, I thought, feeling as though I was back in the ambulance or burning house after the fire, just wanting it all to end.

Surely no one could survive another second of this unbearable pain. And then more seconds passed.

Words began to cut through the fog, though muddled and muffled as if coming from an adjacent room. “We’re losing copious amounts of blood,” I heard, clipped and urgent. “Where’s it all coming from?”

My heart was pounding, and my pulse was racing. At the same time my blood pressure was spiraling down. But instead of exploding, my heart suddenly seemed to deflate. In an instant, my body transitioned from a vat overflowing with turmoil, to one draining away to nothing, as if someone had just pulled a plug. I was circling the drain.

“Pressure’s low, let’s hold up.” Did someone just say that?

I’m dying, I accepted. Please, God…


And then, suddenly, completely, wonderfully, it was all over.

To Be Continued….Stay Connected…Comments Welcomed.

2 thoughts on “Life Changing Effects of a Near-Death Experience”

  1. Dr. Mark, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to go through this. Thanks for sharing your story – you’re a brilliant writer, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest.

  2. Dr. Mark writes so well. You can’t help but feel you are on that gurney! He doesn’t polish life. He gives it to you raw. It is good for all of us to join him as he relates his story, at the same time praying we don’t have to experience it physically as Mark did.

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