The book begins with the remarkable story of a patient named "Jeff" who collapsed of a massive heart attack in the ER of the hospital where Dr. Crandall worked as senior cardiologist. By the time Dr. Crandall arrived in the ER, Jeff had been shocked six times, to no avail. A seventh shock was likewise unsuccessful. By then the ER team had been working on reviving Jeff for 40 minutes, his pupils were fixed and dilated, and his lips and fingers and toes were "cyanotic", which means "black with death from lack of oxygen". All that was left for Dr. Crandall to do was to pronounce the patient dead.
And this is where the story gets interesting. Everyone left, except for Dr. Crandall, who had to write up his report, and a nurse, whose job it was to prepare Jeff's body to go to the morgue. As Dr. Crandall turned to leave, he sensed that God wanted him to pray for the patient. Feeling foolish, he ignored it, but the sense became more insistent. So he stood beside the body and said a few words of prayer. And then, still prompted by the same impulse that had caused him to pray in the first place, he called to the ER doctor to shock the patient one more time.
After the next shock the patient came back to life with a perfect heartbeat. Here is Dr. Crandall's account:
His abdomen started to tremble and move and then his chest started to rise and fall. He was breathing on his own! Then his black, cyanotic fingers twitched. Next his toes. In almost no time he was mumbling.The nurse later explained her reaction to Dr. Crandall: she fully expected the patient to be brain dead. But he wasn't. In spite of his brain having been deprived of oxygen for over 40 minutes, a few days later Jeff was sitting up in his bed in the ICU, talking. The only sign of his ordeal was that his fingers and toes were still cyanotic, "bruised by death."
The nurse screamed ... "Doctor," she asked, "what have you done? What are we supposed to do?" She was not only terrified but angry ... This was not a miracle to her, as I found out later, but more like the creation of Frankenstein.
In the remainder of the book Dr. Crandall tries to make sense of this experience, and of others he has had. As an evangelical Christian, he filters his experience through his religious beliefs, and has much to say about Jesus and Satan. This doesn't accord with my own more pluralistic view of spirituality and religion, so I found the rest of the book disappointing. But Jeff's extraordinary return to life does belong in the same league as Anita Moorjani's NDE, and both of them belong in a very real category of people whose experiences defy the laws of physics and biology as we define them, but are all the same very real. Not understanding them, we call these experiences "miracles".
In a previous post, "More about Bennett Mayrick?", I wrote about a patient described by Dr. Deepak Chopra who suffered an electric shock while working on the roof and fell to the ground 15 feet below. He too had an NDE. This is how Deepak Chopra describes his experience:
And you ask him, "Bob, what happened?" He says, "I went into the gap." I say, "What was there in the gap?" He says, "It was sheer unbounded joy. It was absolute, total bliss." You ask him, "Were there any thoughts there?" "No. I didn't have a mind." "Did you have a body?" "No. I didn't have a body." "So what was there?" He said, "l was just aware. " You ask him, "What were you aware of?" "I was aware that I was aware. But it was pure wakefulness. I was grounded totally and completely in the experience of my own immortality."It's interesting to speculate what would happen if we began to understand and became familiar with this "gap", which appears to be the place where we come from and to which we return when we leave our physical bodies. If we knew and understood, would more of us have miraculous recoveries? Would we lose our fear of death? Would we become better people? By all accounts, most people who return after an NDE completely lose their fear. I wonder what would happen if the rest of us did too.