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Brad Barrows 1968 when he was only 8 years old. At the time, he was a student at the Boston Center for Blind Children, and had contracted a severe case of pneumonia and eventually had severe breathing difficulties. Afterward, he was told by nurses that his heart had stopped, apparently for at least four minutes, and that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) had been necessary to bring him back.
Brad remembers that when he couldn’t breathe any longer, he felt himself lifting up from the bed and floating through the room toward the ceiling. He saw his apparently lifeless body on the bed. He also saw his blind roommate get up from his bed and leave the room to get help. (His roommate later confirmed this.) Brad then found himself rapidly going upward through the ceilings of the building until he was above the roof. At this point, he found that he could see clearly.
He estimates that it was between 6:30 and 7:00 in the morning when this happened. He noticed that the sky was cloudy and dark. There had been a snowstorm the day before, and Brad could see snow everywhere except for the streets, which had been plowed, though they were still slushy. He was able to give us a very detailed description of the way the snow looked. Brad could also see the snow banks that the plows had created. He saw a street car go by. Finally, he recognized a playground used by the children of his school and a particular hill he used to climb nearby.
When asked if he “knew” or “saw” these things, he said: “I clearly visualized them. I could suddenly notice them and see them. … I remember … being able to see quite clearly.”
B. Vicki Umipeg
Vicki Umipeg is a married 43-year-old woman who has had two near-death experiences. The first, when she was 12 years old, occurred as a result of appendicitis and peritonitis. Her second NDE took place almost exactly a decade later, when she was seriously injured in an automobile accident.
Vicki was born very prematurely, having been in the womb only 22 weeks at delivery, and weighed just three pounds at birth. Afterward, her weight dropped precariously to one pound, 14 ounces. As was common for premature babies in the 1950s, she was placed in an airlock incubator through which oxygen was administered. Unfortunately, because of a failure to regulate the concentration of oxygen properly, Vicki was given too much and, along with about 50,000 other premature babies born in the United States about the same time, suffered such optic nerve damage as to leave her completely blind. As she made clear in an initial interview with another researcher, Greg Wilson, who kindly provided his tapes and transcripts to us, she has never had any visual experience whatever, nor does she even understand the nature of light:
INTERVIEWER: Could you see anything?
VICKI: Nothing, never. No light, no shadows, no nothing, ever.
INTERVIEWER: So the optic nerve was destroyed to both eyes?
VICKI: Yes, and so I’ve never been able to understand even the concept of light.
Interestingly, the overall form of Vicki’s two experiences, which were separated by a period of 10 years, was extremely similar, almost as though they were replays of one another, albeit with some variations owing to the particularities of Vicki’s life circumstances on each occasion. To minimize redundancy, we will present a fairly full exposition here only of Vicki’s second NDE, since according to her own testimony, it was the more detailed and vivid of the two.
In early 1973, Vicki, then 22, was working as an occasional singer in a nightclub in Seattle. One night, at closing time, she was unable to call for a taxi to drive her home and circumstances forced her to take the only other option: a ride with a couple of inebriated patrons. Not surprisingly, a serious accident ensued during which Vicki was thrown out of their van. Her injuries were extensive and life-threatening, and included a skull fracture and concussion, and damage to her neck, back, and one leg. In fact, it took her a full year after being released from the hospital before she could stand upright with out the risk of fainting.
Vicki clearly remembers the frightening prelude to the crash itself, but she has only a hazy recall of finding herself alternately out of her body and then back inside of it at the accident scene. Her only definite recollection of anything external to herself while out-of-body is a very brief glimpse of the crumpled vehicle. Although this aspect of her experience was confusing, she does claim that while in her out-of-body state she was aware of being in a nonphysical body that had a distinct form and that was, as she put it, “like it was made of light.”
She has no memory of the her trip to Harborview Hospital in the ambulance, but after she arrived at the emergency room, she came again to awareness when she found herself up on the ceiling watching a male doctor and a woman – she is not sure whether the woman was another physician or a nurse – working on her body. She could overhear their conversation, too, which had to do with their fear that because of possible damage to Vicki’s eardrum, she could become deaf as well as blind. Vicki tried desperately to communicate to them that she was fine, but naturally drew no response. She was also aware of seeing her body below her, which she recognized by certain identifying features, such as a distinctive wedding ring she was wearing.
According to her testimony, Vicki first had a very fleeting image of herself lying on the metal table and she was sure, she said, that “it was me,” although it took her a moment to register that fact with certainty. As she later told us:
I knew it was me. … was pretty thin then. I was quite tall and thin at that point. And I recognized at first that it was a body, but I didn’t even know that it was mine initially. Then I perceived that I was up on the ceiling, and I thought, “Well, that’s kind of weird. What am I doing up here?” I thought, “Well, this must be me. Am I dead?… ” I just briefly saw this body, and … I knew that it was mine because I wasn’t in mine. Then I was just away from it. It was that quick.
Almost immediately after that, as she recalls, she found herself going up through the ceilings of the hospital until she was above the roof of the building itself, during which time she had a brief panoramic view of her surroundings. She felt very exhilarated during this ascension and enjoyed tremendously the freedom of movement she was experiencing. She also began to hear sublimely beautiful and exquisitely harmonious music akin to the sound of wind chimes.