Now I know that people who read this blog are interested in some really diverse mind and body matters.
For whatever reason, one of the defining things about humanity is its infectious curiosity about the nature of existence and consciousness.
My recent readings around brain and heart have also included books by people on out of body experiences, epilepsy and spirituality.
Anything about these subjects is currently sparkly and eye-catching, so this week I was captivated by a BBC report on ‘The Lazarus Effect’. (1)
‘The Lazarus Effect’ (2) is a book about the heart and heart attacks, where new discoveries are changing the way that patients are being resuscitated.
When I was little, my mum had to go away to see my Granny after one of her many heart attacks.
Granny told mum that during the heart attack she was in a long tunnel, with what seemed to be a light at the end of it. Mum doesn’t know how long this experience lasted , but apparently Granny became aware that she may be very near leaving when she became conscious of people talking about how they had called my mum. My Granny thought that if my mum had been called then she would have to be there to see her. Somewhere in my Granny’s mind the seed of urgency to not slip away was planted. She came back to see my mum.
I was always really interested in this, and from reading around the subject I understand that a lot of people whose hearts stop report similar experiences.
‘Bringing people back from the Dead’, (1) BBC news report by William Kremer, links to a radio interview on the World service programme ‘Outlook’. This programme was about Carol Brothers who had a heart attack and was resuscitated after 45 minutes of CPR.(3)
It interviews Dr Sam Parnia Director of resuscitation research in a New York hospital and author of ‘The Lazarus Effect’. Cooling the body from 37C to 32C causes Brain cells to remain intact for up to 8 hours before they begin to deteriorate. The tricky stages of resuscitation are when oxygen is reintroduced to the brain, the cells become inflamed and cause swelling in the brain. Cooling the brain down causes the brain to slow down to such an extent that people can look brain dead for a long time, but actually be in stasis. This means that resuscitating the heart has now been possible for up to 4 to 5 hours after the heart stopping.
In relation to out of body experiences, Dr Parnia has collected many examples of people’s OBE’s (out of body experiences ) which range from tunnels of light, relatives coming to meet them, reliving their lives, re-living events that inflicted pain on others. Dr Parnia says that often when the patient returns to consciousness they have determined to live their lives in a different, changed and often fearless way. He says he believes that most people experience these types of experiences but that they are unlikely to remember due to the brain trauma or inflammation wiping their memory.
Interestingly these experiences have different meanings in different cultures or religious contexts so are interpreted in the context of the beliefs of each individual.
‘Proof of Heaven’ by Dr Eben Alexander (4) is a neurosurgeon’s Journey into the afterlife. Dr Alexander contracted bacterial E. coli meningitis and was in a coma for 7 days. He was not expected to survive but against the odds he woke up to recount his journey (which was quite a trip!) in his book. Dr Alexander was a complete sceptic until he experienced this for himself.
‘The Body Electric’ by Robert O. Becker and Gary Selden (5) was published in 1985 and challenged the notions of mechanistic medicine, in particular in its views around regeneration. Within this book there is a chapter titled ‘The Lazarus Effect’. This chapter describes the discovery in 1973 that a Salamander can regenerate its heart if it is cut in half or wounded from 30% to 50%. Such a large wound sparks a massive healing response in the salamander. The findings were published in Nature in 1974.
The cover of ‘The Body Electric’ says the book ‘explores new pathways in our understanding of evolution, acupuncture, psychic phenomena and healing.’
Back to heart resuscitation.
So to summarise, the medical model is changing in relation to heart resuscitation, the cooler the better.
I leave you with the thoughtful CPR intervention skills of Vinnie jones and the question- have you ever had an out of body experience?
3) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p016tn56 Outlook Carol Brothers ‘I was dead for 45 minutes’