Velma Thomas' heart stopped beating three times -- and her doctors thought she was dead.
She was taken by ambulance to a local West Virginia hospital when her heart stopped after experiencing symptoms of a heart attack. For more than 17 hours, Thomas had no measurable brain waves, according to her doctors.
Doctors tried everything to save Thomas' life, even inducing hypothermia in an attempt to lower her body temperature and stimulate the brain.
Her family said their goodbyes and left her side at the hospital to make funeral plans.
But after medical staff took Thomas off life support, she miraculously came back to life.
"I said, 'God, just show me something,'" her nephew, Daniel Pence, told ABC News.
"There were really no signs she had neurological functions," Kevin Eggleston, an internist, told ABC News.
"There was no life there," her son, Tim Thomas, told the Charleston Daily Mail. "Her skin had already started hardening, her hands and toes were curling up."
Family Was Distraught but Hopeful
Family members made the difficult decision to take Thomas, 59, off life support.
"We just prayed and prayed and prayed," Tim Thomas told the Charleston Daily Mail, "and I came to the conclusion she wasn't going to make it. ... I felt a sense of peace that I made the right decision."
After their goodbyes, medical staff took Thomas off her respirator.
"There was no heart beat," Tim Thomas told the Daily Mail.
Family members left the hospital to make funeral arrangements.
That's when they say a miracle happened.
Ten minutes after the medical staff stopped the respirator -- while nurses were removing the tubing -- Velma Thomas woke up.
"She moved her arm, and we thought it was reflexes," Pence told ABC News.
Nurses hurried to call Tim Thomas, who was already a few miles away, on his cell phone.
They told him that his mother was moving and had a heart rate, Tim Thomas told the Daily Mail.
Velma Thomas had moved her arm and foot, then she coughed and moved her eyes. Amazingly, Thomas began speaking.
By the time Tim Thomas arrived back at the hospital, his mother had already asked for him.
"She had already asked, 'Where's my son?'" he told the newspaper. "She was off everything."
Her doctors were baffled.
"There are things that physicians and nurses we can't always explain. And I think this is one of those cases," Eggleston told ABC News.
Organ Donor Card Prevented Outcome
Thomas is an organ donor, and that delayed taking her off the ventilator. Her family believes that Thomas was clearly meant to be alive.
Even her doctor called Thomas' return from near-death a "miracle."
Thomas is expected to make a full recovery. In a home video shared with "Good Morning America," she had a bright smile.
"I'm feeling wonderful, compared to the way I was feeling a few days ago," she said.
Life after death?
In 2004 I was living in Vietnam and had just married my wife. I was teaching computer programming at a university in Ho Chi Minh City and the classes were stopped so that the students could celebrate Tet -- the annual lunar holiday. This occurs in early February and it's a big deal -- like Christmas in America.
Naturally my wife wanted to travel to visit her family so she left for her home town of Vinh Long, in the Mekong Delta. I stayed in the city.
An American friend came to visit me and talked me in to going with him on a bus to Phnom Penh, the capital city of neighboring Cambodia. I had never been there and it seemed like a good adventure. The bus trip was inexpensive and took about a half day.
When we arrived in Phnom Penh, we split up and I found accommodations in a cheap hotel near the banks of the Mekong River. There is a park on the river that was full of families also celebrating the Tet holiday.
While I was strolling through the park I met an Australian man in his late 30's who talked to me and asked me to accompany him to a local bar. We had a few beers and I found that I was surprisingly intoxicated after drinking just three bottles. So much so that the gentleman offered to help me back to my hotel room.
I thanked the bloke and had one last beer with him, which he produced from his backpack. After I drank that bottle I must have passed out on my bed.
The next time I opened my eyes was at 3 AM in the morning in a French run hospital. I was intubated and a male doctor stood over me with two electric shock paddles in his hand.
"Here he is! Gary! Gary! Are you with us?"
They explained to me that I had died and that they had brought me back to life.
I remember being so calm and not at all frightened or surprised. Although I had been found in the hotel by a maid with no signs of life, I had in fact been visiting with my childhood friend, David, in a dimly lit room, discussing the fact that I had to return to my life because, as Dave put it, "It's not your time yet, man."
Dave and I met in grade school when we were 5 or 6 years old. Throughout our lives we always connected and talked about life, women, our jobs... and we were always able to share everything, no matter how good or bad, and manage to laugh and joke about life. I always felt good being around Dave, and that was exactly the same feeling I had when I opened my eyes in the Emergency Room in Cambodia.
I learned through the local police that the Australian had given me a powerful drug that, when combined with alcohol, is usually fatal. He did this to steal my passport -- a valuable commodity in Asia as it can be altered and sold for lots of cash.
Eventually I got my new passport and returned to Vietnam and my wife. We moved state-side in 2005 and set up home in Ruidoso, New Mexico. One of the first calls I made when we got our phone was to Dave, to tell him about my Cambodian adventure.
His wife answered the phone. "Oh, I'm terribly sorry, Gary. Dave passed away last year. He had a heart attack and died instantly while playing hockey. We tried to contact everyone but we didn't know how to reach you."
I was totally freaked and felt such a huge loss. "When did this happen?"
"It was last year in late January."
I learned it was just about two weeks before my own encounter with death. Dave had already been dead!
The weirdness of this gradually came to haunt me. But now it gives me comfort. It seems there is "something" on the other side of life.
And so I am writing to see if anyone else has had similar experiences. Please send your stories email@example.com and I'll post them for comments and discussion.
Comments from readers:
On June 20 2010 just days ago I lost a friend. He lived in CT and I live in VA. Gary and I had a very unusual bond that is hard to explain. I always felt that I could feel his presence and moods even with distance between us. Gary died while driving to the airport of a massive coronary at the age of 50 and I would not know until July 1st 2010.
On June 20th I was listless and could not function and layed in bed most of the bed disoriented and very emotionally distressed, not knowing why. The next few days the trend followed. On the day that Garys body was viewed I was at home playing with my dog and I looked up and saw his semi-translucent body dressed in formal wear across the room from me. The body appeared to float out of a wall and then dissolve. I was shocked but this was a guy in great shape and good health and although I was surprised I did nothing to investigate. On June 30th I saw him for a second time and this time I ran to the internet and I googled obituaries and found a current obit for another Gary with the same last name, I was momentarily freaked out but regained my composure when I realized they shared the same name but were not the same person. I awoke on the morning of July 1st in a state of panic covered in sweat and ran into my office and ran the obituaries again only to discover a second and current obituary with his name on it. I then contacted the family and they confirmed what had happened.
I enjoyed reading your article at http://viewzone.com/lifeafterdeath.html. I know people's NDEs vary widely. Here is my account:
I was five years old and my family was renting a house in El Cajon, California for the summer while my father attended classes at the university. The house had a novelty for me: A swimming pool. We used it every day.
I was unable to swim on my own and relied on a polystyrene float the strapped around my torso to keep me afloat. One morning I went out and could not find the float, so I simply held a ball that was in the pool. It did a great job of keeping me up--until my arms slipped, and I went under water.
I remember the initial panic, my arms flailing about, sinking under, and then seeing a light. I clearly recall thinking, "There is no light on the side of the pool; the light is over by the diving board."
I do not recall any sense of motion, tunnel, sounds, or seeing anybody. I did feel a tremendous peace and love. The light told me that I had work to do, and that I must return. I don't recall anything else. My father, who dove in to save me, says that I was very tired and slept most of the day.
My parents took me to church every week, but at five years old, I doubt that I had a clear idea of what is beyond this life. This simple NDE has profoundly impacted me to live a life with less fear and more love.
This is a 2-part event that happened to me. It starts in July of 1976 while living in NY. I was married at the time. I had to have wisdom teeth removed and went to an oral surgeon who gave me nitrous oxide as anesthesia.
I immediately went into a white light. There was a dias in front of me with 5 or 7 robed figures. Their faces were not visible; just a black space. They were clothed in a mauve, kind of sparkley material. (Picture the last scene from "My Stepmother Is An Alien") I was on a moving conveyor moving in an ellipse around them. They were talking about me; I could hear them clearly. As I moved away from them, the voices became slowed down, similar to a turntable going to a lower speed, as I approached them, the voices sped up.
Their conversation was this.
Voice 1: "No, she cannot go yet. We've been working on this line for a million years. We've got to breed her. We need the DNA"
Voice 2: "Yes, but not to this one. She has to go back."
Immediately, I was in the backyard of my in-laws, with my husband and his younger brother, standing by the pool. Their small dog, (who had already passed) was also there. I started saying over and over to myself, "Steve (my husband) you are the most important thing to me".
I woke up, primal screaming from so far down inside, it hurt. The doctor and his assistant were visibly shaken. He told me never let anyone give you laughing gas again; you're allergic to it. We almost lost you..
Forward to 1989; I am in GA. I am in the hospital in labor with my first child. The man I am with is not the father of the child. The labor starts to go hinky and the doctors decide to give me an emergency c-section. They give me nitrous. The baby is stillborn. Immediately, I am back to the dais, mid sentence of the previous conversation. In addition, I am also hearing and seeing everything going on in the OR.
From the dais:
Voice 1: "We still need to breed her. We need this line. "
Voice 2: "Yes, we can breed her to this one. His line is good."
At this point, I am talking to them, saying "I want to go" Both Voices said, "No, not yet. Later"
Then I am looking down from the ceiling of the OR. One doctor states, "this looks pretty good, I'm going to put it in the freezer". He carries something wrapped up. (It was the placenta for autopsy). I can see the baby with tubes etc. off to the side with nurses and doctors over her.
Then, I hear the sound of the back door of the house slamming (my dogs would sneak out that way). Then a nurse calling my name over and over and I wake up. My soon to be husband comes in and I ask him what happened. He shook his head. I told him I never heard the baby cry. He was so upset. A few minutes later, the doctor came in and told me the baby was stillborn. I asked if he needed me to sign a donor card as I knew how difficult it is to get baby organs. He broke down. He stated he had never delivered a more perfect looking child and did not know what had gone wrong. They had worked on her for 45 minutes. I told him about what I heard in the OR. He was surprised.
A nurse then came in and asked if we wanted to see the child. She warned me that there would tubes etc still in place. We said sure. As I took the baby, I said "oh look, she's such a little lamb". That is the only time I have ever said that. I wish the nurse would have warned us about the cyanotic coloring also; purplish blue. Like Krishna.
My sister came to see me. She told me that prior to leaving the house, her phone rang and it was the mother of a friend of hers who had passed on the previous year. The mother told her that she had to lay down and take nap, which is not her usual style. As soon as she closed her eyes, her daughter came to her and said, "I tried to talk to her (my sister) but she didn't listen. Give her this message. Tell her the little lamb is in the light with me and there are 2 parcels coming." The mother asked my sister if that made any sense to her. My sister told her about what happened to me and the mother stated her daughter had always wanted a daughter (She had had 2 sons).
When my sister told that to me, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I told her what I had said when the nurse brought the baby to us to see "oh look, she's such a little lamb". The nurses were all saying next time you'll have twins etc. This all happened in August of 1989.
In May of 1990, my youngest sister (who was not aware of being pregnant in August) gave birth to her daughter and in September of 1990, I had a daughter (the 2 parcels)...