Neuroscientist Sees ‘Proof of Heaven’ in Week-Long Coma
It’s dinnertime at the Alexander home, in Lynchburg, Va.
Holley Alexander is serving chicken curry, 14-year-old Bond is hungry after soccer and the dad, Dr. Eben Alexander, leads the family in prayer.
In this home, saying grace is different these days. This family has been touched by a medical miracle — and maybe more.
“It was impossible after impossible after impossible that all these things happened,” Alexander said in an interview with “Nightline” co-anchor Terry Moran.
Alexander, a Harvard neurosurgeon, nearly died four years ago when a ferocious E. coli meningitis infection attacked his brain and plunged him deep into a week-long coma. Brain scans showed his entire cortex — the parts of the brain that give us consciousness, thought, memory and understanding — was not functioning. Doctors gave him little chance to live and told his family that if he did survive he’d probably be brain-damaged for the rest of his life.
“Nurses would come in, and they would pull his eyelids back, shine in the flashlight, and his eyes were just off and cocked,” Holley Andersen said. “It’s just like no one was there.”
Against all odds, Alexander woke up a week after being stricken. But he believes Holley was right: He wasn’t there.
Deep in coma, his brain infected so badly only the most primitive parts were working, Alexander claimed he experienced something extraordinary: a journey to Heaven.
“In every sense, of the word that’s what my experience showed me,” Alexander said.
“My first memories from when I was deep inside: I had no language, all my earthly memories were gone,” he said. “I had no body awareness at all. I was just a speck of awareness in kind of a dark, murky environment, in roots or vessels or something. And I seemed to be there for a very long time — I would say years.
“I was rescued by this beautiful, spinning, white light that had a melody, an incredibly beautiful melody with it that opened up into a bright valley,” he added, “an extremely verdant valley with blossoming flowers and a just incredible, rich, ultra-real world of indescribable complexity.”
Video: Dr Eben Alexander, a Harvard-educated neurosurgeon, fell into a coma for seven days in 2008 after contracting meningitis.
During his illness Dr Alexander says that the part of his brain which controls human thought and emotion “shut down” and that he then experienced “something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.” In an essay for American magazine Newsweek, which he wrote to promote his book Proof of Heaven, Dr Alexander says he was met by a beautiful blue-eyed woman in a “place of clouds, big fluffy pink-white ones” and “shimmering beings”.* Cenk Uygur, Ana Kasparian, Dave Koller, and Steve Oh discuss the idea of the afterlife and what the doctor may have experienced.