For many of us, the experience of death seems to be something we can never gain insight into.
But researchers interviewing people whose hearts have stopped have shed light on what might happen when we die.
The first study of its kind found that nearly 40 percent of people who underwent resuscitation after cardiac arrest had memories or some awareness of things happening around them and had dream-like experiences.
Many even remembered the experience of death.
And many showed signs of brain activity up to an hour after cardiac arrest and the start of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, according to electroencephalogram (EEG) scans.
The findings “open the door to systematic research into what happens when a person dies,” scientists said.
Dr. Sam Parnia, lead study author and a critical care physician at NYU Langone in New York City, said: “Although doctors have long assumed that the brain suffers permanent damage about 10 minutes after the heart stops supplying it with oxygen, we have in Our work found that…” The brain can show signs of electrical recovery long after ongoing CPR.
“This is the first large study to show that these memories and brain wave changes could be signs of universal, common elements of so-called near-death experiences.”
The study – published in the journal resuscitation – studied 567 patients at 25 hospitals in the US and UK who received cardiopulmonary resuscitation after suffering cardiac arrest between May 2017 and March 2020.
They interviewed 28 of the 53 survivors to find out what, if anything, they remembered about their near-death experiences and how much they were aware of.
Two of the cardiac arrest patients awoke from coma during cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and two others recovered during the postresuscitation period.
Onerecalled: “I could feel someone doing something on my chest. I couldn’t feel the actual compressions, but I could feel someone rubbing pretty hard. It was quite painful.”
Another said: “I remember when I came back and they attached these two electrodes to my chest and I remember the shock.”
Three experienced dreams or dreamlike experiences, with one recalling walking in a puddle, but “I wasn’t wet and I kind of melted into the pavement.”
“There was a fisherman singing a sea shanty above me and it was raining,” they continued.
Six could remember the experience of death.
One of the survivors described it this way: “I was no longer in my body. I floated without weight or physicality. I was above my body and directly under the ceiling of the intensive therapy room. I watched the scene unfold below me.
Another felt like he was heading toward a destination: “I remember entering a…tunnel.
“The first feeling was a feeling of intense peace. It was so calm and serene with an incredible amount of peace. All of my…worries, thoughts, fears and opinions were gone.”
“The intensity of the calm was so incredible and overwhelming that I felt no fear of what I was experiencing. I wasn’t afraid of where I wanted to go and what would await me when I got there.”
“Then I felt warmth… Then there was the desire to be home.”
One of the stereotypes of near-death experiences is that people’s memories flash before them like a Rolodex.
This is what happened to one survivor who said: “I caught glimpses of my life and felt, love, joy and sadness, everything flows into me. Each picture showed me, but from the perspective of a being standing with me or watching me…
“I was shown the consequences of my life, thousands of people I had interacted with who felt how they felt about me saw their lives and how I had affected them.”
And some remember seeing loved ones.
“I remember seeing my dad,” one patient said, while another heard her dead grandma say, “You have to go back.”
Researchers also examined the brain wave activity of cardiac arrest survivors and tested whether participants could remember specific sights and sounds.
During resuscitation, they put headphones on the patient and played three words:Pear and Banana – while using a tablet to view 10 images.
Only one of the 28 participants correctly remembered the word order, but remembered the pictures.
The research team said more studies need to be done about what people experience after death and the psychological consequences of cardiac arrest.
“The remembered experience surrounding death now deserves further real empirical investigation without bias,” they wrote in the study.
The scientists said their findings could also “guide the development of new ways to revive the heart or prevent brain injury and have implications for transplantation.”
What is cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest is when your heart suddenly stops pumping blood throughout your body.
It is different from a heart attack, in which the blood supply to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. But the heart still pumps blood throughout the body.
Cardiac arrest is caused by a dangerous abnormal heart rhythm – known as an arrhythmia – that occurs when the electrical system in the heart malfunctions, the study found British Heart Foundation.
Not all arrhythmias are life-threatening, but some prevent the heart from pumping blood throughout the body.
There may be no symptoms at all before cardiac arrest. Johns Hopkins Medicine said, but some may have:
- shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations (fast or pounding heartbeat)
When someone goes into cardiac arrest, they suddenly collapse and are:
- does not react
- They are not breathing or not breathing normally – they may make wheezing noises
Resuscitation Council UK said NHS rescue teams try to resuscitate around 30,000 people who suffer cardiac arrest every year.
Now, 1 to 1.5 in 1,000 people admitted to hospital each year suffer from this disease.
According to the British Heart Foundation, cardiac arrest is an emergency and cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation can more than double your chances of survival.