PHILIPPINES - The other Inquirer story that caught my attention recently was the case of a Cebuana, Laura D. Banzon, who was clinically dead for one hour and then came back to life.
Writer Charisse Ursal of Cebu City described the extraordinary incident in the Jan. 19 issue of the Inquirer.
The 87-year-old Banzon recounted that when she was 26 she was afflicted with acute pneumonia and brought to the Sacred Heart Hospital in Cebu in 1952. Two days later, she was dead. An hour after she was declared clinically dead, she came back to life. Her physician, Dr. Dayday Borbon, considered it a miracle because her patient recovered from her ailment and didn't suffer any side effects, although her heart stopped beating for 60 minutes.
While "dead," she found herself outside her lifeless body lying on the bed, while her family started crying. Then she saw a narrow bright road which she followed. She then heard a man's voice telling her to sit beside him. She described the man as "tall with deep-set brown eyes, wearing a snowy robe with a blue-green shroud."
The man told her it was not her time yet and she had to go back, escorted by an angel. "The experience strengthened Banzon's faith, especially in the Holy Child Jesus," concluded the story.
What happened to Banzon is typical of what has been called "Near-Death Experience," or NDE, a phrase coined by Dr. Raymond Moody, who first studied this phenomenon in the '70s and reported his findings in his best-selling book "Life After Life." I met Dr. Moody when he gave a talk at the Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles, California, in the '90s.
After investigating some 150 cases of NDEs, Dr. Moody realised that there are many other individuals who have experienced the same thing in many parts of the world. And the stories they tell are essentially the same.
When I asked several Filipino doctors when a person can be declared "clinically dead," one from Manila said, "After three minutes with zero brain waves and heartbeat." Another said after five minutes. An anesthesiologist from Isabela said they declare a person dead after 30 minutes of trying to revive the patient and no response was received. Also, if there are zero brain waves and no heart beat for that period of time.
I asked why they wait three to five minutes before declaring a person dead; they replied that after that period with no oxygen in the brain, it is irreversibly damaged. Even if the person survives after that period, he would be a vegetable.
How come this 26-year-old Cebuana lived again after an hour of zero brain waves? No one, of course, can explain it. Maybe there is really no way we can accurately tell when a person is really dead.
Consider the following extraordinary cases of persons who were clinically dead for more than 30 minutes, and yet lived to tell their stories.
American ex-Marine sniper Dannion Brinkley was dead for 28 minutes after lightning went through the telephone set he was using at the time and threw him up to the ceiling with burns. He was rushed to the hospital and was declared "dead on arrival."
Less than 30 minutes later, he came back to life with no damage to his brain. He suffered second and third NDEs after several years but again survived them. He related his incredible story in the book "Saved by the Light."
To be autopsied
A more remarkable story is the case of Russian scientist George Rodonaia of Georgia, Russia. He was assassinated by the communist regime because of his dissident views. The KGB ran over his body with a car three times to make sure he was dead. His lifeless body was kept inside a freezer in a morgue. After three days, his body was taken out of the morgue to be autopsied. During the autopsy procedure, he opened his eyes three times, to the horror of the doctor performing the autopsy who called out to his colleagues that the patient was alive.
George Rodonaia then migrated to the United States and became a religious preacher.
Skeptical doctors contend that these so-called near-death experiences are nothing more than hallucinations brought about by deprivation of oxygen in the brain. The case of Rodonaia, on the other hand, was explained to me by a doctor as either wrong diagnosis, or the brain was protected from damage because of hypothermia or freezing. In other words these people who were declared clinically dead were not dead at all.
I don't agree with the skeptics because they have not studied the evidence; but then, they are entitled to their own opinion.