Dr. Janis Amatuzio told me a remarkable and powerful story for my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything. It was this experience that first gave her an inkling of the mysteries that lay beyond life and death. Here is an excerpt, beginning with her bio.
Known as the “compassionate coroner,” Dr. Amatuzio writes and speaks about her personal experiences and insights regarding life after death and how to apply those lessons to live a richer, more rewarding life. She is a board-certified forensic pathologist and Chief Medical Examiner of Minnesota’s Anoka County system. Midwest Forensic Pathology, the company she founded, provides private autopsy services to numerous counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Her books, Forever Ours and Beyond Knowing, feature heartfelt stories of otherworldly experiences from patients transitioning between life and death, their grieving loved ones, police, clergy, and others. Click here to visit Dr. Amatuzio’s website.
I introduced myself and told him I had to start a catheter. As I was feeling for a vein, this man looked at me and said, “You know, doc, I died once.” My first thought was, Whoa, he’s off his rocker, he’s sundowning. He read my thoughts like he was reading a book. He said, “You don’t believe me,” with such sadness that I was terribly embarrassed. I said, “It’s not that I don’t believe you, but you know that’s a pretty extraordinary thing you just said.” He said, “I know. But I did.”
While I was feeling for a vein, I thought, Well, I’m going to be here a long time, I may as well hear a good story. So I asked him to tell me what had happened. He said, “Well, you know I’ve got blood clots in my legs and they like to travel up to my lungs.” I said, “I know, that’s why it’s so important to get this medication into your veins.” He told me he had had a filtering screen put in his interior vena cava, the large vessel that brings the blood from the lower extremities up to the heart, to stop the clots from passing to his lungs.
“That was two years ago,” he said. “And that’s when I died.” I nodded and said, “Yeah, but you’re here now.” He said, “Yep, I came back to life.” I felt a shiver go down my neck and I remember thinking, What is this? But he looked so earnest. He told me that when the doctors had finished implanting the screen in his heart, which had taken five hours, he had been wheeled into the PAR (post-anesthesia recovery room). “I remember laying there, trying to come to consciousness,” he said. “A nurse was squeezing my shoulder, trying to awaken me. But I just couldn’t quite wake up.”
By this time, I had palpated for a vein, found one and was taping the IV in. “Then the strangest thing happened,” he said. “All of a sudden, I left my body.” I looked at him and said, “And how did you do that?” He said, “Right through the top of my head.” And I said, “Really?” He said, “I remember looking down at my body from the ceiling. And I had such a sense of compassion for my body; I felt really sorry for it. All of a sudden, I noticed that the doctors and nurses were all rushing to my bedside. I was puzzled by that because I felt absolutely fine. But the most amazing thing was that I could hear all their thoughts. I could feel their concern, I could feel their love. It was amazing. Except for one nurse who was upset because she had a date after work and my cardiac arrest was delaying her. I went to the doctor’s side and tapped him on the shoulder. He didn’t feel me so I got right in front of him and tried to grab his arms. I said, ‘Stop all of that, I’m fine.’ But he didn’t hear me.”
“You could really hear every thought they had?” I asked incredulously. “Yes,” he said, “it was like reading their minds. And I watched them work furiously on my body. I watched them bring the paddles out and open up my gown to expose my chest. I saw my body jump every time they shocked me.”
I was already staring at him in disbelief, but he was just getting warmed up. “And then the most amazing thing happened,” he said. “The man in the bed next to me, he had a cardiac arrest!” “I suppose he left through the top of his head, too?” I said. “Yep,” he said, “and was he ever surprised to see me!”
I laughed and asked what the two of them did next. He said, “Well, I communicated with him by just thinking and told him what had happened. When we realized we couldn’t communicate with the doctors and nurses, we watched them work on our bodies for a while. There was only one crash cart and they had used most of the supplies on me. I watched the doctor shock me, turn around and shock him, turn back and shock me, then shock him again and so forth. We saw them call for another crash cart. It was absolute havoc down there. Finally, we decided to leave. I know it sounds odd but we really didn’t feel attached to our bodies.”
I had the IV in by now and had taped it down but I was hooked on his story, even though it was now 3:30 in the morning. In my typical twenty-something fashion, I said, “And how did you do that?”
He said, “Doc, you’re not going to believe this but we just thought our way through the wall.” I said, “You thought your way through the wall?” He said, “Yep, we didn’t go through a door or a window, we just thought ourselves through the walls and into the next room.” “Where did you end up?” I asked. He said, “In the waiting room. There were several people sitting there and I could feel their concern for the well-being of their loved ones. But we couldn’t communicate with them either so we decided to leave the hospital.” “Did you use the elevator this time?” I asked. He smiled and said, “No, we just thought our way through the hospital wall. I remember looking back and seeing the red brick and mortar.” I said, “Well, what happened then? I mean, you’re here now.”
“Doc,” he said, “when we got outside it was nice and warm and comfortable. And then . . . I saw it.” He paused for a moment to collect himself. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he said, “Off in the distance I saw—no, I felt—the most amazingly beautiful light. It was so bright, and it was made up of every color of the rainbow and more. I was instantly drawn to it and so was my companion. As we approached it, I felt the most incredible joy and awe and sense of grandeur I’ve ever experienced. Then the light opened up into a tunnel. I felt a rush as I moved through it. It was like standing in an enormous wind,” he said, pausing to gesture at my long hair, “only your hair wouldn’t blow. When I got there, it burst open into a magnificent display of colors, colors I had never seen before even though they seemed so familiar.
“And then I saw my mother and my father and my brother who had died in an accident forty years ago. My dog was there, too. I was overjoyed. It was a wonderful reunion. As I traveled upward toward the source of all this joy, I grew more aware. The brilliant, dazzling colors shimmered, and I began to realize, well, everything. I can’t explain it. I saw my life in its entirety, and I saw that everything that had happened to me had been perfect. Then suddenly, I knew with crystal clarity that I couldn’t stay and why.” He paused again so I said, “Well, what happened then?” He said, “You know that other guy?” I said, “Yeah?” And he said with an absolutely distraught voice, “The other guy got to go on and I had to come back.” And he just wept.
Dr. Amatuzio was one of six contributors to my book who shared their stories at a special Sixty Seconds event held at the Continuum Center in Minneapolis on October 1, 2008. Close to 100 people came for a great evening of storytelling and lively conversation. Here is Janis’ presentation, in which she shared more incredible stories of life after death. Click here to watch the video presentations of the other five storytellers.
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