The orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mary Neal « died » by drowning in a kayak accident in 1999 – and two decades later her shocking survival experience stunned the scientific community.
Neal, now 62, was submerged under her overturned boat for 30 minutes held before friends saved her. There is no explanation as to how it could be resuscitated and brain damage avoided.
« As a doctor and scientist and as someone who thinks very specifically and pragmatically, I would have rolled my eyes too if I had heard my own story » , Neal told The Post about her home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where she has a private practice.
Neal’s harrowing report will – along with several others – be featured in Netflix’s new documentary « Surviving Death, » which premiered Wednesday dramatized and explored.
During the half hour she was in hiding, Neal claimed she looked down at her body from a vantage point above and felt herself traveling to what she calls heaven, where she looks upon ghosts their deceased ancestors came across and time seemed to slow down. There the « spirits » informed her that their son was going to die, although they did not say when or how.
Neal was already a doctor at the time and described himself in a casual way as « culturally Christian ». But she emerged from her ordeal more spiritually and now describes herself as a « child of God ». Still, she sees no conflict between her scientific training as a spinal surgeon and her religious beliefs.
« I spent many months [after the incident] trying to find a medical or scientific explanation because I was told that my eldest son was would die. So I was very motivated to find a reasonable explanation with which I can discount everything, ”said the mother of three.
In 2009, their eldest son Willie was hit by a car and killed at the age of 20.
Neal’s story of looking down on her body and encountering some sort of spiritual world is common among people, according to « surviving death » who have had near-death experiences.
« People who had the medical definition of death – flatlining – and can be brought back with the advent of resuscitation medicine have had these extraordinary experiences that are not unique, » said the series director and producer Ricki Stern.
« When you think of people exploring the possibility of an afterlife or consciousness outside the body, we tend to think of those woo-woo shows like » Ghost Hunters « or » Long Island Medium « », added Stern. « So when we get a deep dive into doctors studying this, let’s take another lens to look at this possibility. »
The series is based on a book of the same name by investigative journalist Leslie Kean.
» I’m pretty confident after writing my book to make the statement that I don’t think consciousness is limited to the physical brain, « Kean told The Post. « If so, could it survive the death of the physical brain? There is a lot of evidence to suggest that it is possible. We cannot give hardcore answers, but we can show what it is like when people take this journey Go. «
In the years since her near-death experience, Neal has explored popular theories, including the hypothesis that a lack of oxygen in the brain causes hallucinations that evoke the afterlife sensations. She says she finds no merit in them.
« For example, if you look at love, we can study it scientifically and see the consequences of love, but we cannot » prove « love. It’s a different axis and a different concept, » she said. » Science and spirituality easily coexist because they appeal to different parts of our existence. «
Whether or not they can be scientifically proven, Neal and Kean said that stories are about the afterlife – and the fact that many people have similar anecdotes – cannot be ruled out.
« If you are talking about scientific studies and want to prove that there is life after death, I would point out that this has already been proven, » said Neal and was referring to anecdotal evidence spanning time and cultures.
« I think science will move forward when it comes to understanding how it happens. But honestly g it says to prove that there is a continuation of consciousness I think has already been done. “
There aren’t any definitive answers, and that is part of the show’s appeal, according to Stern. « We didn’t go on this series to debunk, prove, or disprove, » said Stern. « We asked a lot of questions and we hope people will go and ask more. »
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