Cardiologist discusses near-death experiences
The six High Point medical professionals stood in the semi-darkened room, staring incredulously at one another.
The woman on the table, who only moments before had clinically died before being resuscitated, bore an unmistakable radiance that could not be explained medically.
“This lady, when she came back, had a physical glow about her head,” recalls Dr. James McGukin, a cardiologist with Carolina Regional Heart Center, who was one of the six observers.
“I’ve never seen that before. All of us looked at each other, to make sure we all had seen it, and we had. It was like an aura around this woman’s face.”
Later in the day, when McGukin visited the woman in her hospital room, she seemed totally at peace; prior to her near-death experience, she had been extremely nervous, he recalls.
“Do you know what happened to you today?” McGukin asked.
The patient smiled and recounted an experience similar to countless other near-death experiences patients had told him about.
“She saw the bright light, and she saw the staircase,” he says. “When she got to the top of the stairs, though, a little girl in a fancy dress stopped her and said, ‘It’s not your time yet — go back.’ She had no idea who the little girl was.”
The next morning, McGukin checked on his patient again, and the woman smiled broadly when she saw him.
“I figured out who that girl was,” she told him. “I had a baby sister die when I was an infant, and that was her.”
That’s a totally unscientific anecdote, McGukin acknowledges, “but all six of us saw that aura around her head. I’d never seen it before, and I haven’t seen it since.”
McGukin, of High Point, has been a cardiologist since 1992, but he was interviewing patients about their near-death experiences long before he got his license.
“I started asking questions in the mid to late 1970s, when I was still in college and doing volunteer work at the hospital,” he says. “I’ve always found it fascinating, and some of the stories have been just incredible.”
On Sunday morning, McGukin will share some of his stories with the congregation at Faith Baptist Church in Archdale, where he is a member. His presentation will be in conjunction with interim pastor Mike Owen’s sermon series called “Heaven and Hell.”
A devout Christian, McGukin will filter his stories through his own biblical beliefs — which essentially means he believes in a literal heaven and hell, and he’s convinced that people who have had near-death experiences have glimpsed one place or the other.
“We had one patient who literally gave an account of walking through the valley of the shadow of death,” McGukin says, “with wailing and gnashing of teeth on one side of him, and people in white robes and singing hymns on the other side.”
According to McGukin, many of the stories he’s heard include mentions of the stereotypical bright light and stairway to heaven. Some individuals, including McGukin’s own father, have reported seeing streets of gold.
Conversely, some report frightening stories of fire and brimstone.
“This one man had a heart attack and died, but was brought back,” McGukin recalls. “Later on, after he was back in his room, a nurse called me and said, ‘You’ve got to get this man something for his nerves — he’s all upset.’ I asked her what the problem was, and she said, ‘He saw demons and fire.’ I said, ‘He doesn’t need a nerve pill — he needs a clergyman.’ So they called a clergyman to come talk to him, and he got saved.”
McGukin also remembers a woman who he says tried to protect her beloved Chihuahua from the fires of hell as she was dying.
“She kept yelling out for the dog not to come near the bed because it was on fire,” he says. “She was not exactly a nice person, if you know what I mean, so it sort of fit the scenario.”
Still other patients have described out-of-body experiences, in which they were floating above the room and observing the doctors trying to save their lives.
“They can describe to you what happened while they were clinically dead, and they’re correct,” McGukin says. “And they know details that there’s no way they could’ve known. One woman was telling us all the different drugs we tried to give her — and in the order we gave them to her — and those drugs were all words that were not in her normal vocabulary.”
Without exception, McGukin says, the near-death experiences have a lasting impact on the patients.
“When it’s a good experience, they’ll say, ‘I have no fears — I’ve been there, and I’m ready to go whenever,’” he says. “But the ones like that man who saw the demons, they’re understandably upset.”
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Dr. James McGukin will speak about some of his patients’ near-death experiences during the 11 a.m. Sunday worship service at Faith Baptist Church, 5744 Mendenhall Road, Archdale.
The public is invited.