Pam Reynolds case

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Pam Reynolds' NDE)

Pam Reynolds Lowery (1956 – May 22, 2010), from Atlanta, Georgia, was an American singer-songwriter.[1] In 1991, at the age of 35, she stated that she had a near-death experience (NDE) during a brain operation performed by Robert F. Spetzler at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. Reynolds was under close medical monitoring during the entire operation. During part of the operation she had no brain-wave activity and no blood flowing in her brain, which rendered her clinically dead. She claimed to have made several observations during the procedure which medical personnel reported to be accurate.

Within the field of near-death studies and among those who believe in life after death, the case has been cited as well-documented and significant, with many proponents considering it to be evidence of the survival of consciousness after death. An anesthesiologist who examined the case offered anesthesia awareness as a more prosaic and conventional explanation for such claims.[2] Reynolds died from heart failure at the age of 53 on May 22, 2010, at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.[3]

Diagnosis and operation[edit]

Pam Reynolds reported to her physician that she was experiencing symptoms of dizziness, loss of speech and difficulty in moving parts of her body. Her physician referred her to a neurologist, and a CAT scan later revealed that Reynolds had a large aneurysm in her brain, close to the brain stem. Because of the difficult position of the aneurysm, Reynolds was predicted to have no chance of surviving surgery for its removal. As a last resort, Robert F. Spetzler, a neurosurgeon of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, decided that a rarely performed procedure, known as a standstill operation, or medically induced hypothermic cardiac arrest, could improve Reynolds' chances of surviving surgical removal of the aneurysm. During this procedure, Reynolds' body temperature was lowered to 50 °F (10 °C), her breathing and heartbeat stopped, and the blood drained from her head. Her eyes were closed with tape and small ear plugs with speakers were placed in her ears. These speakers emitted audible clicks which were used to check the function of the brain stem to ensure that she had a flat electroencephalography (EEG)—indicating a non-responsive brain—before the operation proceeded. The operation was a success and Reynolds recovered completely. The total surgery lasted about seven hours with a few complications along the way.[4]

Claimed NDE[edit]

Reynolds reported that during the operation she heard a sound like a natural 'D' that seemed to pull her out of her body and allowed her to "float" above the operating room and watch the doctors perform the operation. Reynolds claims that during this time she felt "more aware than normal" and her vision was more focused and clearer than normal vision. She reported seeing the surgical "saw" but said it looked like an electric toothbrush, and this is in fact true. She said she could hear conversations between operating room staff, even though she had earphones in her ears which were making a loud clicking noise many times per second in order to monitor her brain function.[5]

At some point during the operation, she says she noticed a presence and was pulled towards a light. She says she began to discern figures in the light, including her grandmother, an uncle, other deceased relatives and people unknown to her. According to Reynolds, the longer she was there, the more she enjoyed it, but at some point she was reminded that she had to go back. She says her uncle brought her back to her body, but she did not want to go, so he pushed her in, and the sensation was like that of jumping into ice water.[1]


Reynolds' near-death experience has been put forward as evidence supporting an afterlife by proponents such as cardiologist Michael Sabom in his book Light and Death. According to Sabom, Reynolds' experience occurred during a period in which her brain had completely ceased to function.[6]

Critics say that the amount of time during which Reynolds was "flatlined" is generally misrepresented and suggest that her NDE occurred under general anesthesia when the brain was still active, hours before Reynolds underwent hypothermic cardiac arrest.[7][8][9]

Anesthesiologist Gerald Woerlee analyzed the case, and concluded that Reynolds' ability to perceive events during her surgery was a result of "anesthesia awareness".[10]

According to the psychologist Chris French:

Woerlee, an anesthesiologist with many years of clinical experience, has considered this case in detail and remains unconvinced of the need for a paranormal explanation... [He] draws attention to the fact that Reynolds could only give a report of her experience some time after she recovered from the anesthetic as she was still intubated when she regained consciousness. This would provide some opportunity for her to associate and elaborate upon the sensations she had experienced during the operation with her existing knowledge and expectations. The fact that she described the small pneumatic saw used in the operation also does not impress Woerlee. As he points out, the saw sounds like and, to some extent, looks like the pneumatic drills used by dentists.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

BBC (Bristol) made a 1-hour documentary about the Pam Reynolds case titled The Day I Died.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b J.E. Geshwiler (May 28, 2010). "Pam Reynolds Lowery, noted for near-death episode". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on January 11, 2012. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  2. ^ a b French, Chris (2005). "Near-Death Experiences in Cardiac Arrest Survivors". The Boundaries of Consciousness: Neurobiology and Neuropathology. Progress in Brain Research. Vol. 150. pp. 150: 351–367. doi:10.1016/S0079-6123(05)50025-6. ISBN 978-0444518514. PMID 16186035.
  3. ^ Geshwiler, J. E. "Pam Reynolds Lowery, noted for near-death episode". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  4. ^ "Decoding The Mystery Of Near-Death Experiences". Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  5. ^ Edward F. Kelly; Emily Williams Kelly; Adam Crabtree; Alan Gauld; Michael Grosso; Bruce Greyson (2007). Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 392–393. ISBN 978-0-7425-4792-6. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  6. ^ Michael Sabom (1998). Light and Death: One Doctor's Fascinating Account of Near-Death Experiences. Zondervan. pp. 43, 49. ISBN 0-310-21992-2.
  7. ^ Beauregard, Mario (2012). "Neuroimaging and Spiritual Practice". In Miller, Lisa J. (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Psychology and Spirituality. Oxford University Press, USA. pp. 509–510. ISBN 978-0-19-997864-9.[need quotation to verify]
  8. ^ Keith Augustine (2007). "Does paranormal perception occur in near-death experiences?" (PDF). Journal of Near-Death Studies. 25 (4): 203–236, pages 217–218.
  9. ^ Carroll, Robert Todd. "The Skeptic's Dictionary". Robert Todd Carroll. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  10. ^ Evan Thompson (2014). Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy. Columbia University Press. pp. 371–. ISBN 978-0-231-53831-2.
  11. ^ "The Day I Died". IMDb.

Further reading[edit]

  • French, Chris. (2009). Near-Death Experiences and the Brain. In Craig Murray. Psychological Scientific Perspectives on Out-of-Body and Near-Death Experiences. Nova Science Publishers. pp. 187–203. ISBN 978-1-60741-705-7
  • Michael Sabom. (1998). Light and Death. Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-21992-2
  • Woerlee, G. M. (2005). An Anaesthesiologist Examines the Pam Reynolds Story. Part. 1. Background Considerations. Skeptic (British version), 18.1 (in press).
  • Woerlee, G. M. (2005). An Anaesthesiologist Examines the Pam Reynolds Story. Part 2. An Explanation. Skeptic (British version), 18.2 (in press).
  • Woerlee G. M. (2011). "Could Pam Reynolds Hear? A New Investigation into the Possibility of Hearing During this Famous Near-Death Experience". Journal of Near-Death Studies. 30: 3–25.