All of a sudden, he developed a severe pain in his back and within 15 minutes he was paralyzed in anguish and could barely even move.
Before he began convulsing in a seizure, his last words to his wife were, ‘Don’t call 911,’ and he lost consciousness and has no memory of what happened for an entire week.
Fortunately for him, his wife disregarded his advice and he was rushed to an area hospital and was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.
‘My entire cortex – the part of the brain that controls thought and emotion and that in essence makes us human – had shut down,’ he writes in his essay.
‘Doctors determined that I had somehow contracted a very rare bacterial meningitis that mostly attacks newborns. E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain,’ he added.
He was placed on a ventilator at the intensive care unit and for six days he was treated with triple antibiotics to fight the bacteria but his brain had little functionality and he was unresponsive, leaving doctors to believe he would not recover.
As his family prepared for the worst, on the seventh day he suddenly opened his eyes.
His breathing tube was removed and he miraculously told doctors, ‘Thank you.’
He suffered from amnesia and could not remember his life at all prior to his illness and remained in a haze for the first few days after he came out of the coma.
As he recovered though, he began to recall vivid memories of a magical mental experience during his time in the coma.
‘While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility,’ he writes.
He says he entered a ‘place of clouds – big, puffy and pink-white,’ filled with butterflies and angel-like creatures that were ‘simply different from anything I have known on this planet. They were more advanced. Higher forms.’
In this heavenly realm, he says he heard ‘a sound, huge and booming like a glorious chant, came down from above,’ providing him with a sense of joy and awe.
A beautiful young woman accompanied him during his stay, ‘she was young, and I remember what she looked like in complete detail. She had high cheekbones and deep-blue eyes. Golden brown tresses framed her lovely face.’
Alexander admits his description might sound like something straight out of Hollywood, but to skeptics he says he has a clear sense that is was indeed real and ‘not some fantasy, passing and insubstantial.’
After his remarkable experience in 2008, Alexander says the impact has been both on the professional and the spiritual.
Now the scientist has committed his energy to ‘investigating the true nature of consciousness and making the fact that we are more, much more, than our physical brains as clear as I can, both to my fellow scientists and to people at large.’
But the self-described Christian-in-name-only, now says his experience with heaven has deepened his understanding of God and strengthened his faith.
‘At the very heart of my journey [is this], that we are loved and accepted unconditionally by a God even more grand and unfathomably glorious than the one I’d learned,’ he concludes.