Excerpt fromBy Jeff Abell
News 4 San Antonio
BALTIMORE - Those who have skirted death often talk about their 'near-death' experiences.
At times, the stories sound like a scene from the twilight zone. But what some researchers discount as hallucinations, others are beginning to take a closer look. Some scientists now seem convinced the stories may actually be real.
Ellyn Dye is a professional writer who didn't quite learn the lessons of life until she discovered death.
"There really is more than who we human beings are," says Dye.
She made her life-changing discovery on a drive to the supermarket 30 years ago, not far from her Silver Spring home. Another motorist veered into her path sending Dye crashing.
"I had enough time to think, ‘oh my God he's.’ I felt no impact. I felt nothing. And the next thing I knew I was looking down from the top of my car," she says.
Dye was clinically dead and viewing her own crash scene from a distance. It was an out of body experience that sounded all too familiar.
"The tunnel of light showed up. You can see this bright, bright, light, but the most important part is you can feel it. I saw, almost immediately, saw all of my relatives who have passed. You know how happy they were to see me and how proud of me they are," Dye says.
Her experience confirmed what she had forever believed, that life exists even after death.
"And I really do think that the worst thing we can be is afraid," she adds.
"I never had a question whether it was real or not. It was real for me," says Jack Dunlavey. Five years ago, Dunlavey was knocking on death’s door. Not long after pulling his tractor out of the barn, it gave way to the soggy ground.
"Four thousand pounds is what the tractor guy told me," he says.
All 4,000 pounds overturned and landed on Dunlavey's back.
"Instantly, I knew I was going to die," he says.
What happened next is similar to what happened to Dye. A bright tunnel appeared and so did familiar faces.
"But when I walked in and floated into that, all my concerns were gone. As I was in there I also saw my parents coming toward me," Dunlavey says.
Scientists have long believed that these out of body experiences were simply hallucinations. But after studying the stories of more than 2,000 heart attack survivors, some researchers now seem convinced those "near death" experiences may actually be real. The study, which is the largest to date, found that more than 40 percent of survivors describe having some form of awareness long after they were declared dead.
"In general, they described seeing lights, getting peaceful, seeing relatives almost as if they were walking them to where they were going," says Dr. Sam Parnia.
But one New York surgeon says, "No, there's no life after death."
He adds that there is a scientific explanation for those near death experiences. For as long as five minutes after the heart stops neurons, he says, are still pumping images through the brain.
"So when we talk about that bright light, that's happening in your occipital lobe," the surgeon says.
"Some people can't comprehend that something like that can happen, but it’s getting more common now so people are starting to listen," says Dunlavey.
For Dye, the research bolsters what she's known for years.
"It doesn't convince me more that my experience was real because it was very real. I can say I saw all my relatives who have died. They were alive and more alive than they ever were on planet earth."
It took death for Dye to learn to live. She now leads a Maryland support group for those who have had near death experiences.