A North Carolina woman claims to have seen heaven and spoken to Jesus during the time she was pronounced clinically dead while she underwent surgery to remove her appendix.
"My heart must have stopped during surgery," said Debbie Cain, reports North Carolina FOX 8. "I started feeling this love from within, it was warm and as the light I saw started clearing through, I saw Jesus standing there. He looked down at me and without saying a word, He told me, 'Not now my child.' The next thing I knew, I was waking up in a recovery room."
Before her surgery, Cain says she was not religious, however, following her near death experience, she says she no longer doubts the existence of God and heaven.
Similarly, Tony Spagnoletti, a North Carolina firefighter, claims to have had an encounter with God soon after he had a heart attack while preparing to respond to an emergency call.
"It was a beautiful graduated light, like a flat horizon on a cloudless day and I thought, 'Wow, perfect peace,'" said Spagnoletti.
His experience might have occurred, he thinks, as God's way of letting him know that miracles do exist.
According to a Gallup research report, 12 to 15 million Americans have encountered a near death experience. These figures increase as resuscitation techniques improve. Medical professionals, however, oftentimes dismiss these encounters as hallucination episodes.
Michael Minotti, a head and neck surgeon at Alleghany Memorial Hospital in North Carolina, began to research near death experiences after several of his patients began to claim they had divine encounters.
"There is far more evidence that they are real than they are not," said Minotti. "These are so real, they're life changing, it's not like having a dream.
He added, "There are cases of blind people who have had a near death experience; they've been clinically dead, and have been resuscitated and left their bodies and saw for the first time. They've explained in detail the resuscitation efforts, which they in no way could have known."
As a scientist, Minotti says he did not believe such experiences were real, but he now thinks otherwise.
"At one time I was very skeptical and then I came to a point where they could be true, and now I'm convinced they are true," said Minotti.