Cardiologist recounts case in which both dying man and wife saw Jesus



Written by Michael H. Brown


September 3, 2003 - As reported in [Spirit] online newspaper. We've often reported on those who say they've had a glimpse of Jesus. We've recounted cases that involve seers. We've related the claims of those who say they've encountered Him during near-death experiences. Cardiologist Dr. Michael Sabom of St. Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta takes it a step further, detailing the incredible account of Darrell Pell, a 34-year-old grocery store manager who "died" (and then returned) while waiting for a heart transplant. What makes the case special is not just that Pell claimed to have encountered Jesus, but the fact that at his bedside -- his deathbed -- his wife also witnessed the apparition.

It's recorded in Dr. Sabom's excellent book, Light and Death: One Doctor's Fascinating Account of Near-Death Experiences. The date: July 31, 1994. Time: about 9:50 a.m. Place: Saint Joseph's Hospital. That was where an alarm went off indicating the first of what turned out to be a week of ten cardiac arrests for Pell, multiple serious medical procedures, and a near decision to discontinue treatment (and let Darrell die).

It sounds like a real horror story, except that Darrell later described it as the "best week" of his life!

It started during that first cardiac arrest for this man who wasn't even a practicing Christian. Suddenly, everything around him became an incredible sky blue, and Pell saw the faces of relatives, friends. Spontaneously, he began to recite the Scripture verse from Psalm 23 (about the "valley of the shadow of death"). As he did so he found his spirit hovering at ceiling level, watching as doctors and nurses scrambled to revive him.

Darrell wasn't watching alone. At his right side stood the Lord Jesus Christ, "with his left arm wrapped around me," Darrell told Dr. Sabom, describing the reddish-brown hair that hung shoulder length on the great spirit Being.

Darrell's one thought: he had to survive for his little girl and wife.

Can we say that this is simply an overly active imagination? Religious conditioning? A brain skewed due to oxygen deprivation?

None of that seems to fit. The experience was too far above the ordinary. There were four more cardiac arrests that day, recounts Dr. Sabom, and only during the third did Jesus speak.

That occurred when Darrell asked the Lord what He wanted him to do and Jesus allegedly responded, "Go" -- causing Darrell to return again into his body.

Around 11 p.m., friends who had accompanied his wife had to go home, leaving his wife alone in her vigil. Although she too had stopped going to church years before, she prayed, implored the Lord to save Darrell's life, and silently confessed her sins. "That's when I started asking for healing for Darrell," she recounted, "and that's when I opened my eyes."

What she saw may have terrified some people, but for Alison, there was a wave of joy. A light was surrounding her husband's head, shoulders, and especially his heart -- a gorgeous melding of white with gold that flowed like waves inside a "lava lamp." One beam hovered like a pillar over his chest, she recounted to the cardiologist, who believes near-death experiences unquestionably grant a glimpse of the hereafter.

"I said, 'Lord, I'm going to open my eyes again,'" Alison recalled. "Put Your Hand on his heart, and put Your other Hand on our hands and show me that this is real.'

"And when I opened my eyes, there was this person on Darrell's left side."

What she saw was the right Hand of Jesus on Darrell's heart and His left Hand clasping her and her husband's hands. He wore a white robe with a blue sash, according to Alison, who also described His hair as long and brown. He was made of light, she said -- yet somehow was not transparent.

"I closed my eyes and started giving thanks again," said Alison. "Darrell woke up a little later and I said, 'Did you know that Jesus was here?' He said, 'Yeah.' And I said, 'Where was He?' and he patted the bed right there where Jesus was!"

Following the experience -- and several more cardiac arrests -- Darrell, who had struggled with both alcohol and drugs before his near-death episode, became an avid believer. Previous to his experience he never discussed religion; now, that was almost all he did. The nurses would hear him singing "How Great Thou Art" -- and once he recovered, he took to visiting bars and motorcycle meetings, attempting to convert those who he encountered.

His own motorcycle leather vest bore religious patches that said things like "Riding for the Son," "Christian Motorcycles Association," "100 percent for Jesus."

And oh, yes: In the hospital, Darrell had drawn a picture of his near-death encounter with Christ, the one in which he and Jesus were watching the doctors from the spot above the bed. He had tacked his rendition of the experience (done with a crayon) to the wall near the foot of his bed.

"It didn't dawn on me until nine months later, after I revisited the room, that the drawing put Darrell and Jesus above the doorway," noted Dr. Sabom. "There, as in each patient's room, hangs a gold-colored crucifix."