Exploring all aspects of near-death experiences (and related phenomena).
My Face-To-Face Encounter With Jesus Christ
By Chris Russell
PMH Atwater's Website
My name is Chris Russell. I am 60 year-old combat veteran of the Vietnam War living in North Carolina. The purpose of this paper is to share a very profound “out of body” or “not of this world” experience that I had while undergoing surgery for lung cancer in 2000.
My story begins in 1999 when I visited a friend of mine in Virginia Beach, VA. My friend is a 70ish-year-old Christian lady who happens to have what is commonly referred to as “psychic” abilities. To those who would argue that a person cannot be a “Christian” and a “psychic” at the same time, I beg to differ and but report my truthful experiences with her herein.
Suffice it to say that my friend can "see" and or “intuit” things that most ordinary people can't. I've known her since 1974 and she's been a good friend over these many years. She is a very goodly and God revering woman who studies the Scripture and prays to our Lord daily. When I visited her in 1999 she advised me, "Chris, you have lung cancer and you're going to die". Because she has always been so accurate in the past, I took this advice seriously and immediately reported to the Veteran Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Fayetteville, NC and asked for a physical examination. I’ll never forget when the nurse on duty asked me if I’d ever had an “Agent Orange” (AO) exam and when I replied that I had not, she scheduled me for one. The AO physical examination affirmed my friend's prognosis and I was subsequently referred to the VAMC in Durham, NC (which is administered by the physicians from Duke Medical Center and which is but across the street from the VAMC). The Duke Hospital physicians performed some exploratory/surgical testing and advised me that my cancer was in “stage 3B” and was “incurable”. They told me to "go home and get your affairs in order because you're going to die and that there's nothing that anyone can do about it."
Not wanting to accept this dire prognosis I boarded a plane and went down to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX for a 'second opinion'. The physicians at MD Anderson told me that the doctors at Duke had lied to me about the "stage" of my cancer (my cancer was actually in stage 3A....there's a big difference in this staging because the National Cancer Institute (NCI) advises that stage 3A cancer patient may be a candidate for surgery while stage 3B is not eligible for surgery). However, the physicians at MD Anderson advised me that otherwise, their physicians’ prognosis was pretty much the same as Duke had expressed and that in any event I was probably going to die. Fortunately for me, however, another friend of mine (who happened to be a Social Worker at the VA’s “Vet Center” in Fayetteville) called me one night (3:30 AM) in Houston and told me that he'd been in touch with some oncologists/physicians at the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center in Greenville, NC and that they had expressed that they would be amenable to seeing me in spite of the fact that I didn’t have any medical insurance. So I boarded the next flight home and rushed to Greenville, NC where the fine medical personnel at the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center (LJCC) examined me. Then the oncologists and social workers at LJCC found a "clinical trial" that I qualified for and they offered me treatment paid via the auspices of MEDICAID. So, I, along with 11 others (who shared the same stage of cancer that I had), entered the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center’s ‘clinical trial'. Long story short is that I had a remarkable reaction to the chemotherapy as it all but eliminated the 5.5 cm malignant tumor which had been growing in my left lung. While the chemo didn't totally and completely eliminate the cancer, it did eliminate enough of it that the surgeons came to me one day and said that they would be willing to perform surgery in an attempt and with the hope of saving my life. Initially visualizing that he would only have to take but 1/2 of my left lung, once he'd gotten in there, the head surgeon realized that he'd have to take the whole lung...which he did. All went well and I seemed to heal up OK. Then about a month later the doctors discovered that I had developed a "fistula" and they would have to go back in and repair it. (A fistula is a hole in the bronchia tube from where the bronchia tube had been severed in the removal of my lung). The good doctor said that he had to advise me that fistulas are the number-one cause of post-surgical mortality following a pneumonectomy. So, a month after undergoing my first pneumonectomy, I had to have another one! This time however, I died or “flat-lined” on the operating table. This is when my beautiful albeit incredible and miraculous story really begins…
Laying there on the operating table, I awoke following the surgery/pneumonectomy. When I opened my eyes and looked across the operating room the first thing I noticed was that the entire surgical team (which consisted of about seven physician/surgeons) was grouped together in a football-like huddle on the far side of the operating room. Listening intently, I could hear one of them talking and the more I listened, I realized that they were praying for me!
Then, all of a sudden, one of my prayerful surgical team members turned and looked directly at me. Apparently, he’d noticed that I had my eyes wide-open and was looking back at him because the next thing I remember is that he excitedly shouted out loud, "He’s alive!" …and with that they all broke huddle and came rushing back over to my bedside. They were all very busily checking their medical instruments and at the same time telling me how surprised they were to see me (alive) because I had died and that they'd tried everything they could think of to revive me...all to no avail. Finally abandoning their attempts to revive me, they decided to gather together across the room and pray for my soul.
Now, back at my bedside and for about the next 20 to 30 minutes they systematically went about checking this machine reading and that and doing whatever doctors do with a patient who’s in recovery. Eventually, one by one, they all wandered off to their other choirs. All but one that is...this one physician stayed by my bedside and eventually looked down at me and said, "you're probably wondering why I'm still standing here." To which I replied, "You want to tell me some more about my dying...?" to which he replied, "No, that's not the reason why..." So, I asked him, "Well, uh, what's up, doc?" He said, "I've been performing these same surgical procedures for the past twenty-(something) years and something happened here today that I've never experienced before. It's had such a profound effect on me that I feel that I have to tell you about it". So, I said, "ok, go ahead" He started, "we had you wide-open and were removing some special kind of fat tissue from your heart to use to tie-up your fistula when all of a sudden you started talking out loud! Surprised, we all jumped back from the table as we initially thought that you had perhaps come out from underneath the anesthesia. But when we checked our instruments, we found that, no, you were still under…still unconscious...so we just stood there and listened while you talked." So I said, "Well, uh, what did I say?" (I had no recall of anything that had happened while this was going on). He replied, "It's not so much what you said as it was to whom you were talking to...” So, I said, "well, uh, who was I talking to...?" He said, "You were talking to Jesus Christ!" When he said this, I just didn't know what to say...I thought, "Gee, that's not very funny, why would this doctor say something like this to me?" Anyway, looking deeply into his eyes, I could tell that he wasn’t joking. He was quite serious...he looked somewhat shaken up. So I quietly said, "Well… was He talking back to me or was I just hollering out into the void?" He said, "We couldn't hear any other voices but it sounded like you were engaged in a two-way conversation." Then he added, “By the way, I'm going to make sure that this gets into your medical records." With that I thanked him and he went on his way. About 10 days later I was mended up enough to be released from the hospital and I went home.
I'd all but forgotten about this event until about a month later when I traveled back to Virginia Beach, VA and visited my psychic/spiritual friend. When she entered the room she froze on the spot and stared at me with a look of total astonishment and incredulity. She said, "Chris, you're all lit up...you've got lights protruding out from all around and over you...you have angels flying all around your head!" She crossed the room sideways, never taking her eyes off of me. She had a look of absolute astonishment on her face. She eventually made it to her desk and sat down still intently staring at me. Without saying anything else, just staring, she began to cry...tears began streaming down her face. I didn't quite know what to think about all this but her behaviors began to affect me. Then, very quietly she said, "Chris, you know that you died last month on the operating table..." I said, "Yes, the doctors told me that I did." Then she really rocked my world saying, "Well, did they tell you that you had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus Christ Himself?" I almost fainted. Instead, I managed to reply, “Yes, they did. But they couldn't tell me what He had to say. Do you know what He had to say?" She said, "Yes, I have the whole thing..." To which I replied, "well, you've certainly got my attention...what did He say?" She replied, "I'm going to tell you what He said but first I need to tell you something else first." I said, "OK, go ahead" She said, "Chris, when you came to see me last year and I told you that you had cancer and that you were going to die...that was it...that was your life expectancy...you're not supposed to be here right now. I just wanted you to know that. Now, I'll tell you what happened, what He said and why you're still here." I said, "Please do." She said, "Chris, when you died and you left your body, you screamed out at the top of your voice that you were sorry if you had ever hurt anybody in anyway while you were on Earth. You screamed it out so loud and with so much emotion and conviction that you startled everybody that was around you at the time. He just happened to be over there and He came over to where you were to see what all the commotion was about." She said, "Chris, you jumped in front of Jesus Christ and started talking your head off…you didn't really know who He was. But you just started telling him that you had just gotten out of prison and were undergoing treatment for cancer and that you were now getting a big government check (VA disability check for exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam) every month and that you would never have to go back to work again and that you weren't ready to die...that you wanted to go back and have some fun. You got them all laughing. It was then that He reached over and touched you and instantaneously cured you of your cancer and sent you back to your body. You are now going to live for another 26 years. Do you want to know what you're going to be doing for the next 26 years." I naturally said, "Yes, tell me" She said, "You are going to spend the rest of your life helping others who have had similar experiences that you've had. You want to know why you're going to be doing that?" I again said, "yes, why". She said, "Because that's all you really want to do is to help others. Isn't that wonderful?" She had stopped crying and was now smiling. She said, "Chris, you're going to tell a lot of people about what's happened to you but very few are going to believe you. But I believe you because I've seen and heard it with my own eyes and ears. I’ve been giving these readings to people for the past 40 years and you are the only person that I’ve ever seen, other than myself, who has ever had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus Christ.” (I asked her about her encounter with the Lord but that’s her story and not mine to talk about).
That incident took place in the year 2000. Since then, my cancer metastasized to my neck in 2003 and this elevated my case to “stage 4” lung cancer. Once again I attempted to get the needed medical help from the VAMC for my “service-connected” disease and once again the VAMC in Richmond, VA refused to help me. Instead, they said they were refusing to offer me surgery because there was simply “no chance for a cure” (see Medical Notes attached). So once again faced with the prospect of dying because of not being treated, I had no alternative other than to return to the fine folks at the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center and receive the necessary surgery yet again administered via Medicaid. Immediately following the surgery however, my surgeon came to me to advise me that he had been unable to remove all of the cancer and that there were still some cancer cells left in my body. Remembering what my psychic friend had told me three years earlier about my living for another twenty-six years, I simply smiled at the good doctor and thanked him for doing his best. When I had another CT scan a couple of months later, I was “cancer free”. Not believing their eyes, the doctors have advised me to have CT scans every ninety days since then. It is now five years later and March, 2008. I am writing these memoirs feeling fine and thanking the Lord for every day that I’m alive. In 2005, I returned to school and obtained a Masters of Social Work (MSW) degree from the University of North Carolina at Fayetteville State University in hopes of helping others. My cancer fighting experience has definitely changed my life. While the above story isn’t the only instance in which I’ve noticed the Divine influence in my life, it is undoubtedly the most dramatic. As a footnote, I would like to note that of the original 12 participants that were initially entered into the clinical trial in 2000, I am the only one still alive today.
I thank you for taking the time to read my story. I tell someone every day of my experience with Jesus Christ and how He touched me and cured my cancer. I especially like telling my story to other cancer patients as my story seems to impart a sense of hope and faith in those facing death. I like to think that my story gives solace and comfort to others who are told that “you have cancer and you are going to die and there isn’t anything that anybody can do about it...”
Living In His Grace,
Chris Russell Fayetteville, NC
P.S. My psychic friend’s name is Mrs. Joy Talley. She lives in Virginia Beach, VA.
By Chris Russell
Other than being a somewhat overcast morning, Friday, May 4, 2007 started out pretty much the same as the day before. I was in my second year of the Master of Social Work (MSW) internship program working at the Robert A. Bell Law Firm on Yadkin Road in Fayetteville, NC. Mr. Robert A. (Bob) Bell has a Family Law practice/office there and my work assignment at the firm was interviewing clients (family members) and giving mental health assessments stemming from a myriad of family squabbles and such. I reported to work around 8:00AM and would spend most of the day talking with mental health counselors, police officers, other social workers, and anyone else who might be involved in or with the firm's client base and then filing and documenting my reports relating to those interviews.
This particular day however I was scheduled to have a review of my own internship work performance by my MSW school counselor, Dr. Chester Dilday from the Fayetteville State University's School of Social Work. This end-of-the-year review was to be between Dr. Dilday, Mr. Bell and myself. It was to be my final intern review as our class graduation was but a couple of weeks away. As a matter of fact, our class was scheduled to begin graduation rehearsals on the next Wednesday, May 9th at the FSU Seabrook Auditorium and I was really looking forward to walking across that stage. It had been a grueling two years of study and I was ready to get it over with so that I could join the working class and "make a difference" in helping others avoid some of the same pitfalls in life that had caused me to stumble.
It was about 10:00AM that I noticed a distinct pain, a dull ache emanating or running down my right arm and right leg. As the day progressed, the pain seemed to worsen. It was a little perplexing as it was both a dull ache as well as a sharp pain at the same time. I wasn't too concerned about it as I had some strong pain medications (500 mg naproxen and 60 mg. morphine sulfate pills) that had been prescribed for my cancer pains and today I simply "doubled up" on what I usually took. But then it became evident that my pain meds weren't working as my leg and arm pain seemed to worsen. By the time of the scheduled appointment/review with Dr. Dilday and Mr. Bell, I was in agony. Dr. Dilday arrived on time and as the three of us sat down to discuss my work performance I just couldn't sit still. I remember Dr. Dilday asking me if there was something bothering me. I apologized for my obvious discomfort then found myself in the somewhat awkward circumstance of having to explain to my two mentors/counselors that I was going to have to go home early as I wasn't feeling too well. I excused myself and left Dr. Dilday and Mr. Bell to conclude the interview and I drove home around 4:30PM.
As soon as I arrived home I took some additional pain medications but they didn't seem to help. Soon I began to feel dizzy and nauseous. I remember trying to walk into my bedroom as I wanted to lie down yet I was so dizzy that I collapsed on the floor. The room was spinning around and while I didn't know exactly what was wrong with me I knew that I was in some kind of trouble. Knowing that I needed medical assistance I crawled to my telephone and tried to call someone for help. However, fear began to enter in when I picked up the phone receiver and realized that I couldn't think of any number or anyone to call! Somehow I inexplicably managed to dial my mother's telephone number and by the Grace of God she was at home with my nephew, Chip Johnson. All I remember saying to her was that I was "in trouble" and needed her to come quickly…then I crawled on hands and knees back into my bedroom and fell onto my bed a semi-conscious state.
I barely remember mom and Chip entering my room and turning me over however I distinctly remember hearing them calling for an ambulance. I remember arriving at the hospital and being hooked up to an IV and my telling the nurse about the awful pain in my right arm and leg. She advised me that she was going to administer some morphine. Yet when she did, it didn't have any effect whatsoever on the pain and I told her so. She then told me that she was going to give me a nitro-glycerin pill under my tongue and that I was to let it dissolve. As I did as instructed the pain started to subside and I began to feel some much needed relief. I remember telling her how effective the nitro was and asked for some more. Today I don't remember much more of the goings on or my first night's hospital in-processing. .
The Bipap Breathing Machine
The next morning I was ushered into a private hospital room and couldn't help but notice that I had been put on some kind of breathing apparatus. I soon came to learn that I'd been placed on (what's called) a "bipap machine (as least that's how it sounds…bipap). A bipap machine is a clear hard plastic face mask that covers both your nose and your mouth and which is attached to an oxygen source. It literally forces oxygen into your lungs ever couple of seconds. BAM! BAM! BAM! It's quite loud and forceful and fires off a blast of oxygen every second or two. It's like a small shotgun blast of air being forced into your lungs.
In my case I only had one lung as my other lung had been removed as a result of surgery performed to remove a cancerous tumor in the year 2000. Consequently and/or as a result of my heart attack I wasn't getting an adequate amount of the required and/or necessary oxygen into my arterial blood and the bipap machine was helping me breathe or at least get oxygen into my lung. But please know that it is a terribly uncomfortable experience and I couldn't help but do everything possible to remove that awful devise from my face. The doctors and nurses became so frustrated with my removing this bipap machine that they threatened to tie/secure my hands to the bed so that I wouldn't be able to remove or rip the machine from my face. As it was, I was simply having an awful time of it all. As it turned out I later learned that the nurses had a running bet going on as to whether I would survive this ordeal or not or whether they were going to have to perform a tracheotomy on me; as it was, every four hours or so a male nurse would come into my room and take an arterial blood sample. I'm here to tell you that it doesn't feel too good when undergoing this procedure. In any event, this schedule went on for a couple of days and I was beginning to wonder, albeit fear that I would never be able to breathe again without that godforsaken machine. At the same time all of my vitals (i.e. heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, arterial blood, etc.) were being monitored via computer and could be seen on a screen there by my bedside.
About the third day I was allowed to have visitors. In addition to my wife and mom, several MSW classmates and professors came to see me. Two FSU School of Social Work professors in particular, Dr. Oliver Johnson and Ms. Debra Brown came to visit and prayed for my recovery kneeling there beside my hospital bed. I was so moved by their prayers that I couldn't help but become emotional. I've never heard such heartfelt prayers as given by these two very spiritually gifted professors. I will never forget their wonderful prayers and I will be forever grateful to them for their outpouring of love and the sharing of their sincere feelings with and for me. Indeed, I attribute my subsequent recovery in large part to their intercessions with the Divine on my behalf. Prayers work miracles through such as these.
That next Sunday I had asked for and had my mom brings me two volumes of "A Search for God" by the A.R.E. press. These two volumes were compiled by twelve individuals who had dedicated themselves to the task of giving to others the basic principles of soul development that had come through the psychic readings of Edgar Cayce. These books give the tenets and principles given by Jesus the Christ respecting the manner of life, of activity, that we are to live and give in our dealings and relationships with our fellow men and women. These tenets/books always made me feel good and I had been reading them for the past couple of days. I even lent one to Dr. Johnson for his edification. In any event, one afternoon, while reading Volume II of "A Search for God", I decided that I wanted to pray. So, I reached up and turned off my room light and placed the book on my chest and closed my eyes in preparation of prayer. As I closed my eyes I noticed (from behind my closed eyelids) a small pinpoint of light and for some reason I decided to focus on it as I prayed. As I began to recite the Lord's Prayer and focus on that pinpoint of light I couldn't help but notice that the light seemed to be growing brighter and getting bigger. To my astonishment, it continued to get bigger and bigger and brighter and brighter. It grew and grew. It started as but a tiny pinpoint and then grew to the brightness one might expect to see if they were to look at a welding blowtorch. But soon it grew to resemble a brilliantly white arch light emanating from a welding rod. Soon it appeared brighter than the proverbial "one million suns" and was so bright I couldn't look at it anymore. Yet the Light seemed to be everywhere at once! It was all throughout my entire head and even lit up my hospital room! It was so Bright that it hurt to look at it. Then I looked and noticed that my physical body seemed to be disappearing into the Light…I was becoming the Light! It was absolutely incredible and I became very excited. Then when I opened my eyes in an attempt to avoid the incredible intensity of the Light I noticed that I was completely and totally out of breath! I was breathing very hard; It was like I'd just stopped running a marathon race.
It was about this time that a doctor opened wide my door (it had been cracked slightly open before) and stuck his head in to check in on me. The Light was gone. When he noticed me breathing hard he turned on the room light and entered my room. I was so excited and all I wanted to do was tell him about what I'd just seen; the LIGHT. But as I was telling him about the light he noticed that my bipap machine wasn't on my face and was but hanging there beside my bed. He asked me how long it had been off and I told him that I didn't' know but that (as far as I was concerned) it didn't' matter…all that mattered was that LIGHT and I felt that I absolutely needed to tell him about it. He said that he was more interested in how long the bipap had been off than the light and he called in the ward nurses to ask them whether any of them had removed the bipap machine. When none confessed to removing my breathing mask it was then that they noticed that all my computer monitored vital signs, i.e. my "numbers" were in the "normal" range. Apparently I didn't need the bipap anymore as everything appeared to be normal. Then the nurses summoned the "artery angel" (as he was fondly called) to draw some arterial blood and it was then reported that my arterial oxygen count was normal too. From that point on I progressed quickly and never required nor needed the extra breathing assistance rendered from that bipap machine.
At this point the doctors wanted and requested to perform a catheterization to determine why I had such a serious heart attack in the first place. They wheeled me into the operating room and inserted a small catheter tube with a small camera on it into my right leg artery and ran this tube all the way up my body until it reached my heart. Once they'd placed their cameras eye "on target" (i.e. my heart muscle) they were able to see that one of my arteries was blocked. They quickly determined that it was this blockage that was preventing my body from getting its required supply of oxygenated blood. So with my permission they then inserted an angioplasty (an inflatable balloon) into my artery followed by a metal stint or tube to keep my artery open and my blood flowing from my heart. Since then, with the aid of blood thinners and with the exception of being easily fatigued, I feel fine.
Looking back on this experience I can't help but feel that during my adventure with the LIGHT I was indeed in the Presence of God. This is the second time that I feel that I've been brought back from the brink of death by Forces Divine. And after much thought I think that I know the why fore of my experiences and what I'm supposed to be doing with the time that I have left here on Earth. I would like to note that ever since my first near-death experience or NDE in 2000 I have become profoundly aware of being in the Presence of the Divine. This is a Growing thing or a day by day "growth experience" as I feel more "connected" and/or "in tune" today than I did yesterday. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that my feeling is out of control I would say that in many respects or ways that I am not totally "in control" of what's going on in my life. For a lack of a better perspective I feel like I'm a puppet on a string being led from above. But, make no mistake about it as I wouldn't have it any other way. As a matter of fact, I pray for this "puppeteer effect" every day as I desperately need for HIS WILL, NOT MINE be done in and through me in every way; every thought; and in every manner in which I interact with my fellow man. For example, the minute I awaken in the mornings these days I'm immediately engaged in prayer…in Holy Communion with our Creator. I'm instantly Aware of HIS Guiding Force; that every thought I have is profound, important and meaningful; every word coming out of my mouth is full of a kind Divine Essence, Power or Force…I can't adequately explain it (the way it should be explained) other than to say that I have a keen awareness that we are all indeed ONE and everybody and everything is connected to one another and we are all of the Same Source/Same Essence. When I pray these days I sometimes have very Profound experiences…for example when I (at times, but not always) say in prayer or think in meditation the word AMEN (or OM) I can actually hear and/or feel the word reverberate throughout my inner being like a oriental gong echoing on and on. It's actually like a bell or musical sound reverberating within my inner being. I can hear and feel the word inside of me like an echo off a canyon wall. It's like I can feel and identify each of my chakras. And I have indeed heard that "still, small voice" within (although I couldn't hear it well enough to understand what it was saying…at least not yet!) In any event, please know that I'm forever Grateful; Eternally Mindful and Thankful to be alive with each and every one of you reading this memo today; For today my life is oh so totally and completely different than it was before I had my Face-to-face encounter with Jesus the Christ and then followed by my enfoldment into, albeit my Becoming the LIGHT. I am today, without a doubt, on my own very personal "Magical Mystery Tour"; an incredible yet oh, so wonderful journey; all the while attached to…the FREQUENCY OF LOVE: May God Bless America; May God Bless us all!
In His Abiding Grace,