Britons who've come back from the brink of death

What dying REALLY feels like, according to survivors of near-death experiences

  • MailOnline spoke to people who claim to have come back from the brink of death
  • Experiences included hovering over their dying body and floating on a hill
  • Dr Sam Parnia, an expert in dying, said many ‘travel’ to a place they feel is home 

What happens after death remains a mystery.

But survivors of near-death experiences have now given a fascinating insight into what we might expect when the time comes.

MailOnline spoke to people who’ve been on the brink to find out exactly what they saw, felt and heard. 

Examples included feeling like they were looking down at their own dying body and recognising surgeons from when they were supposedly unconscious. 

Dr Sam Parnia (pictured), a British critical care expert at New York medical centre NYU Langone Health, has been studying the moment a person dies for 25 years

Dr Sam Parnia, a British critical care expert at New York medical centre NYU Langone Health, has been studying the exact moment a person dies for 25 years. 

He told MailOnline these are often called ‘near-death experiences’ but that ‘recorded experiences of death’ is a more accurate phrase, as the person has actually been ‘in death’.

‘The reality is that you can die, be dead, and then be brought back to life again. So therefore, what’s happening is these people are having a real death experience,’ Dr Parnia said. 

On what people think and feel while ‘in death’, Dr Parnia said: ‘You start to travel to a place that you recognise as being home, and we call it home because it means it’s somewhere you thought that you belong. So you’re only going back.

‘In that state they relive their lives, they reevaluate everything. 

‘It is often misrepresented as your life flashing before you, but it’s a deep, conscious, purposeful, meaningful reevaluation. 

‘If you cause pain to people, you relive their exact pain. If you did something that helped someone, you feel that joy.’  

Duncan Seth-Smith: ‘I remember floating on a hill’ 

Duncan Seth-Smith, 67, from Lincolnshire, has a vivid memory of floating over a hill when he suffered a cardiac arrest on Boxing Day 2005.

Mr Seth-Smith, aged 50 at the time, recalled hearing doctors getting the defibrillator ready while unconscious in hospital, with one saying ‘again’ as he got ‘zapped’.

He was in the ICU for four days and just before being allowed home, he felt dizzy and collapsed, needing CPR again after suffering another cardiac arrest.

Recalling his second ordeal, Mr Seth-Smith said: ‘I have a vivid memory of floating over a local hill and looking down at people sledging. 

‘It was a local country hillside but not known for sledging and not somewhere I had spent any time apart from driving by. At the time of the cardiac arrest there was no snow about.

‘I woke up in bed with a cut face where I had hit a trolley/bed when I passed out. The nurses said it took three defibrillator shocks to get my heart started and the rhythm back. 

‘That is all I can remember, apart from asking my wife if it was snowing, to which she replied no.’

Mr Seth-Smith had three shocks from a defibrillator and later had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) fitted. 

Duncan Seth-Smith (pictured), 67, has a vivid memory of floating over a local hill when he went into cardiac-arrest following a heart attack in Lincolnshire on Boxing Day in 2005

Martin Holloway: ‘I had visions while in surgery’

Martin Holloway, from Colchester, ended up needing 70cm of his bowel removed in 2019 after being rushed to hospital severely ill.

The 64-year-old’s wife was told to get his relatives to hospital to prepare to say their final words. 

While ‘on the verge of death’ and having surgery, Mr Holloway recalled what he described as ‘visions or remembrances’ of what was happening in the operating room.

When he awoke from the operation, the surgeon told him ‘You won’t recognise me’ but he told her that he did.

The warehouse operations manager said he knew her name, remembered her standing beside him, looking at him and others around the room, and talking to other doctors.

Mr Holloway said it ‘scared the hell’ out of her because she was worried he had been awake during surgery.

He added: ‘She asked “How do you know?” and I said that I kind of remembered her being there but she didn’t take it any further at the time. 

‘I knew where I had been and I recognised her but had never seen her before.’

Mr Holloway added: ‘I thought the visions were my imagination under the drugs for the pain but after waking up and recognising her I wasn’t so sure.’

Martin Holloway (pictured), 64, of Colchester, was taken to hospital with blood clots, heart failure and colon issues in 2019

Kevin Curtis: ‘I was zooming up from a dark place’ 

After being stung by bees multiple times in the face and neck 21 years ago, then 50-year-old Kevin Curtis was rushed to hospital. 

Mr Curtis, now 71, was suffering from anaphylaxis and was unconscious but ‘aware of my surroundings’.  

His blood pressure had drastically plunged and he heard a medic say if they did not get an epi-pen soon he would ‘most likely die’.

During the ambulance ride to hospital, Mr Curtis, of Lincolnville, Maine, recalls seeing an inviting bright light off to one side before sensing the vehicle had pulled over.

The grandfather-of-two said he could hear the paramedics discussing his ‘imminent demise’ then ‘felt the pain on and about my face’ when being removed from the ambulance.

Mr Curtis, a retired financial information architect, described the sensation as ‘zooming up from some dark, cool area’ back to reality.

‘Serene, non-threatening, some sort of out of body, calm, love is the best I can describe the overall moment. As a result I have no fear per say of death,’ he added.

‘I do worry about the path to getting to that place but death itself does not seem as frightening as an end. 

‘I do not know what was on the other side of the light or what thoughts I would continue to be able to have and for how long, but it was not a place to be fearful of going.’

Mr Curtis, now 71, was suffering from an anaphylactic reaction and was unconscious but ‘aware of my surroundings’

Caroline Ghyselen: ‘I was in the air looking down on myself’

Caroline Ghyselen was 19 when she nearly died after going through the windscreen of a car.

As medics in A&E treated her, Ms Ghyselen said she had a ‘weird sensation of looking down on myself’.

She said: ‘I seemed to be up in the air, literally looking down. I thought to myself, wow, this is weird. 

‘The overriding factor was the most amazing sense of calm and serenity and the feeling of pure joy. 

Ms Ghyselen, who also sometimes talks about her experience on TikTok, realised that she would ‘have to go back’. 

She ‘wasn’t happy’ about having to go back to her body as she knew she would be in pain and be facing a lengthy healing process.

She added: ‘I started to argue the point and saying over and over “I don’t want to go back, I don’t want the pain”. 

‘The next thing I knew the nurse was rubbing my arm and saying to me “don’t worry love, we’ll give you something for the pain”.’

Caroline Ghyselen (pictured) was 19 years old when she nearly died after going through the windscreen of a car

Dave Brown: ‘The world was shrinking around me’

Intensive care doctor reveals five things patients on the brink of death experience… including HEARING medics treating them while they’re unconscious 

Medics quizzed more than two dozen patients in the US and Britain whose hearts suddenly stopped while in hospital but then recovered. 

Their experiences included ‘evaluating life’, such as seeing memories replay and assessing how they had treated others during their time alive. 

Some patients recalled feeling the effects of the CPR on their bodies while it was taking place (file image)

Dave Brown, from South Florida, had three near-death experiences in one day when he was in his late 40s.

Mr Brown, now 61, was painting his living room ceiling when he started to feel faint.

Managing to call 911, paramedics got to him within minutes to find his ‘heart racing out of control’.

His heart then stopped and the medics started CPR to get his heart back beating at a normal rhythm but minutes later it stopped again.

The electrical engineer said: ‘An amazing peace came over me, no pain, no panic. I recall thinking “This is it, all there is” but suddenly they shocked me back and I recall a scene of commotion as they readied me for transport.’

His heart stopped for a third time while in the driveway as paramedics prepared to take him to hospital.

Referencing this moment, he said: ‘I recall a tremendous peace, almost hard to describe, but like the world was shrinking in around me, very quiet. 

‘I recall my father, who had been dead about 5 years then. He said nothing, but I recall his presence. 

‘I remember the specific thought “This is all good”, no sadness or regret nor any pain, just the feeling of lightness. 

‘It is perhaps the hardest feeling to explain as there really is nothing in life otherwise to explain it. I get choked up thinking about it to this day.’

Mr Brown said he is ‘a practical person by nature, not religious then, nor now’ but the experience gave him a ‘personal faith’.

Dave Brown, from South Florida, had three near-death experiences in one day when he was in his late 40s

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