How mother-of-four 'experienced heaven' during freak kayak accident that saw her trapped underwater for 15 minutes
19:31 GMT, 12 June 2012
A mother-of-four has described how she 'experienced heaven and conversed with angels' during a terrifying kayak accident in which she became trapped underwater for 15 minutes.
Mary Neal, from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, tells how she dropped over a waterfall and became pinned at its base on the remote Fuy River in Chile.
As an orthopedic surgeon, and an experienced kayaker, she remained calm and immediately began trying to free herself, until she realised that her efforts were in vain and it would be impossible without help.
Face-to-face with death: Orthopaedic surgeon and mother-of-four Mary C Neal (pictured) describes how she 'experienced Heaven' after drowning and surviving a terrifying kayak accident
She told MailOnline: As an experienced kayaker, you make sure you have the skill set for the river you're going to kayak. When you're on the river you need to take of yourself, it's never a guarantee that someone will be able to help you.'
And indeed when her boat was sucked under and became lodged under bedrock on the river bed, no one was there to rescue her.
'I was very consciously trying to extricate myself, but the volume and force of the water had me pinned to the front deck of the boat,' she recalled.
It was at this point that something extraordinary took place, which she relates in her new book, To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels and Life Again: A True Story.
Realising that the situation was hopeless, she called on what was then a 'moderate faith' and 'asked only that God's will be done'.
But instead of the intensifying panic that one imagines might usually take hold in such a situation, she wrote on the Huffington Post that she was 'immediately overcome with a physical sensation of being held,
comforted, and reassured that everything would be fine regardless of
whether I lived or died.'
Ripple effect: Dr Neal, pictured with husband Bill, says she was 'presented with a review of her life'
Describing the 'life before one's
eyes' experience that many who have faced death say they too have
shared, she says she was presented with a review of her life – but not
in a sequence, rather 'the unseen ripple effects of particular events'.
Acutely aware that this was not a dream – Dr Neal continued: 'The scientific, analytical and skeptical part of my
brain observed this with interest and curiosity.
'I was acutely aware of
my situation; I knew I had been underwater too long to be alive but also
knew that this experience did not have the quality of a dream or
hallucination, was not the result of a dying brain and could not have
been created by my limited imagination.'
Dr Neal writes in her book that spiritual beings appeared and brought her to Heaven, where she conversed with
She thought about her husband, she says, and her four young children, and admits to an overwhelming desire to stay in Heaven,
but was told she must return to
'Then I felt the boat shift,' she says, 'and began to feel my body, ever so slowly,being sucked out, and down the river by the current.
She says that even though she felt both her legs breaking, there was no pain. In fact, she reveals, she felt 'great' as she describes sensing her spirit lift away from her body 'like peeling apart two pieces of tape'.
Looking down at the rescuers trying to resuscitate her she laughed as she told MailOnline: 'It was really irritating. One of our dearest friends, who was a young man at the time, kept looking up, as if he was looking right at me, and begging me to take a breath.
But I was on my way down a path that was so beautiful – there's no language to describe it – and I was thinking, “oh my gosh can't you just leave me alone”'.
As her soul returned to her body she knew the instructions she had been given and the tasks she should fulfill back on earth; namely sharing her story and her experience of the afterlife and of God's love.
Recovery: Mrs Neal said she thought about her husband and her four young children, and admits to an overwhelming desire to stay in Heaven, but was told she must return to her body
But though she had survived her drowning
ordeal, the battle was far from over. As Dr Neal endured a lengthy
hospital stay during which her legs were operated on several times, she
lost both her father and stepfather, shaking her beliefs.
But even with the untimely and
tragic death of her teenage son in a different accident, she did not lose sight of her faith.
She told MailOnline: 'I cherished every day that I had with my son. Knowing that it was God's beautiful plan made it easier but it doesn't eliminate the pain of losing him.'
To Heaven and Back: She said the tragic death of her teenage son in a different accident, caused her faith to be 'transformed into a complete trust in the promises of God', allowing her to face life's challenges with gratitude
'Each event, neither
good nor bad, is like a small thread woven together with others to
create a glorious tapestry of God's design,' she writes.
'I do not fear death. I am
more tolerant of other people's actions. I observe the world with an