Cutting-edge scientists are dissecting the near-death experience and battling over the evidence. Is it a newly discovered dream state—or are we immortal in some way?
In 2009, chauffeur Joe Tiralosi was wheeled into the emergency department at New York-Presbyterian Hospital with nausea and profuse sweating. Moments later, the man went into cardiac arrest—his heart stopped pumping blood and dispatching oxygen to vital organs. Within seconds, Tiralosi’s brain flatlined; electronic monitors recorded no sign that he was able to process feeling, generate thought, or participate in the world. His brain cells were not functioning.
The hospital’s state-of-the-art resuscitation team swung into action, compressing Tiralosi’s chest and delivering electric shocks to his heart for what seemed like forever—two minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes. No response. Tiralosi had crossed what most thought was the point of no return. Conventional wisdom held that after 10 minutes without a heartbeat, damage to the brain from a lack of oxygen becomes permanent.
But the team pushed past the limits by slowing the decay of tissue and preserving the integrity of the brain through sophisticated freezing techniques. They shocked Tiralosi’s heart again and again. Twenty minutes. Thirty minutes. Forty minutes. Tiralosi had been clinically dead for 47 minutes when his heart flickered back on. Less than three weeks later, after surgeons dissolved the blood clots and repaired the narrowed arteries that had stopped his heart, Tiralosi walked out of the hospital, brain and body intact. Just a decade earlier, that would have been impossible.