In 2008, neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander contracted a rare form of bacterial meningitis that shut down parts of his brain, put him in a coma and nearly killed him. During this time, he says, he saw heaven. He wrote about the experience in his bestselling book, Proof of Heaven. As he came out of the coma, Dr. Alexander didn't recognize anyone -- even his own son. And doctors didn't expect him to survive.
"The only [frightening], really truly terrifying moment of that whole journey and coma was seeing [my son's] face," he says. "And he was pleading with me… because he heard from [one of the doctors] that if they didn't see something in the next 12 hours, they should give up."
Dr. Alexander likens coming out of the coma to being in a "deep hole" and "trying to come up." Though he couldn't remember his son's face, he could sense a "deep connection of love" that made him realize he had to try to understand his circumstances.
During the "Super Soul Sunday" interview with Dr. Alexander, Oprah has a bing! bing! moment. She says that Dr. Alexander's experience reminds her of another "Super Soul Sunday" guest: neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, whose bestselling memoir, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey, describes a similar epiphany. In both cases, the feeling of love brought them back to the present.
"It was so totally overpowering," says Dr. Alexander. "And it was like no matter what, I've got to figure this out."