Vaccine for the Soul
Covid 19 is an insidious virus. According to The World Health Organization (as of July 23), nearly 15 million people have been infected, and 612,025 global deaths have been reported Needless to say, humanity is working around the clock to acquire an effective inoculation.
Currently, over 100 vaccines are under development world-wide. Nine US pharmaceutical companies are conducting human clinical trials. These include Pfizer, Biontech, Moderna, Astrazeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease doctor, "If everything works out the way we hope and we don't get any unpredictable potholes and bumps in the road, we should know, as we get into the mid to late fall, early winter, probably late fall, whether we have candidates [vaccines]that really are safe and effective."
However, he has also stated, “There’s no guarantee though.” Indeed, this is why Covid is referred to as a novel coronavirus, or a virus that has not been previously identified. It has certainly taken medicine, and humanity itself, into un-chartered waters.
Covid not only attacks our physical being, but additionally, strains our emotional health and everyday coping mechanisms. Mental health professionals are dealing with “Covid crises intervention.”
I recently read an article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI, a branch of the National Institutes of Health), which explains:
“During the outbreak of pandemic COVID-19, psychological crisis intervention for affected, suspected, susceptible, and at-risk patients, care-givers, families, staff, and the general public, is urgently needed for timely prevention of inestimable hazards from secondary mental health crisis. The premise of psychological crisis intervention is to control the side- and after-effects on psycho-social aspects of an infectious disease and attempt to mine psychological impact with timely assessment and management of prevention and control.”
After finishing the article, I realized there are many parallels between “Covid-19 experiencers” and near-death experiencers. Both affect millions of people globally. Let’s compare the numbers. As aforementioned, nearly 15 million people have tested positive for Covid. Yet, world-wide, approximately 760 million individuals (or one out of ten) have reported having had a near-death experience (NDE). This is a staggering number!
Covid is unlike anything the majority of us have experienced in our lifetime. It presents us with a unique set of challenges.
How do we navigate through uncertainty, altered daily routines, working from home with children, financial pressures, our economic future, job loss, social isolation, and/or contracting the disease itself? Life can certainly feel out of control.
Near-death experiences present many of the same challenges. As nde researcher PMH Atwater explains:
The [NDE] experience and its aftereffects can be a challenge to live with. The urge to serve, the depth of compassion and empathy experiencers come to display, the desire to “walk with God”, the extent to which unconditional love begins to influence everyday life routines-all of this does not shield near-death experiencers...from depression, confusion, or disorientation. Some report no problems whatsoever in adjusting to “life as always”, but the majority I have had sessions with find that they must face and deal with some very difficult issues.
Thus, the psychological impact on those impacted by Covid and near-death experiencers is similar. Both may experience stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. Pre-existing mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, can worsen.
Covid healthcare workers are highly susceptible to post-traumatic stress (PTSD). In a recent study, 46% experienced at least one symptom of PTSD. Similarly, approximately 40% of near-death experiences suffer from PTSD.
Thus, both Near-death experiencers and Covid patients/front line workers are at high risk for psychological crises, and often require psychological/psychiatric intervention.
However, specialized “spiritual care,” required by Near-death experiencers to integrate such experiences, is sadly lacking. The majority of psychologists, psychiatrists, and physicians continue to insist that near-death experiencers are psychotic, delusional, or just plain crazy. Regrettably, Erica McKenzie, RN, author, near-death experience advocate, and a personal friend, suffered woefully inadequate ‘emotional crisis care’ following her NDE.
Erica hid a lifelong battle with diet pill dependence. After years of addiction, her organs began shutting down. One day she collapsed and was rushed to the nearest emergency room, where she had an extraordinary near-death experience (NDE).
Erica describes what happened after she awoke from her NDE*
[Following my NDE] the emergency room physician had made the decision to admit me to the hospital for overnight observation. I tried to speak but nothing came out; I was too exhausted to even try. I only remember drifting in and out of consciousness. The next time I woke, I had never felt so alone. I didn’t know how much time had passed. I didn’t feel good and I was desperately trying to make sense of my NDE. At that point, a doctor walked into my hospital room.
'Mrs. McKenzie, how are you this morning? I’m Dr. Imanass.”
“Doctor, Doctor, Oh my God! I have to tell you where I just came from!” I said. The words just flew out of my mouth and I had no control over what came out of me. “I’ve just talked with God and He showed me so many things.” I continued.
The Doctor cut me off immediately, turned and hurried out of the room. He didn’t acknowledge one word I said. He didn’t even complete my needed health assessment. I’d just [had a near-death experience], and the first person I told couldn’t run away fast enough. A doctor is supposed to help you. What had I done wrong?
The door to my room was still ajar, and a nurse who had been standing in the hallway charting her patients, peeked inside. She entered the room and sat down on the edge of my bed. As she leaned in toward me, she pressed her finger to her lips and told me to be quiet and listen. She said that she had worked for that doctor for years and that he was an atheist. She believed that sharing my NDE, may cause him “to cross a professional line” and determine my “mental status” from a personal, not professional level.
She told me that it wasn’t the right time to tell my story. She said she could get fired for even discussing such matters with me yet stressed that “It’s important to share your story.” I knew she was afraid for her job and she was helping me at great personal risk. I then realized I was in the psych ward. I was perceived as crazy and delusion.
Both Covid and near-death experiences are profound, life-altering events. They impact our way of viewing the world. Of trying to navigate a new way of life, of existing in an ‘alternate reality.’ Unfortunately, life does not come with a “set of instructions” of how to accomplish this or cope with it.
We are anxiously anticipating a Covid vaccine-one which will mitigate this rampant, novel pandemic. It will surely come, albeit, more slowly than desired. Near-death experiencers are also awaiting a “spiritual” vaccine-a medical inoculation against mistakenly diagnosing spiritual crises as delusions or psychosis.
Excerpt above is from Dying to Fit In, by Erica McKenzie, BSN., RN.
Available on Amazon and her website www.ericamckenzie.com