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Near-death experience: London man shares what it’s like to die — and then come back

‘So beautiful’: London, Ont., man recalls near death experience
WATCH: A London, Ont. man, who had his heart stop for more than 11 minutes called the experience “beautiful” and he isn’t the only near-death experience to feel this way.

Adam Tapp was 35 years old when he died.

A paramedic in London for 15 years, Tapp was doing some woodworking in his shop on Feb. 28, 2018 when, as he says, he got a little cavalier with a wood-etching device. The device arced into his hand and electrocuted him.

His heart stopped for 11 and a half minutes.

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“It was like someone flipped a switch. All my senses were overwhelmed by 12,000 volts of DC electricity. It was one of the most excruciatingly painful things I’ve ever experienced. I remember forcing thoughts like, ‘I think I’m being electrocuted.'”

Luckily, Tapp had a friend with him who had recently taken a high voltage safety course. Mark Wilson disconnected Tapp and called for Tapp’s wife Stephanie. Stephanie is a cardiac RN and immediately started CPR. They quickly called 911.

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The ambulance showed up and two of his fellow paramedics drilled a hole into his shoulder bone for drug access. They gave him epinephrine and defibrillated him twice before bringing him back to the land of the living.

Tapp didn’t wake up for six hours, and when he did, he was in the ICU intubated, which he says is a strange way to wake up.

Documentary by Winnipeg filmmakers explore near-death experiences
Documentary by Winnipeg filmmakers explore near-death experiences

Tapp is one of the 158 individuals who participated in a study between Western University and the University of Liège that used text mining and artificial intelligence to find that most people respond positively to near-death experiences or NDEs.

While the sample size is small, researchers feel the text mining approach will only increase in validity as more narratives are collected from survivors of NDEs.

Adam Tapp, with his parents on the right and the crew that saved him on the left at a survivor lunch in London, Ont.
Adam Tapp, with his parents on the right and the crew that saved him on the left at a survivor lunch in London, Ont. Supplied photo

Participants were asked to write freely about their NDE and those narratives were analyzed by researchers at Western University, said Dr. Andrea Soddu, an associate professor in Western’s Department of Physics & Astronomy.

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“The idea was to try to extract information from the text in a very quantitative way — without any bias — using a technique called text mining,” said Soddu.

Traditionally, NDEs are explored using standardized questionnaires like the Greyson scale, which asks participants a series of questions answered using multiple choice. The problem, Soddu said, is it is a potentially biased approach that may skew recollections.

“[Using text mining] we extracted words that were more on the positive side like ‘light’ and ‘wellness’ and saw that words like ‘fear’ — while still part of the narrative — were much less dominant than the positive outcomes.”

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After being dead for more than 11 minutes, Tapp was resuscitated and fell into a coma for six hours. But while he was essentially dead to the world, he said he had a profound experience.

“All of a sudden, I just woke up in a place that seemingly I’d always been. It was black and it kind of seemed like space,” said Tapp.

“I wasn’t Adam, I wasn’t a paramedic, I wasn’t anything. It was just like this raw form of consciousness where I was just existing very happily and pleasantly.”

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Tapp said he then felt a “frequency” wash over him and saw what looked like “gasoline on water with all these geometric shapes and patterns,” adding that something was communicating with him through “thoughts and feelings and emotions.”

“I just started fading into the fabric of the universe. It was so warm and peaceful and pleasant.”

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It appears simple curiosity and a desire to better understand near-death experiences were the driving forces behind the study. According to Soddu, both he and his colleagues at the University of Liège are “very much interested in consciousness and altered states of consciousness.”

Tapp eventually woke up from the coma. He asked how long he had been out, and said if he was told it had been 30 years, he would’ve believed it.

His sense of time was a bit confused, but what was more surprising is that he didn’t feel quite at home in his body.

“It actually took me a while to feel comfortable in my body again. Just breathing — I was so hyper-aware of having to take a breath,” he said.

“It took me a couple months — I just felt so foreign in my body.”

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The experience was indescribable, said Tapp, adding it took him a while to be able to put it into words.

“What I take away from it is this absolute, unequivocal feeling that death is supposed to happen. It might not be pleasant and we might not want it, but it is supposed to happen and it is very literally a necessary part of all life.”

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“As fearful as these moments are for people … it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s actually deeply beautiful.”