Ted Warren’s heart stopped for 10 minutes, and while he has found renewed beauty in life, he is no longer afraid of death.
“My experience is that it’s love. All of a sudden I went from ‘there’s nothing but death’ to ‘there’s nothing but love,’” the 56-year-old former newspaper and magazine editor and columnist said while recounting the experience Thursday.
Since recovering from what happened Sept. 11, Warren, a man with a slight build who has suffered relapses and remissions of multiple sclerosis (MS) for years, has been rebuilding his strength.
There were no warnings leading to that morning when at 10 a.m. he dropped to the bedroom floor in his downtown home.
His then girlfriend called an ambulance. Warren can’t recall collapsing, but said a paramedic later told him that it was his first day on the job, Warren was his first patient and he wasn’t losing him.
“The doctors keep using the M word — ‘You’re a miracle,’” Warren said.
After five or six shocks with a defibrillator and some broken ribs, Warren’s heart started again. He spent two weeks in an induced coma at St. Clare’s Hospital and two months in total in hospital.
Warren said his MS symptoms flared last summer and he was on steroids, but he had no problems with his heart since 2010 when a stent was put in to treat a blocked artery.
According to Warren, the September 2013 event was caused by an arrhythmia without an identified reason, and he now has a pacemaker.
Warren believes he came back for a new purpose in life, but he’s just not sure what it is.
Perhaps, he said, it was to tell the story of what happened to him in those 10 minutes — the events that erased his fear of death — and change others’ views so they can feel the same positivity about life.
The experience started out as bleak, according to his recounting.
“There was nothing. I was in a huge immense void and there was nothing. And there was no me. There was no world, no history, nothing, just a consciousness,” Warren said of the first sensation.
“Nothing but death. Waves and waves and waves of death. … And if I stayed there, I was dead. So I had to get out. And I don’t know how I got out. But all of a sudden I wasn’t there anymore.”
At that point in his retelling, Warren paused and said people might view his experience as flaky. and some he’s told it to have rolled their eyes at what they feel is “nonsense.” He also said he has met others who had similar death experiences.
From the waves of death, he said he found himself in comforting and loving place where he felt he was a small part of something greater.
“You know when you shine a light through a prism and light goes off in different directions? I felt that was me,” Warren said.
“I was unware of any personal identity, of my history. I didn’t know who I was what I was. I didn’t know I was. At first I was terrified and then it was really, really comforting.”
Warren said he would catch glimpses, as if someone was raising a curtain.
“There were countless little shafts of light that each represented something,” he said. “And it was a place of incredible beauty.”
He said he saw classical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart collaborating with reggae artist Bob Marley.
Next, Warren said he was in Stephenville — a place he has no particular connection to — directing a play with an unknown co-director.
Later during recovery in hospital, Warren said he came to realize that it was his life in the play.
“It went through my life story and every time that I made a questionable decision in my life,” Warren said.
Each time in life he had excused some action as noble was revisited to acknowledge the reality of it. The events ranged from his reaction as a boy to a friend killing a bird with a BB gun to events surrounding his two divorces.
At the play’s end, Warren said, he had a decision to make: come back or stay there.
“Where I was was so beautiful and so comforting, I didn’t want to come back. But I had a sense that there was something I had to do. There was some reason to come back,” said Warren, who grew up Anglican, but is not religious.
Prior to last fall, he believed there was something after death but wasn’t sure what it was.
He said he continues to experience a kind of music — a love song harmony of people and nature reflecting a billion voices and the returned love of the creator, who he believes is spiritual rather than religious.
He credits the Miller Centre as a great resource, where a team of health professionals helped him recover and walk again.
Warren goes to the gym three times a week and is involved in the brain injury association.
He had suffered numbness in his fingers and toes since the 1980s, an early symptom of MS. But the lost feeling returned in his recovery from last fall.
“I feel I was rebooted, like old computers,” he said.
“I’m excited about life.”