I read this story today by Mike Olsen and I LOVED it!! I have never heard of anyone doing what this man did during his near death experience. It will warm your heart. 💕
“Mike, we found a match,” my doctor said over the phone. “You’re getting a new set of lungs. I’ll see you in surgery early tomorrow morning.”
I stared at my wife, Patti, in shock. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. This was the call we’d been praying for. I hung up the phone, and Patti swept me into a hug.
Five years before, I’d been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a disease that causes scar tissue to form in the lungs, making it hard to breathe. There is no cure and, in some cases, like mine, no known cause. Before my diagnosis, I thought I was healthy. I was 54 years old, the pastor of our church in Louisville, Kentucky. I had never smoked a day in my life. I was even a singer who’d performed on-stage. After my diagnosis, my condition had continued to deteriorate rapidly until I needed to be on an oxygen tank 24/7. I’d been on the transplant list for three years.
That night we packed a bag and hurried to the car, my oxygen tank in tow. During the drive to the hospital, I was lost in thought. Receiving a new pair of lungs was a huge blessing, but it was a lot for me to take in. Even though my lungs were no longer healthy, it was hard to reconcile losing the organs I’d used to take my first breath, sing my first song. They were about to be replaced by the lungs of a total stranger, an anonymous donor, someone whose death meant that my life would be saved. I felt guilty that I got to keep on living. It felt as if I were taking something from a stranger that didn’t belong to me.
I knew one potential risk of surgery was that my body could reject the new lungs. I couldn’t help but wonder—if my soul couldn’t come to terms with the transplant, what chance did my body have? Though I tried to push the question from my mind, it needled me like a thorn.
At the hospital, we settled in and waited for the operation, which was scheduled for 6 A.M. In the morning, the nurses prepped me for surgery. I kissed Patti and held her close. “Everything is going to be okay,” she said. Still, as the nurses got me ready, I remained uneasy. When they wheeled me into the operating room and put the anesthesia mask over my face, I sank into a timeless darkness.
Then I was conscious. I couldn’t feel anything, but I could see. What’s going on? I thought. I was in the operating room, but I wasn’t on the operating table. I was floating above it. From my vantage point overhead, I saw my body on the table. The surgeons were hunched over my body, conferring with one another, their voices strained. Something must have gone very wrong.
I kept rising upward. The scene below me disappeared, and I came to a space of swirling lights. Reds, to blues, greens, yellows, all spinning together in a mesmerizing display. The lights were comforting, as if beckoning me to follow. As I moved along, I heard voices. Singing voices. The melody was enchanting, but I couldn’t make out the words. That is, until a chorus of voices announced over the singing: “Mike’s coming home!”
“No,” I heard a commanding voice say. “He is just here for a visit.”
In a sudden burst of energy, I was transported to a place of blinding white light. It surrounded me and stretched on endlessly. I felt only pure peace and joy. I’d never experienced such bliss before. I was in heaven but, as that divine voice had said, only there for a visit. I knew what I needed to do.
I called out into the light—not with my voice but with my soul, “I want to thank my organ donor.”
A presence materialized behind my left shoulder. I turned and saw two figures approaching. I could see only the outlines of their forms, shimmering and iridescent. I recognized one as Jesus, and the other alongside him as my anonymous donor.
“Thank you,” I communicated. With every bit of my essence, I exuded pure gratitude. “Thank you.”
I sensed that the donor accepted my gratitude with humility. Then Jesus put his hand on my shoulder.
“These are your lungs now,” he said.
“Yes,” I agreed.
With that, I fell backward, the space of light turning into a speck before disappearing entirely. I was back in my body on the operating table at the hospital for a moment, then everything went black.
I’d later learn that I was in a coma for 10 days. During the transplant, the first lung went in fine. After the second lung was put it, the surgeon released a clamp too early. I’d bled out and needed to be resuscitated. Only through the staff’s best efforts had I been brought back. I was hooked up to a machine that breathed for me until I regained consciousness. Despite everything that had happened, the transplant was successful. I had my new lungs.
Today I continue working in ministry, while advocating for funding studies about IPF. I can even sing again. And I do it all using the lungs God gave me.
Many people describe near death experiences – this is the first one I’ve read that had a husband and wife who died together, but one of them came back. Can you imagine what that must be like?
Jeff Olsen: The accident happened while we were driving back to our home in Bountiful, Utah, from a visit to relatives in the southern part of the state. My wife, Tamara, was asleep beside me. Our seven-year-old son, Spencer, was in the back seat, playing with his toys. Our toddler, Griffin, slept in his car seat. The road stretched out ahead, and my eyes grew heavy. It felt as if I’d blinked for just a second.
That was all it took.
I lost control. The car rolled, windows exploding, gravel flying, as we spun over and over until I lost consciousness. I woke only for a second after we stopped. I felt horrible pain and heard Spencer crying in the backseat. Everything went black again. I was terrified. Where is my family? Are they safe?
Then, suddenly, I was calm. The pain was gone. I looked around. I was floating above our car accident. Before I could react, I felt a presence near me. It was Tamara. We were encircled in a bubble of light that was emanating complete peace. I knew then she was gone, but it was as if my grief were suspended. All I could feel was serenity. I wondered if we were on our way to heaven.
Tamara looked at me, her face serious. “Jeff, you cannot be here,” she said. “You have to go back.” How could I? She was here. Then I remembered Spencer’s cries. He was still alive. He needed me. I knew I had to make a choice. I pulled Tamara close to me. “Goodbye,” I said. I let go. Then I felt myself drifting away from Tamara and the comforting light.
Suddenly, I was in a hospital. I was not yet back in my body—I was still weightless, without pain. I moved freely through the halls, observing the people around me. Somehow, I was able to see their whole lives as I looked at them. Their stories, their fears, their experiences. I felt no judgment toward any of them. I was filled with the most incredible love and oneness with each of them.
I finally reached a room and stopped. The patient was in terrible shape, and doctors were rushing around him. Wait, I thought. Is that me? I recognized my own face now. I was horrified. I couldn’t go back to that! Then I remembered what Tamara had said. I thought of Spencer. I couldn’t leave him alone.
I let go and chose to move toward the body. The heaviness was the first thing I noticed, then came the horrific pain. But the worst part was the guilt. It hit me like a tidal wave. Tamara and Griffin were gone. Even as I sensed the doctors over me, working furiously to save my life, the only thing I could think was: This was my fault.
Dr. Jeff O’Driscoll was finishing his rounds at the hospital when Rachel, an ER nurse, grabbed his arm. “Come see this,” she said. “His wife is…here.”
Dr. O’Driscoll: Rachel and I stood in the doorway. The room was loud. A team of doctors worked to stabilize the patient. As I watched, the sounds around me faded out. I sensed a divine presence in the room. And then I noticed a light. In it was the form of a woman, floating above the patient’s bed. She had flowing, curly blonde hair and was dressed in various shades of white. Her form was almost transparent, and the look on her face was serene. She looked vibrant, otherworldly—I knew innately that this was the man’s wife. The divine presence in the room was allowing me to view her eternal soul.
She smiled at me, as if she’d known me forever. I sensed her immense gratitude toward the doctors who were working to save her husband. She looked directly at me and back at her husband, then back at me. Her eyes were intent.
Then everything slowly returned to normal. I could hear the doctors speaking, and I could hear Rachel again. “Did you see her too?” she asked. I looked again. The patient’s wife was gone. The trauma surgeon took the man to surgery.
Olsen: After a few months and 18 surgeries, I finally moved to the rehab wing. One night, just days before my release, I fell into a deep sleep and had a dream that was more powerful than any I’d ever had. I was standing in a big field. The serenity I’d felt in the bubble of light on the day of the accident returned. My body was healed, and I could walk freely. I felt light and started running. I noticed a corridor appear on my left. I entered and followed it to the end. I found Griffin there, asleep in his crib. He looked perfect. Tears filled my eyes as I picked him up and held him close. I could feel his breath on my neck as I rocked him. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive myself, I thought.
Then I felt a divine presence behind me. It exuded pure love. It felt like the love I’d experienced for the people in the hospital the day of the accident, free of judgment. I now understood that I’d been shown a glimpse of the kind of complete love that God had for me. I felt two arms wrap around Griffin and me, enveloping us. A reassuring voice said, “There’s nothing to forgive.”