The loud, steady beating of a heart-rate monitor. The clang of metal medical instruments being plucked from their tray. A team of surgeons surrounding a hospital bed. And a bright overhead light shining directly on a patient whose life hangs in the balance.
These are the tense scenes that we instantly envisage when thinking of emergency surgery. But while the patient being operated on is usually oblivious to everything, in 2010 a life-or-death operation on one Dr. Rajiv Parti led to him having, so he claims, an out-of-body experience.
The medic subsequently claimed that he knew he wasn’t dreaming or imagining things as he was undergoing surgery. Every detail was apparently so palpable that he was convinced that what he was seeing was real. When he awoke, moreover, he told everyone that he had crossed over to the other side and now had a message to share.
Before the surgery that would change his life, Dr. Parti’s existence was, as he would later describe in a piece for the Daily Mail, a “charmed” one. He and his wife, Arpana, had both had successful careers in healthcare. She had a dental practice, while he’d worked his way up to become the head of anesthesiology at California’s Bakersfield Heart Hospital.
At that time, Dr. Parti relished the finest things that life had to offer – in a materialistic sense, anyway. For example, he’d swapped his humble family home for a bona fide mansion. “Our cars went from average Fords and Toyotas to ‘supercars,’” he explained. “I was even planning on buying a Ferrari: my goal was bigger everything.”
But while appearances may lead many outsiders to believe that the anesthesiologist had it all, he actually knew deep down that he didn’t. For one thing, he often butted heads with his eldest son, Raghav, who didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps into the medical field.
Still, Dr. Parti’s material possessions allowed him to create the impression of a perfect life. That is, until he received some bad news in 2008. At just 51 years of age, the medical professional was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Yet his solution, perhaps unsurprisingly, was to throw money at the problem. “I booked an operation with one of the best prostate surgeons in the country and assumed all would be well,” he explained.
Nevertheless, Dr. Parti experienced unexpected complications, and these forced him to undergo five further operations after his initial surgery. “But none of them really worked,” he recalled. And during this undoubtedly difficult period of his life, he also unfortunately became addicted to painkillers.
Everything then came to a head on Christmas Day in 2010, when Dr. Parti’s body temperature shot up to a blazing 105 °F. “I knew instantly what was happening… An infection was spreading rapidly in my abdomen,” he wrote.
Fortunately, Dr. Parti’s wife was able to get him into a car and subsequently drove him to UCLA Medical Center. There, doctors then placed him on an extra-strong course of antibiotics to battle the infection – but sadly the medication proved ineffective.
So, just a day after Dr. Parti had arrived at the hospital, doctors made a last-ditch effort to save him – with surgery on his abdomen. The anesthesiologist would later remember that, while floating in and out of consciousness, he had asked the medical team what they would use to sedate him. He also recalled a doctor asking if he was ready to go under the knife.
But shortly after he had lost consciousness, Dr. Parti felt that he was waking up. “I could see the ceiling approaching,” he later recalled. At that point, though, he saw, so he claimed, the room from an entirely different angle. Indeed, he has said, he peered down and saw surgical incisions zig-zagging across his own stomach.
Understandably, Dr. Parti apparently felt terrified. “But where was I?” he remembered thinking. “For a few moments, I froze with fright, worried that whatever was holding me up on the ceiling would suddenly let me drop.” His fear began to subside, though, when he realized that he could see the surgeons as they worked to save him.
Dr. Parti’s sense of calm wouldn’t last long, however. “Everything went dark,” he recalled. “Then came a jolt of pure fear. To my right, I heard screams of pain and anguish. I was drawn in, as if on a moving pavement, to the edge of a flaming canyon. Smoke filled my nostrils and with it the sickening odor of burning flesh. I knew then that I was on the tip of hell.”
According to Dr. Parti himself, though, any attempt to flee would prove pointless, as “an unseen force moved [him] forward.” Then, out of nowhere, a voice reportedly spoke to him, saying, “You have led a materialistic and selfish life.” What’s more, the anesthesiologist could only agree, realizing that long ago he’d stopped empathizing with the patients in his care.
Dr. Parti seemingly didn’t stay in this hellish nightmare for long, though, as then his father is said to have appeared, supposedly saving him from a life spent in the underworld. The doctor was then reportedly guided through a tunnel, where he claims that he met St. Raphael and St. Michael – angels believed to heal and protect, respectively. Apparently, these beings told Dr. Parti that enlightenment would only be attained when he realized that love was the one thing that mattered.
Supposedly, the saints ushered Dr. Parti towards what he remembered as a “being of light.” And the glow, he said, spoke to him telepathically. “You need to look at your life one more time,” it is alleged to have said. “It’s important to reflect on the changes you need to make.”
What’s more, Dr. Parti felt that he knew what this meant. He had to help others to overcome their own demons, whether they be addictions, depression or other forms of anguish. As soon as this realization dawned on the medical professional, his eyes felt pained, so he closed them. And he subsequently woke up in the recovery room, having made it through surgery alive.
“The divine Light Being’s instructions were very vivid in my mind,” Dr. Parti later wrote on his personal website. “I needed to follow my dharma and help people with diseases of the soul.” This apparent revelation led him to quit his job as chief anesthesiologist – a move that shocked his colleagues. However, he knew that he wanted to help others find healing through alternative methods, such as meditation.
Dr. Parti has in fact gone on to become a best-selling author and life coach. He has also changed his attitude towards his own family. For instance, the anesthesiologist began encouraging his children to pursue their own dreams. And as a result, Raghav switched his focus to computer programming, while he has since built a stronger, closer relationship with his father as well. Hopefully, then, this has helped in fulfilling Dr. Parti’s mid-surgery vision of a life well led.