Vital Signs

St. Louis Nurse Leads Rare, Prospective Study

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give the same kind of clarity as the recent group. I spent a lot of time analyzing their experiences, and comparing them with my prospective group.

But when it came to writing up the paper for submission to the Journal of Near-Death Studies, its Editor, Dr. Greyson, urged me to set aside the retrospective cases and report them separately. I have a lot of data for 40 patients in that retrospective group. But I understood what Dr. Greyson and the other editor said, that they didn’t want to muddy the waters by mixing that retrospective group in with the prospective group, and I agreed with him. Unfortunately, I felt like those people had so much to say; it was hard to exclude them.

VS: You spent three years gathering the data?
JS: Right. We tracked and interviewed patients from 1991 to 1994. Originally, I’d thought it would take me only 6 to 9 months to identify and interview 30 people who’d survived a cardiac arrest.

VS: Why did it take so much longer?
JS: Because not all the persons who had “coded” turned out to have had a true cardiac arrest. And of those, not all could be interviewed—because some had suffered nervous system damage, and others were being sustained on a respirator immediately following their resuscitation, when our study protocol required us to interview them. If I would have acquired 30 patients within the first 6 months, I probably would have gone on for 60 patients or more. But after 3 years I felt that when we finally reached the 30 patient mark, that’s where I had to stop.

VS: And since 1994, has it been—or could it still be—feasible for you, or perhaps for some colleagues or graduate students, to see what the longerterm consequences have been for those people?
JS: Well, it would be possible. However, I wonder how many patients are still alive. Two of them had already died even at our 6-month mark. After that time I did run into several patients in the hospital, and they were so appreciative of the time we’d spent with them and told us what a significant difference it made in their lives.

I could also go back to the patients’ medical records, to look at what their blood gasses were, etc. I know in one British


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