Afterlife Articles

Victor D. Solow

After-Death Experience

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Victor Solow

Four-Part Series

Syndicated series authored by Victor Solow

It is interesting to note that the initial writings of Mr. Solow, as below, are generally focused on the medical, life-saving events surrounding his heart attack. Later stories bring in the transcendental nature of the death experience. See here and here.

Parts 1, 2 and 3 were obtained from The Times Herald, Port Huron, MI, dated July 2, 3 and 4, 1974. Part 4 was taken from The El Paso Times, El Paso, TX, dated May 30, 1974.

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1. Man returned from dead begins story

Source: Times Herald, Port Huron, MI July 2, 1974, page 16

He was dead 23 minutes, medically speaking. Victor Solow, 56, of Mamaroneck, was stricken nine weeks ago while driving. A month later he began to reconstruct the details of his dramatic rescue and recovery. He has been a producer-director of documentary films (Solo Productions, New York) for more than 21 years. This is the first in a four-part series on his own script. Written for Westchester-Rockland newspapers, members of the Gannett Group.


Gannett News Service


It was 10:52 a.m. Saturday, March 25.

My wife, Lucy, and I had been jogging at the Rye Neck High School track in Mamaroneck and we were driving back to our house to join a weekend guest for a late breakfast. The conversation was ordinary, interspersed with conversation about our friend.

I was driving and had just stopped for a red light.

Mrs. Solow: "Then, calmly, but with great surprise, he turned toward me and said. 'Oh. Lucy, I...

"As swiftly as the expiration of a breath, he seemed to settle down in his seat with all his weight. Even his head remained almost erect but his eyes opened wide, like one utterly astonished about an unexpected, strange transcendence.

"But I knew instantly he could neither hear nor see me. I pulled on the emergency brake and turned off the ignition, incoherently talking and pleading with him to hang on, that he was going. [?] He uttered not a sound.

"I ran out of the car toward the gas station, crying out that my husband was ill, ill, please help me, do something.

"By this time the light had changed and traffic was making graceful swings around the parked car. No one noticed me. I was simply an annoying obstacle.

"The station attendant looked nonplussed and impatient. He stared at me in disbelief that I had somehow interrupted his otherwise placid morning.

"Frantically, I rushed back into the car, torn between getting help and attending to my husband. By this time, his color had turned gray-green, his mouth hung open but his eyes seemingly continued to view an astounding scene.

"I dashed out again after frantically trying in vain to pull him to the other seat so I could drive him to the hospital This time my shouts attracted Frank Colangelo from the station, who immediately told someone to phone the police.

"It was 10:54 a.m.

"Then I realized I, myself, in my panic, had failed to follow a correct, sane procedure for emergency treatment, had forgotten all about police and ambulance. I was simply crying out for help."

The call from Colangelo alerted police, but even before police radioed cruisers and the Mamaroneck Emergency Rescue Squad, the patrol car of Ptl. James Donnellan arrived. Donnellan stopped to investigate the car stopped in the middle of the road, recognized the gravity of my condition and removed me from the car with the help of the gas station manager. After checking for pulse and respiration, he immediately proceeded with heart massage.

It was 10:55.

Patrolman Michael Sena arrived less than a minute after receiving the alert in his patrol car. He yanked the oxygen tank and amu-bag (an artificial breathing device) from his car, connected the oxygen to the bag and put the mouthpiece over his face. Donnellan continued the heart massage.

Thirty seconds later, Tom McCann, a volunteer member of the Mamaroneck Fire Department Rescue Squad, trained as an emergency medical technician, arrived. He had been across the street for a fire inspection when his emergency-radio bleeper alerted him.

McCann: "Your eyes were open, your pupils dilated – a bad sign. You had no pulse. There was no breathing."

McCann, who weighs 270 pounds, took over the heart massage, and the two policemen tried to get a better seal on the mouthpiece of the amu-bag, which, because of my mustache, was something of a problem. McCann, noticing the difficulty, began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while Sena and Donnellan took turns at heart massage.

It was 10:58 a.m.

The rescue squad ambulance arrived, manned by volunteers trained as emergency medical technicians or advanced first-aid technicians.

Without stopping the heart massage or artificial breathing therapy, they put me in the ambulance.

One of them had radioed United Hospital and told them he and his men were bringing in "a code" – a patient who was most likely dead and would require revival efforts. While the ambulance was speeding to United Hospital in Port Chester, five miles distant, the crew continued heart massage and artificial respiration.

It was 11:00.

United Hospital called Code 99 over its loud-speaker system. Within minutes the emergency room was staffed with two surgeons, two respiratory therapists, two technicians from the cardiology department and four nurses.

It was 11:09.

The ambulance arrived at the hospital.

Dr. Harold Roth: "The ambulance pulled up and the back door was opened. We could see the crew inside, administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation. They continued while they took him out of the ambulance.

"The patient was dead by available standards. In other words, there was no measurable pulse, no heart activity, he was not breathing and he appeared to have no vital signs whatever."

Cardiac massage and artificial respiration were maintained during transfer from ambulance to operating table. Then hospital doctors and technicians took over.

It was 11:10.

Surgeons, internists, respiratory technicians and nurses were working in unison. Within 10 seconds a cardiac monitor which translates heart activity into visual terms was attached. Simultaneously, a cut-down was done on my leg to find a vein to infuse medication directly into the circulatory system. A tube supplying pure oxygen was placed into my windpipe. Intravenous injections were started in both arms. The monitor revealed no heart activity whatsoever. While heart massage was continued by hand, an electric shock apparatus had been attached to my chest.

It was 11:13.

The first electric shock was applied. It was powerful enough to lift my entire body inches off the operating table; an electrocution in reverse. But there was no result. The heart still showed no activity.

NEXT: Electric shock is tried again.

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2. "Electrocution in reverse" started heart of stricken man

Source: Times Herald, Port Huron, MI, July 3, 1974, page 20

(Second of a series)

He was dead 23 minutes, medically speaking. Victor Solow, 56, of Mamaroneck was stricken nine weeks ago while driving. A month later he began to reconstruct the details of his dramatic rescue and recovery. He has been a producer-director of documentary films (Solo Productions, New York) for more than 20 years. This is the second in a four-part series on his own script, written for Westchester-Rockland newspapers, members of the Gannett Group.


Gannett News Service


The first electric shock – "an electrocution in reverse" – had failed to rouse my heart.

It was 11:14 a.m.

The massage and oxygenation were being continued; a second electric shock was applied. An irregular rhythm began to show on the cardiac monitor.

Dr. Harold Roth: "At this time, examination revealed that the patient's pupils were constricted and narrow, indicating there was a possibility of survival. The heart massage and artificial respiration started by the police and continued by the rescue squad had been effective in maintaining circulation and oxygenating the brain. After the second shock, we began to get evidence of a rhythm on the cardiac monitor."

It was 11:15 a.m.

"The patient was alive and we rapidly began to get increasing movement. He became rousable. He was able to breathe, and we put him under nasal oxygen. From that point, we tended to stabilize him, giving whatever drugs were required, and monitoring the cardiogram to make sure the heart wouldn't stop again."

The crisis was over.

Half an hour later, I was taken to the coronary unit where cardiologist Dr. Roy Gumpel took over. He said that the heart rhythm still was not ideal, and opted for a third electric shock, administered under anesthesia. The heart returned to a regular sinus, or normal rhythm.

For a disheartening time it appeared that the brain had been damaged. The hospital report reads: "Retrograde amnesia and difficulty with subsequent current events was recognized. This seemed to persist into the fourth and fifth day of hospitalization. The neurologist felt prognosis was rather guarded regarding future good judgment and ability to carry on with his previous work."

For my family, it was a period of dread, of hope. Would I be a vegetable for the rest of my days?

On the sixth day, there was a miraculous change. The reality of my everyday world burst into every corner of the room, filling me with confidence and joy. And, when I beat my friend in two chess games and he remarked with some annoyance, "Obviously, there's nothing the matter with your damn head," I felt I had been decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross.

But the most pressing question remained unanswered: What caused my heart arrest? The reply was indefinite – it could be coronary insufficiency (lack of blood supply to the heart), ventricular tachycardia (a sudden interruption of the electrical impulses that make the heart muscle contract), or even a conventional coronary attack. A continuous 10-hour cardiogram did not reveal the secret. A future examination would be necessary.

I was discharged from the hospital April 5, two weeks after the incident. As someone remarked later, it took him longer to get over the flu. The only tangible, though painful, proof I had not been the victim of my own fantasies was four broken and two cracked ribs sustained as a result of Tom McCann's 270-pound strict attention to duty. His heart massage is heartwarmingly enthusiastic and efficient and you "can't live without it."

I felt compelled to understand the exact sequence of events and the mechanics of what had occurred.

Dr. Roth was informative:

"You know, there's no sense mincing words about this. Essentially, you were dead on arrival at the hospital. If all the things weren't available at the hospital and with the trained emergency crews working on you till you got to the hospital, you would simply just be another dead person.

"Five days later, another victim was brought in. A similar event had happened in Port Chester – a man dropped dead and an ambulance crew picked him up and massaged him all the way to the hospital. In the emergency room he, too, was revived. So that's two people in one week who certainly would no longer be around had these trained volunteers not been available.

"Throughout the United States, we estimate that about one-third of the people who die before or upon arrival at the hospital can be saved by the use of this kind of training."

NEXT: A new concept of emergency care – not speed but immediacy.

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3. Immediate first aid, new concept

Source: Times Herald, Port Huron, MI, July 4, 1974, page 6D

(Third of a series)

He was dead 23 minutes, medically speaking. Victor Solow, 56, of Mamaroneck, was stricken nine weeks ago while driving. A month later he began to reconstruct the details of his dramatic rescue and recovery. He has been a producer-director of documentary films (Solo Productions, New York) for more than 20 years. This is the third in a four-part series on his own script, written for Westchester-Rockland newspapers, members of the Gannett Group.


Gannett News Service


Like most people, I always thought the purpose of an ambulance was to transport a victim to the hospital at maximum speed, where the necessary treatment would be administered by doctors.

Now I understand that a whole new concept is involved – not speed of patient transport, but immediacy of trained help. If circulation has stopped in an accident victim and is not restored quickly, irreversible brain damage will occur, within four to six minutes.

If Mamaroneck patrolmen James Donnellan and Michael Sena had not acted at once, if their heart massage and artificial respiration had not been skillfully continued by the trained members of the rescue squad, no ambulance could have reached the hospital in time for me, regardless of speed. Neither would the most brilliant doctors nor the most advanced hospital equipment have been of any use. The earlier the treatment, the greater the expectation of positive results. In my case it was literally a matter of life or death.

This applies not only to heart attacks, electrocutions, drownings or other accidents involving circulatory stoppage, but to a long list of other emergencies including bleeding, burns, fractures and drug overdoses.

The logic of this concept will require substantial changes in established methods. No longer will ambulances resemble hearses, but small, mobile emergency rooms. They will be redesigned to let a number of crew-members minister to the patient simultaneously. There will be a two-way communication system between ambulance and hospital. Telemetry systems, monitoring vital body functions and similar to the ones used on our astronauts will transmit data directly to the emergency room, where physicians interpret the information and radio on-the-spot instructions to the ambulance crew.

These are not visionary forecasts. The technology is available now. The cost? Far lower than one imagines. To equip a hospital and four existing ambulances with sophisticated communications and telemetry equipment costs around $44,000. Each ambulance can service a community of 20,000 people. If you're a statistics freak, that comes to 55 cents per person.

A modern ambulance, not a converted hearse, would cost an additional $25,000 for each unit. This would cost $1.80 per person. Compared with sirloin steak, cigarettes and a couple of beers, that seems a pretty good buy. I might even be persuaded to double the ante to $3.60. Did I hear $5, $50 or more?

What are you prepared to pay for life? Not too much – if it's not your own. These things never happen to us; they happen to someone else, the ones you read about in the papers while you're having that nice dry Martini or the ice-cold beer after a day's work well done.

Normal people just don't have heart attacks, accidents – until suddenly you wake up in an emergency room.

Those were my feelings.

Dr. Harold Roth of United Hospital: "We all pay lip service to preventive medicine. Here is our opportunity to act."

NEXT: The Ultimate High


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Part 4 - The Rescue Squad

Source: The El Paso Times, El Paso, TX, May 30, 1974, page 39

He was dead 23 minutes, medically speaking. Victor Solow, 56, of Mamaroneck was stricken nine weeks ago while driving. A month later, he began to reconstruct the details of his dramatic rescue and recovery. He has been a producer-director of documentary films, Solo Productions, New York for more than 20 years. This is the last of four articles on his own script, written for Westchester-Rockland newspapers, members of the Gannett Group


Gannett News Service


The Rescue Squad of the Mamaroneck Fire Department came into being Oct. 4. 1973, [1] the brainchild of automobile mechanic John Quadrini of Mamaroneck, now squadron commander.

[1. Six months prior to Mr. Solow's heart attack.]

"I knocked my brains out." He says.

"I pestered every official I could buttonhole. When they threw me out of the front door. I came in the back. I guess they finally gave in just to get rid of me."

His battle went on nine long years but his tenacity and faith brought forth an ambulance.

The history of the squad's formation has some musical-comedy aspects, like the purchase of the ambulance with Plaid stamps, collected by Quadrini, his family and volunteers door-to-door for many months.

The squad's performance is equally unique. Since its formation seven months ago, it has answered more than 200 emergency calls. Most of the 35 volunteers have had training as emergency calls. Most of the 35 volunteers have had training as emergency medical technicians; the EMT is certified by the state after extensive examinations.


How effective is the training? Effective enough for me to be able to relate my story. Effective enough for Dr. James Doyle to state: "If there hadn't been trained people close enough to get there within the brief time limit you had, I'm sure it would have been noted in the papers Monday that someone had dropped dead on the Boston Post Road."

I am a professional man, a film-maker, deeply involved in and dedicated to my work. My spare time, what there is of it, is divided among family, sports and friends.

I naturally wondered about the effectiveness and commitment of a volunteer rescue squad. Their members must devote a substantial amount of their leisure not only to regular duty each week, when they must be on call for 24-hour periods, but they must spend additional time for refresher courses and organizational meetings. Were there really enough interested citizens willing to sacrifice? What motivated them? Why were they so committed?

To my surprise. I learned from Quadrini that there is a waiting list of men who applied as long as 11 years ago.


Dr. Harold Roth of United Hospital helped solve the mystery of motivation: "They are community-spirited, community-minded people. More than that, the experience of helping save somebody's life is one that comes to very few people.

"It's what I call the ultimate high that people can sustain, and these people know they did it. When they've done it once they can't wait to get out and have another try. They feel they have done something to help a fellow human. Most people never get the opportunity to do this kind of thing."

I spoke to each of the men involved in my rescue. Slowly I understood that each, in his own way, was expressing a deep human need to help, to serve, to sacrifice – in short to transcend the limit of the ego. It is a need not readily satisfied nor sufficiently recognized in our society, which is more oriented to materialistic, acquisitional drives.

It is a need not met by the mechanical occupational involvements of most everyday jobs, and it surfaces dramatically in war and disaster, when we suddenly discover a new sense of belonging and a new meaning to our lives.

And I realized, too, why there never will be a lack of volunteers and no lack of commitment to their obligation, even though no financial rewards will be forthcoming.

I have just returned from a pleasant, slow 1 1/2-mile jog. I was warned to take it easy for a while. I am sitting in our garden writing this.

Overhead, the white cloud of a huge dogwood in full bloom responds gently to a mild southerly breeze. Two small children, holding hands, walk down the street, absorbed in their own world. A dog barks in the distance, mingling with the amorous cooing of the pigeons settled the eaves of our house.

I am alive!


[ end ]

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