#87 What Near-Death Experiences Can Teach Us with Barbara Bartolome
July 29th, 2022
Johnny Burke: Welcome to Closer To Venus. I’m Johnny Burke and today’s guest is Barbara Bartolome. She is a double near- death experience survivor and founder and director of the International Association For Near-Death Studies group in Santa Barbara, California. She’s been on the NBC Today show, and in multiple documentaries, podcasts and radio shows. Today we’ll be talking about how her near-death experiences, also referred to NDEs, contributed to her life and what we can learn from those events. Barbara, welcome to the program.
Barbara Bartolome: Thank you, Johnny. I’m happy to be here.
Johnny Burke: The first NDE you had was in 1987 during a medical test. prior to surgery. What happened?
Barbara Bartolome: Having a test prior to surgery. It’s called a myelogram and it is where they inject iodine dye into your spinal cord. And in my case, they did it at the back of my neck. I wasn’t under any anesthesia. I was laying on an x-ray table. They were planning to tip the table and watch as the dye went down my spinal cord to see if the area that I had blown a disc in had chipped the spinal cord. And if the spinal fluid was leaking out, because that was going to be a bigger surgery the next day, if they had to address that. So they had me on the table, they told me don’t move whatsoever. Don’t talk or anything because you can have headaches for months afterward with this situation.
So I was laying there being a good kid and I was 31 years old, and I had a five-month-old baby daughter and an eight-year-old son. And they, unfortunately, pressed the wrong button on the table to tip it. So they started, tipping it with my head down, lowering my head, and raising my feet and they didn’t notice it. The two x-ray techs were talking to each other. The two doctors were talking to each other. It was a neurosurgeon and an orthopedic surgeon that was doing the surgery the next day. And the nurse was distracted as well.
I started feeling like something was really drastically wrong, but I didn’t want to interrupt anybody or cause a problem. And so I stayed quiet too long and by the time that I wanted to say something and interrupt, I couldn’t speak, and I couldn’t reach my hand out to get their attention or do anything. And so I just laid there in a panic. They heard me hyperventilating and they stopped talking the two x-ray texts and the one x-ray tech that had his finger on the button, leaned over my face and saw that my eyes were rolling to the back of my head by then I just couldn’t control my eyes. They just kept on going backward. And he kind of panicked and leaned back and looked where his thumb was on the table and realized with this very shocked look on his face, that he’d made a big mistake. And that was when I checked out, I literally shut my eyes and my body. And the next second I was up on the ceiling.
Johnny Burke: The sequence of when your surgery, the procedure started to when you flatlined, about how long did that take?
Barbara Bartolome: The medical test was happening and they were only a couple minutes into tipping me before I died and was up on the ceiling. Why I know that I flatlined was because the medical professionals that were in the room, the two doctors, they called for the nurse to call for a heart monitor, a defib unit and they immediately started chest compressions and blowing into my mouth. They were doing CPR down below me. I was up on the ceiling, and I was beautifully calm up there. I didn’t feel panicked or worried or upset. I looked down at my body and I said’, huh, if I’m up here and my body’s down there, and that guy is calling code blue and rooms going into a panic, et cetera. I think I just died.
Johnny Burke: So you’re out of your body. You were on the ceiling. There’s been many accounts like this. Because of your involvement with IANDS, you’ve probably heard many accounts, just like yours, which to us non-experienced sounds like a science fiction movie. Was it true that when you were up there, you didn’t feel really attached to your body? What was that like?
Barbara Bartolome: Yeah, it didn’t feel attached to the body at all. Everything that was me was up on the ceiling, my whole consciousness, everything that I loved and felt, and I felt very calm, very comforted. I felt wrapped in a warm blanket of love. It ended up being about eight to 10 minutes that I was dead- cardiac arrest because they did bring in a heart monitor and I watched my own flatline.
Johnny Burke: While they were doing this, when you came back, what was the first few things that you said to the doctors once you were revived?
Barbara Bartolome: I kind of have to back it up because there’s a whole story up above that happened, that caused me to be resuscitated. So while I was up there, immediately after I said, ‘ uh-huh, I think I’m dead.’ I felt a presence and the presence to me felt like what I would think God was, it felt eternal. It felt totally loving. It felt accepting. I began to say to it how much I wanted to go back into my life. I was giving my children as the reason. I wasn’t begging to go back. I was just saying I needed to go back, to protect my children. I was in an abusive marriage at the time, and I was afraid of what would happen to them if they were left without my interventions in the situation.
As I was talking to that being, I was saying that about four different ways, very calmly. They were doing all of this resuscitation effort down below. They got the heart monitor in, they got the oxygen cart in, they never got the defib unit in. The neurosurgeon ended up saying to the orthopedic surgeon too much time is passed. She’s going to be braindead. We need to do something. At that point, the orthopedic surgeon stepped forward and said, “stand clear” and everybody moved away from the front of the table and he took his arm from behind his back, swung it in a very high arc over his head. His fist came crashing down on my chest – that’s called the pre- cardial thump. And it’s done as the last-ditch effort to restart a heart with a shock, just like a defib would give a shock to the heart. It hardly ever works according to the information online. In that case, it didn’t work the first time.
The being that was next to me finally said something to me. I had been saying how much I wanted to go back into my life. the being’s voice was so incredibly warm and beautiful. Amazing. I can’t possibly imitate it, but what it said was, “but if you go back, you’ll still be in your marriage, what will you do? ” Then I saw all these little film clips that just went flash, flash, flash, flash, flash, flash, flash in front of me that were all of the incidents that I’d had with that current husband. It was like to remind me of what I was facing if I went back. Then I was given all this time to kind of consider now what I did is immediately consider all of the things that I had done to try to change him, to try to help him through his anger issues. They were originating from his childhood and all the things that I presented to help him. I then realized I’d done everything I could. There wasn’t anything more to do.
I then said to the being,” if you let me go back, I promise you I’ll get strong enough to leave him. “And the second I said, the word” him”, I literally shut my eyes up on the ceiling and opened them again. And I was back in my body with the oxygen mask on my face, which they had placed on there after I died.
So I spoke into the oxygen mask and said, ” what just happened?” The nurse leaned over me and said, “stop, don’t talk. We need to stabilize you.” So for 20 minutes I just lay on the table, it was really a shock to be back in my body knowing consciously that I had just been out of my body. I’d never heard of the near-death experience in my entire life. And I’d never heard of anything about being out of the body. Never read anything about it. I was completely in shock. When they finally took the oxygen mask off, I said to the astonished team, “what just happened? I was up on the ceiling, and I could see and hear everything”. And the neurosurgeon, he. said,” Oh brother”. So that made me at 31 years old with never having heard of anything like this before, completely recount what had happened in the room. I pointed at people, told them what they did and said, then the neurosurgeon stormed out of the room. Really angry and said,” I’m not going to listen to this.”
I think it freaked him out. the orthopedic surgeon stayed, and he listened and talked and asked me how I felt and what was it like? And he was more interested in it. I saw him about 20 years later and he told me, “Barbara, you had a near-death experience. That’s absolutely true. And I can’t talk about it because my colleagues and my patients won’t like that if I talk about people’s experiences”. But he said you had it.
Johnny Burke: Let’s talk about what happened up there when you were up on the ceiling, and you talked to this being. I believe the first time we spoke, this being was sitting next to you.
Barbara Bartolome: It was next to me, but it wasn’t sitting. I didn’t even look to see if there was a physical, like a vision of light, or a face or anything. I felt it really strongly and it was right to my left. I felt exactly like there was someone there. For me it felt like God, I don’t know if it was an angel, I don’t know if it was a spiritual being. I have no idea who it was. I didn’t say” who are you?” I just began talking to it.
Johnny Burke: So you didn’t see it, but you felt it. And was the voice telepathic? could you actually hear it?
Barbara Bartolome: No. Yeah because I wasn’t in my body. And so my ears weren’t working because I wasn’t in my body, but it was telepathic, he didn’t really say anything or I didn’t hear anything from him or, feel any response until he said, ” but if go back, you’ll still be in your marriage” , I didn’t get a response until after the strike on the heart.
Johnny Burke: I’ve been told many times that people that have these experiences will recount them in vivid detail and remember them many years afterwards. I always ask because I know other people are going to ask me,’ how do you know it wasn’t a dream? ‘Why don’t you tell our listeners why you think it was definitely not a dream.
Barbara Bartolome: Or hallucination. Number one, I wasn’t under any anesthesia. Number two, I completely accurately recounted what the medical professionals in the room did while I was flatlining, and my heart stopped. So it wasn’t a hallucination. I accurately described their actions and their words and shocked all of them by coming out immediately and saying it all. Most people who are near-death experiencers have an experience and they don’t talk about it right away. I was the one who immediately, validated it with them and shocked them all. In fact, the neurosurgeon, he won’t even talk to me about it to this day. He’s completely closed about the whole subject. It scares the heck out of the guy and it’s something that I know- I was right up there on the ceiling and I was watching the whole thing.
Johnny Burke: I’ve been told several times that when you’re in that position that you were and you’re flat lining,you have no brain function, right? Is that true?
Barbara Bartolome: I’m not sure that the brain is really necessary to keep your consciousness alive because I had every piece of my consciousness up on the ceiling. I didn’t feel any pain in my body when the guy struck me or anything that they were doing. I didn’t feel the oxygen mask on my face down below. No messages from my body. But everything of who I was up on that ceiling, watching them do that to my body. So I know that consciousness isn’t tied to an alive or active brain, as far as I’m concerned. We’re inhabiting these bodies, but we are spiritual beings having a human experience as Pierre Teilhard says- not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are much more than our bodies.
Johnny Burke: I’ve heard that quite a bit too and I would be inclined to believe that, but if we take the scientific position just for a moment, if someone’s flatlining, they’re dead, which means that you’re not supposed to be able to imagine anything, because you’re dead.
Barbara Bartolome: And that’s where medical Intelligence over the years , that’s what they say. And unfortunately, that’s not the truth. Too many near-death experiences have these amazing experiences outside of their bodies and they are not tied to the dead body that’s down below.
Johnny Burke: I think it makes a pretty strong case for the survival of consciousness. It’s not tied to a physical body. You’ve been involved in several organizations, which we’ll get to, but, IANDS, I believe has documented, is it 900,000 or is it more? documented cases of near death experiences? Probably closer to a million, and I don’t think they’re all making that up.
Barbara Bartolome: Yeah. The thing is that most of us don’t want to talk about it. I didn’t talk about mine for like 12 years. I literally spoke to the doctors about it and asked, “what happened, what happened?” No one would answer me. Then when they took me up to my room and did my surgery the next day when I was in recovery, two doctors approached me to tell me what happened during the surgery. I said”, what happened last night? what was that? “, The neurosurgeon held his hand out in front of me, like “stop.” And he said,” I am not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about your surgery.”
No one in the hospital would talk to me about it. And when I told my husband at the time, he completely dismissed it and said, “oh, that couldn’t have happened- you probably hallucinated it” well, I’ve never done drugs. I never did anything. I have the cleanest record and I have actually security clearance with the Department of Defense. I don’t have any reason to have been hallucinating or dreaming or anything else. It was an actual experience and I cherish it big time because it literally helped guide me away from the situation that I was in in my life. And I did end up leaving my husband and I did end up finding a very much happier life down the road with my husband than I’ve been married to for 30 years now. I felt planted in my life at that time to get me out of a very dangerous situation with my marriage.
Johnny Burke: And speaking of NDEs, you had one in your childhood, but at the time you didn’t know what it was. Can you tell us a little bit about how that happened?
Barbara Bartolome: I actually was only about 18 months old. I had never told my family about my near-death experience. I kept it very quiet inside my heart. It was as fresh every day. If I ever took it out and looked at it myself. I remembered every second of it, but it wasn’t like I was going to talk to people about it. In Santa Barbara, I owned a business and I’d been named businesswoman of the year., I didn’t want people to think there were weird things going on in Barbara’s head or something. So I kept it really quiet.
I had been to the IANDS conference in 2009 and I’d heard PMH Atwater speak -she’s a researcher for near-death experiences, very broadly known. She had been talking about the aftereffects and I had not ever heard that there were after-effects. When I heard these, I was very confused after her talk. And I thought why are they saying those are aftereffects? I’ve had those all the way back to my childhood. And I had my NDE at age 31. So after her talk, I approached her and said,” please explain to me how that could happen.” She held my hands and she said,” my dear, I think that you ought to check in with your family to see if anyone there knows of anything that happened to you when you were young because I believe that you probably had an earlier life NDE. ” so I thought at the time, oh brother, now somebody thinks I’ve had two of these?
I decided when I saw my brother the next time that I would ask him, but I didn’t want to tell him about my NDE ahead of time to give him that information. So I said,” Hey, I’m doing this kind of a booklet thing of all of my medical history. So that in case I’m ever in the hospital or something, they can have this notebook of all the information about my medical background. And my brother said,” I don’t know. Let me think about it.” Then after we had dinner, he stopped me outside the restaurant and he said,” Barbie, there’s something that I need to tell you and I’ve always felt like I should tell you. But the parents made us promise back when it happened that we would never discuss it with you, and we wouldn’t tell you. When you were 18 months, you had a really high fever, you were sick with something, I don’t know what it was, and the parents were really concerned and worried.”
What ended up happening was that I went into convulsions, and I stopped breathing. So my father immediately called the fire department, and my mom was holding me and crying, and my little sister was in my mom’s tummy still, so my little sister was about to be born and my mom was going to lose her little one. The fire department ended up telling my dad to put me into the bathtub in tepid bathwater, then slowly at ice cubes to slowly lower my body temperature while they sent the ambulance over to our house. My brothers were sent by my mom to go to the neighbor’s house, rush, rush to get more ice.
And when my brother came back, he said” you were soft, purple, lifeless, not breathing and he said he was so scared.” As he was standing there watching, he said,” you self-resuscitated. All of a sudden, you arched your back and came back alive and took this deep breath in, and that turned you from purple to red. Then you just burst out crying and you were crying really hard.” And the ambulance people pulled up in front of the house, came into our home and wrapped me up in a blanket and took me off the hospital. ” he said I was there for like four days. He said the parents didn’t want to ever talk about it. They said, never speak to me about it.
I realized that with that information and the aftereffects that I then knew about that my childhood fell right into place for me, because there were a lot of things that had happened during my childhood, that my parents thought were weird, and people that were friends of mine thought were weird. There were intuition moments, there were all sorts of things, and, I never could figure out why they’d happened, and I didn’t know why I was different, but that totally answered it okay now I understand I’ve got intuition. Yeah.
Johnny Burke: So that happened when you were 18 months?
Barbara Bartolome: 18 months old. Yeah.
Johnny Burke: I’ve noticed that people that have had these experiences talk about an increased level of intuition. And I even had Robert Bare- speaking of IANDS, who was on the show a while back. He had a near-death experience where he was out for like 45 minutes. He remembered seeing a very huge uptick in these abilities, including mediumistic type abilities, which he told me” I didn’t want it.” Could it be that your childhood.experience kind of elevated it or those abilities would’ve been there anyway?
Barbara Bartolome: No, I definitely think it elevated it and, and it was something I didn’t understand, my parents didn’t understand, my siblings. No one understood it. I would have these incidents where I didn’t realize for quite a long time until I was older, that I should hide them. I shouldn’t talk about them. I shouldn’t let people know. When the phone rang, I blurted out who was calling and would be accurate every time, and my mom would look at me with this really strange look on her face.
When I was like five years old, I was studying on a street corner and my intuition told me that there was going to be a car accident. So I broke the grip on my mom’s hand, and I put my hands over my face to cover my face. My mom didn’t like that because we were supposed to hold her hands. My little three-year-old sister, and myself. She looked down at me and said, “what are you doing? I said, through my hands, “they’re going to crash” and right after I said, a car ran the red light and T-boned the car in the intersection. And my mom kneeled down and shook me a little bit and she said,” I don’t ever want you to tell anyone that you can do that. ” So it was scary to her that I had those gifts and I learned to hide them, but there were times when I didn’t hide them and bad things kind of happened.
I remember in high school I was like 17, and my friends drank beer. I would go with them to a party but I didn’t drink I’d always be the driver home. What ended up happening was that the police stormed the party. And I saw before they got there that they were coming up the roadway to the place we were at. I didn’t know the people that lived there- it was their son that was having the party and the people were off for the weekend. So no one knew beforehand that this was going to happen and the police came and I actually got enough warning that I took my friends and dragged them off into the underbrush nearby the driveway and saved them from getting arrested for underage drinking . That caused one of them to question me. She ended up saying at school on the following Monday that I was a witch because I said, “well, I saw that they were coming.” So she assumed I was a witch. So I had to deal with that in high school; people saying things to me and questioned me and stuff and it was hard.
Johnny Burke: That must have been difficult, and I can see why your mother would tell you don’t ever tell anybody that you have that ability. So would you call that what you just described, is that a psychic ability or is that premonition?
Barbara Bartolome: I think it’s called premonition or precognition. I’m not exactly up on all of that, but it’s happened so darn many times to me that it’s just normal. When I get those hits, I listen. I have this incredible one that happened in 2016 and my husband that I’m married to for the last 30 years, he really understands this, and he gets it and he trusts it. We were driving back from San Francisco where I had given four talks up at the IANDS groups in San Francisco and we were coming back to Santa Barbara. And just north of the city there’s this coastline that the highway comes along, and it was really super windy. This one gust of wind, I saw my husband struggling with the steering wheel. So I said, “Hey, why don’t we slow down from 65 down to like 50? , I think we should slow down. “And he said, “yeah, I think so, too. “And then a couple of minutes later, I heard in my ear- I actually heard a voice that said ” danger, big impact ahead.”
So I sat up in my seat and I checked my seatbelt and then I told my husband,” I just heard from the other side there’s a big impact ahead- danger. Could be a tree that’s blown down, or could be a car that’s spun out of control- I don’t know what it is, but we need to slow down more. We need to do like 30 miles an hour.” My husband looked at me and said,” well, Barbara, we’re on the freeway. We can’t do that.” And I turned around and looked through our van and there were no lights behind us, no cars coming. And so I said,” well, nobody’s around us, so nobody’s going to care if we’re doing 30. So we went for about 10 minutes doing 30 miles an hour. And we came around a corner, and saw a police car way up in the dark way ahead of us. And I immediately knew that was where the danger was. the police car had stopped squarely in the slow lane. He’d gotten out of his car and he climbed up on the side of the semi-truck that had tipped over because the wind had blown it out of control and the dirty bottom of the truck was facing us. So we couldn’t actually see the truck. We could only see the car with the lights on -the police car.
Coming up in the slow lane, behind the police car, and having to change lanes. And right when that happened, whoever it was from the other side that was helping grabbed both of my upper arms. I kid you not, I’m not lying about this. Literally, I felt grips on both of my upper arms, and I felt a face come nose to nose with me and whoever it was screamed, “10 miles an hour! I completely echoed that to my husband because I was freaked out that I was being squeezed. My husband slowed down. He just changed lanes. So now he was in the fast lane going past the police car and about 20 feet past the police car, our lights finally lit up the semi-truck and the cab was right in front of us. We would’ve hit that, and it would’ve probably blown up the gas tanks because that’s where the gas tanks are. I immediately started saying thank you to the other side right after we got past it.
My husband about 10 minutes later was completely quiet. Then he said, “Barbara, how do you do this?” And I said, “you know what, Victor, it’s not me. I do listen to the other side. And I think if everybody did, they’d get a big benefit in life. ” What you think is your intuition might not be intuition. It might be assistance from the other side. So I always listen- I listen to them and I’m not scared of them at all. I’m always grateful.
Johnny Burke: Pretty incredible story. You’ve also given grand rounds talks at some of the hospitals and I believe it’s featured in a D V D for medical professionals to learn about NDEs. How important is it for the medical profession to accept and understand that NDEs are real?
Barbara Bartolome: Absolutely important. My example of an NDE and then voicing it to those people that were present. None of them admitted at the time, ‘hey Barbara, you had an NDE. ‘I don’t know back in 1987, if they knew what an NDE was. But nowadays a lot of people, medical professionals included have heard of these. So when someone has one, they just simply need to say that’s called a near-death experience and there’s a lot of information online. There are websites and organizations that help people to acclimate to this situation that you’ve just had. They don’t have to say that they believe in it or that they don’t believe in it. Just give the patient the best care possible by telling them what it is and saying there’s information out there. That’s all they need to do.
Johnny Burke: I think that’s as good advice on that as anyone’s going to get. Of course, there’s going to be pushback from some people that maybe their pastor or the people at their church say ‘those things are not real’, which I think it’s kind of sad, really.
Barbara Bartolome: Well, I’ve spoken at churches, and they’ve completely wanted me to come and talk there and they’ve been very open and accepting of it. So it depends on how the church is led.
Johnny Burke: It depends on the type of church -we have the Unitarian church, then we even Spiritualist churches that have mediums in them.
Barbara Bartolome: When I talked to Salt Lake City, the whole room, 150 people were all Mormons , or mostly all Mormons. They believe in near-death experiences. The problem that I see is that a lot of religions believe God is dead. They don’t believe God’s really present currently here and capable of impacting our lives and helping us and doing things with us. And it’s just really sad because I realize strongly that he’s alive.
Johnny Burke: Let’s talk about what we’ve all learned from these organizations like IANDS, the Afterlife Research and Education Institute (AREI), and the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation.(NDERF)
Barbara Bartolome: Well, I think that the NDEs are teaching us to help us grow our souls here on earth. I think that’s kind of our purpose to be here when we incarnate. I think that we’re given all these challenges and, aspects of our life that we need to learn from. And I think that that’s why we’re here. One of the things that I really strongly believe in and have all my life now is the idea of reincarnation. I feel very strongly that we’re here multiple times and that each time we probably choose a particular life, our parents, our siblings, what’s going to happen to us. And we end up coming into our life and growing our souls and learning and then going back, what I call home.
I don’t believe there’s a heaven and a hell. I’m really sorry, but I don’t. I feel like it’s just home where we came from and I always use a heart for the O on home because I think it’s just full of love, which is what I think God really represents to the world is that he’s there, he’s helping us grow our souls and he’s there when we return home again. And all this other stuff that’s been written in the Bible, I think some of it can be true and some of it can be man’s interjection into the whole thing.
Yeah. I really feel we have a purpose in our lives. So I really feel that we come here with an idea of something that we want to accomplish, and a lot of the NDEers talk about how when they were faced with their near-death experience, they realized that their purpose wasn’t completed yet. And I felt that same thing when I was out of my body.
Johnny Burke: The near-death experiences seems to be that portal to the beginning of the life- death- reincarnation cycle because it gives us a glimpse of what our purpose is, and whether we fulfilled it or not. There’s been many accounts where people say they went through something similar to what you did and they were told,’ no, you got to go back- you’re not done yet.’
Barbara Bartolome: A beautiful one is Dr. Mary Neal, who was in a river rafting accident in a kayak. And on the other side, when she was out of her body, she was sitting in a beautiful meadow, and she said that Jesus was sitting next to her on a rock. She wanted to stay even though she had four children and a lovely husband who was a doctor, she wanted to stay. She said it was so incredibly wonderful to be there next to him and be on the other side. He told her that her oldest son, Willie was going to have a terrible accident at, I think it was age 18. And that she needed to return to her life because she needed to be there and help the community that they lived in -Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to come to grips with the situation that had happened to her son. And in fact, he was hit by a distracted driver, at age 19 and he was killed. That was something that she needed to come forward and help the community to understand, not be angry and upset with this distracted driver, that it had been planned long before the accident happened and that this was Willie’s choice to leave at that time.
She also was told that her husband was going to have a major medical issue that he wouldn’t detect ahead of time and that she needed to be there otherwise the children would lose him as well. That happened as well. So we’re here for a purpose. We’re here to contribute to others’ lives. We’re here to do the best that we possibly can. And I really look forward to seeing the final video of my life. When I get to see the rerun of my life and look at the places where I contributed to other people and see how that branched out and touched other people’s lives beyond that. The whole aspect of my life has been volunteering and helping others and finding people that need assistance and finding a way to help. That’s what I do.
Johnny Burke: excellent. I think experiences like this really does give us a glimpse of what really happens when we finally make that transition. So, Barbara, thanks so much for joining us. Excellent information. How can our listeners learn more about you online?
Barbara Bartolome: They can Google Barbara Bartolome NDE. On YouTube, you’re going to get a lot of videos. You’re going to get a beautiful documentary by a French film producer named Anthony Chen and of course, this wonderful podcast audio right now today with Johnny Burke!