Wyoming surgeon, Dr. Mary C. Neal, faced life’s hardest challenge head on during a tragic kayak accident in Southern Chile. She is an experienced kayaker, but her experience wasn’t enough to help her escape the weight of a waterfall. With her body being tossed about like a rag doll from the turbulence, she broke both her legs and drowned. She was brought back to life, and wishes to tell her miraculous story with the world…
Epic Victory: Dr. Mary C. Neal, M.D., is best known for serving as a board-certified orthopedic surgeon; though, recently she has gained attention for her miraculous near death experience. Dr. Neal received her medical degree from University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine. She is the former Director of Spine Surgery at the University of Southern California, and is a founding partner of Orthopedic Associates in Wyoming. Dr. Neal’s accomplishments as a doctor are outstanding. Her commitment to causes and awareness go unnoticed. On her spare time she is an environmental steward, a member of the board of directors for several non-profit organizations, and an outdoor enthusiast.
Being an avid sportswomen, Dr. Neal enjoys recreational and competitive skiing, kayaking, and bicycling. Her husband, William C. Neal, M.D., and their children often went on vacation to enjoy their recreational sports. In 1999, Dr. Neal went on vacation with her husband to Southern Chile. While kayaking the Fuy River in the Los Rios region, she became trapped underneath a waterfall. The force of the water had pinned the front deck of the boat. It became clear to her that she couldn’t exit the boat on her own. The kayak had pinned her under water; with no air and no way out. For 15-minutes she was underwater fighting for her life. It was there, at that moment that she gave her life over to God and wished for his will for her life. She said immediately following her surrender, came a calmness and peacefulness she will never forget. She had a physical sense of reassurance, that everything was going would be okay.
Dr. Neal always had a fear of drowning and on that day, while trapped motionless under the water, she was facing with her greatest fear. An overwhelming sense of peace took over her body and she being to feel reassured, even though she had no air and was dying. “I was doing self assessment exams and knew I was drowning,” she said. “I rose up and out of the river when my soul broke through the surface of the water. I encountered a group of 15 or 20 souls that greeted me with the most overwhelming joy I have ever experienced,” she said, and “they were exploding with God’s love and grace.” She came to realize that angelic souls were people she had once knew; though, they had passed on. All of them were happy to see me and be reunited.
Dr. Neal knew they were there to help her. They took her down a beautiful path where time and space were different sense. She looked back at the river bank and saw her body being pulled to the shore. She looked at her body and said, “it has served me well.” It was then, that she realized that she was dead. She said, “where medicine ends, God begins.” This was more real to her than anything else she has experienced in this world. Dr. Neal claims that she has been brought back to life because God told her that her family would need her in the face of a future tragedy. She They told her that the world needed to hear her story. She They told her that, Willie, her 9-year-old son at the time, was going to die; though, she wasn’t given details. In 2009, while Willie was only 19-yeas-old, he was killed in a car accident in Maine by a driver who was on his cell phone. She felt that her primary mandate was to return to share her story, since it is comforting, reassuring and inspires other people to assess their lives and find God working in them.
Dr. Neal finds comfort in knowing that she will see her son again in the afterlife. She told NBC News, “I know that there is life after death, and I absolutely know that the promises of God are true.” She believes Jesus helped guide her through the situation before rescue workers successful revived her. “I feel very presumptuous saying that, but I believe that Jesus was holding me when I was still in my boat and reassuring me and comforting me,” Dr. Neal said. She no longer fears death and looks forward to going back when it is her time.
Before this incident, she never really incorporated spirituality in her daily life. She had a full-time job, four children and rarely found the time to get involved in a church. This horrific accident gives her a new-found purpose and dedication to her faith. She feels that this experience has brought gratitude and incredible joy to her. “We may not understand how bad things transition into a beautiful thing,” she continues, “but when you trust that such beauty exists, we can look back at something and see the incredible positive and beautiful thing that come out of something that is celebrated.”
After being rescued, she recovered in an area hospital for several weeks. She had broken her legs and underwent surgery to correct the damage. This experience has taught her to trust that God loves us unconditionally, that spiritual life is eternal and that He has a beautiful plan for each of us. These promises allowed her to face her struggles with gratitude and joy. She said, “each event, neither good nor bad, is like a small thread woven together with others to create a glorious tapestry of God’s design. I do not fear death. I am more tolerant of other people’s action. I observe the world with an open heart.”
Today, more than 13 years later, she is fully recovered. Dr. Neal now faces life’s most difficult challenges with gratitude and joy. “How I view myself and others has profoundly changed. How I do my work as a physician has changed. I think I’m a better doctor now, in that I try to treat the whole person, not just the injury. Physical challenges can become opportunities for growth – I think that’s a valuable perspective to maintain. I wouldn’t have been able to do that before,” she said. Dr. Neal gives credit to Jesus Christ for saving her and is thankful for her life. She is now a true believer, an elder at her church and has dedicated her life as a missionary for God.
“Based on my experience, I know that God has a plan for me and for everyone,” she said. “Our Job is to listen and try to hear what God is saying to us as he tells us what he needs us to do. The real challenge for us is to give up control and be obedient to what God is asking of us.” She feels that if we do that, then we will be ready when the time comes for us to enter the “great and brilliant hall” that she had went through on her journey. She looks forward to the day she goes back to what she calls, “our real home.”
Dr. Neal has written about her experience titled, “To Heaven and Back: The True Story of a Doctor’s Extraordinary Walk with God.”
Author of “The Purpose Driven Life”, Rick Warren, once said, “Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.
It is not enough to just say relationships are important; we must prove it by investing time in them. Words alone are worthless. “My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.” Relationships take time and effort, and the best way to spell love is “T-I-M-E.”
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