The 113th Congress started work yesterday and it was a welcome change. Congress, generally a disliked government body, reached new lows, with the 112th Congress dubbed the most unproductive since the 1940s, notes the Huffington Post. Still, there are some welcome old faces - namely Senator Mark Kirk, whose appearance on Capitol Hill yesterday marked the first time that Kirk had been back to the Senate since a devastating stroke last year. The near-death experience had him seeing angels at his bedside.
Kirk recounts how he woke up to find three angels standing at the foot of his bed. They asked if he wanted to come with them, but he rejected the offer, saying, "I'll hold off," according to the Daily Herald.
Kirk's experience mirrors that of the 8 million Americans who say that they have undergone a near-death experience, with the Senator saying, "A thing goes off in your head that this is the end." The experiences are commonly associated with religion and spirituality, but in fact researchers believe that the mystical experiences are simply a result of brain functioning, Live Science reports.
Many people, for example, report moving toward a bright light, a phenomenon that occurs in 25 percent of heart attack patients. In a study published in the journal Critical Care, Slovenian researchers found that euphoria, a peaceful feeling, and a sense of "moving toward the light" is the result of oxygen deprivation.
Other people report feeling like they are floating above their bodies. A 2005 study found that experience can be replicated in just about anyone by stimulating the brain's right temporoparietal junction. Researchers last year were also able to recreate the feeling of floating toward a bright light by training volunteers.
The 53-year-old Kirk suffered from a brutal ischemic stroke that required doctors to place him in a coma and to temporarily remove a 4-by-8-inch section of his skull in order to allow his brain to swell and to heal. Still unable to see in a quadrant of his left eye and largely unable to use his left arm, Kirk remains thankful and enjoys a closer relationship with God. His doctor said that he was lucky that the stroke did not impact the left side of his brain, the portion that controls language.