DOCTORS hope hidden symbols at Morriston Hospital could help solve the mystery surrounding near-death experiences.
The hospital is taking part in a new project aimed at shedding some light on the phenomenon.
As well as interviewing people who suffer cardiac arrests, pictures will be placed on shelving in resuscitation areas to see if "out of body" experiences really do exist — or whether it is just a trick of the mind.
Intensive care nurse Penny Satori, who wrote her PhD about the process of death, is leading the project at Morriston Hospital.
She said: "The research is looking at consciousness of patients who have suffered a cardiac arrest. A component of this is that people often report leaving their body and seeing the resuscitation process taking place.
"One way of verifying this is putting symbols around the hospital that can only be viewed from an out-of-body perspective. I will then ask patients what they saw and if they can correctly identify any of the symbols."
The three-year study, led by Southampton University, will take place in 25 hospitals and is expected to feature around 1,500 people’s accounts of their near death experiences.
Many report seeing a tunnel or bright light, while others recall looking down from the ceiling at medical staff.
A person who said she has witnessed both is 67-year-old Gorseinon mum Pam Williams (pictured). She suffered a cardiac arrest 40 years ago while giving birth to her youngest daughter at home. She said: "After the birth I was fine. Then all of a sudden I felt myself bleeding heavily. I started to haemorrhage and then lost consciousness."
It was then that Pam’s out-of-body experience began.
"I saw a car pull up outside with a doctor, he pulled his sleeves up," she added. "I then saw myself from above, and the doctor then began to press up and down and my chest.
"All the time I felt really warm and cocooned. I was floating away towards a bright light but I did not get there as I heard my other daughter was in the kitchen shouting out ‘mam’. That was the last thing I remember before waking up in hospital."
Doctors hope by analysing cases such as these it will see whether consciousness continues after the brain, heart and lungs stop working.
Dr Satori, who previously conducted the biggest British research into the near-death experiences, said the research will prove invaluable.
"There could be great benefits from this research for the future," she added. "As well as helping surviving patients psychologically after a trauma, it can give peace of mind to grieving families.
"Moreover, it will be great education for nurses and doctors."
That is something that dinner lady-turned nurse Pam agrees. "It’s opened up a taboo subject," she added. "I can certainly say it has changed my life. I live every day to the full."