It was 2003, and Saartjie Geurts, a Dutch 23-year-old, was a first-year communication studies student.

She felt dizzy and found her coordination and ability to concentrate decrease. This lasted for a few days before she took to bed. She stayed home from school for about five days before her near-death experience (NDE), or her “hell experience” as she calls it, happened.

She was in bed, and her head became so heavy she couldn’t lift it. “I realized that I couldn’t get out of bed, and I panicked,” she said in a video by

All of her senses became overloaded; she saw bright colors, tasted many tastes, smelled many smells, heard many sounds.

She saw clearly flowers, mountains, and buildings.

Then “there was some kind of ominous threat,” she said. She saw her own body lying in the bed, she was looking at it from above, something commonly reported by NDEers.

She was scared. Then she felt herself pulled back and she saw her mother in a quarantine room in a hospital. In 2001, her mother had been quarantined to keep germs away from her as she was weakened by colon cancer. The cancer eventually killed her.

Geurts felt pain, then she was pulled through a tunnel that became increasingly narrow.

“Then I arrived at a gate. … I had to make a choice,” she said. Her mother was on the other side of the gate. “Proceeding would mean death,” Geurts said. She had to let go of her mother as the gate closed.

Her life flashed before her eyes, starting with her birth. It was “a photographic experience,” Geurts said. Images of her family members over the years appeared. Life reviews are also often reported by NDEers.

She knew something even worse was about to happen; she was exhausted and didn’t know if she could handle it. “I call it the hell experience,” she said.

“There were many hands, and there was lots of screaming that I had done something wrong,” she said. “And then suddenly there was an image of a man, a shadow, and I couldn’t name it.”

She started screaming, and awoke to find a policeman and paramedic in her bedroom.

It was a terrifying experience, but it helped her come to terms with her mother’s death and reflect on their relationship and her own morals.

As the hands were grabbing for her and the voices were yelling, she felt they were going to pull her “to what people call ‘hell.'” She kept apologizing and asking “Why?”

She thought about why. As a child, she often confronted her mother and called her names, ashamed and afraid of her mother’s weaknesses. Geurts thought about the period before her mother died.

“I suddenly realized that I never called her during my 10-month trip to Australia,” Geurts said. She wondered why no one had realized her mother was ill, “Why did she have to go through it alone?”

Some other lessons she took from her “hell experience” were that she should never lie nor be jealous. She felt a lot of jealousy in her relationship with her sisters.

She said: “The NDE was like a well-meaning person asking me why I had been so unfriendly to my mother, a kind of interrogation.”

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