He meets me at the door of his home and invites me in. He and his wife purchased the house in 2006, and it sits on a half acre of land in Lynchburg, Virginia, near a hospital where he used to work. Its exterior is red brick, and there are eleven windows along the front, each with white trim and black shutters, making the house look sort of Jeffersonian, sort of Monticelloesque, though it's actually only forty-nine years old, which makes it ten years younger than Alexander himself. He's wearing jeans and a button-down shirt and a sweater vest, and he leads me through a wood-paneled study to the kitchen, where he asks if I'd like a cup of coffee. While the coffee brews, he explains how caffeine works. "It kind of affects the second transmitter system, part of the fight-or-flight mode. And it gets you more into kind of an active state. It bypasses some of the primary transmitters there, kind of activates the whole system, so it revs you up. It works very effectively. So, you do not take sugar?" Once the coffee's ready, we return to the study. The room is homey and filled with family pictures and some paintings by friends of his wife, Holley, who's an artist and art teacher. Alexander met her in college when she was dating his roommate, and now they have two sons. She comes into the study and sets a plate of cookies and apple slices down on a coffee table for us to pick at.Most Popular
"I'm starting to get a little more practice with these interviews," Alexander says. "It might not show, but I should be learning from it all. It's been quite a journey."
We talk for hours. We talk about his past life and his present one, and about the strange voyage that divided the two. We talk about some of the stories he tells in Proof of Heaven, which has sold nearly two million copies and remains near the top of the New York Times best-seller list nearly a year after its release. We also talk about some of the stories you won't find in the book, stories I've heard from current and former friends and colleagues, and stories I've pulled from court documents and medical-board complaints, stories that in some cases give an entirely new context to the stories in the book, and in other cases simply contradict them.
From one point of view, the point of view that Fox & Friends and Newsweek and Oprah and Dr. Oz and Larry King and all of his other gentle interrogators have helped perpetuate, Dr. Eben Alexander is a living miracle, literally heaven sent, a man capable of finally bridging the chasm between the world of spirituality and the world of science. From this point of view, he is, let's not mince words, a prophet, because after all, what else do you call a man who comes bearing fresh revelations from God? This point of view has been massively profitable for Dr. Eben Alexander, has spawned not just a book sold in thirty-five countries around the globe but a whole cascade of ancillary products, including a forthcoming major motion picture from Universal.
But there is another point of view. And from this point of view, Dr. Eben Alexander looks less like a messenger from heaven and more like a true son of America, a country where men have always found ways to escape the rubble of their old lives through audacious acts of reinvention.
By the end of our interview, there's a note of unease in Alexander's voice. He pulls out his iPhone and puts on the voice recorder. He tells me he is concerned that some of the stories I've brought up could be taken the wrong way by readers.Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
"People could definitely go way off the deep end about irrelevant stuff as opposed to focusing on what matters," he says.
Before he was Eben, he was, briefly, Richard.
His biological parents, young, unready, created him, named him, and then gave him away. The Alexander family of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, adopted him and gifted him with a new name, one with an illustrious pedigree. The first Eben Alexander, his great-grandfather, was the U. S. ambassador to Greece in the 1890s, helped create the modern Olympic Games, carried on an occasional correspondence with Mark Twain. His father, Eben Alexander Jr., a great neurosurgeon, was permanent president of his class at Harvard Medical School.
Eben Alexander III attended Phillips Exeter Academy, where he read lots of science fiction, grew a shaggy mop of hair, learned how to pole-vault—he loved the feeling of propelling himself skyward with physics and muscle. While his high school classmates saved up for cars, he bought himself sailplane lessons.
He went to college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He studied chemistry. He contemplated astrophysics. He joined the Sport Parachute Club and spent his weekends flying to great heights in perfectly good Cessna 185's and jumping out of them. He felt drawn to medicine but worried that if he became a doctor, he'd never escape his father's shadow. He agonized.
He graduated from UNC in 1975 and enrolled in Duke medical school. He was still worried about not living up to the standards set by his father. Even after he began his neurosurgery residency, he almost jumped ship, changed careers. He sent in a job application to NASA. He dreamt of flying on the space shuttle, of helping to build the International Space Station. But when he told his father, his father convinced him to withdraw the application. Wait till you've finished your residency, he told him. Then, if you're still interested in the whole NASA thing, by all means. By the time he'd finished his residency, the Challenger had exploded and the shuttle program was on hold. He chose not to reapply.
His path seemed set.
A headache. November 10, 2008.
He has a headache. Not a bad one at first, but it gets steadily, rapidly worse. He tells Holley that he just needs to rest, that he'll be fine.
Escherichia coli bacteria have insinuated themselves into the lining of his central nervous system, the membranes that protect his brain and spinal cord, he writes in Proof of Heaven. It is unclear how they got there. Spontaneous cases of bacterial meningitis are rare but not unheard of, and the transmission vectors are the same as those of other common infectious diseases: tainted water supplies, poor hygiene, dirty cooking conditions. Regardless of where these particular E. coli came from, now that they're here, they proliferate. E. coli populations are incredibly fertile, and under ideal circumstances will grow exponentially, doubling in size every twenty minutes. Theoretically, given limitless food and zero resistance, a single 0.000000000000665-gram E. coli bacterium could in nineteen hours spawn a megacolony weighing as much as a man. But our bodies are not defenseless. Alexander's immune response kicks in immediately, deploying fleets of white blood cells to kill the invaders. His cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid that supports his brain in every sense, buoying it and nourishing it, becomes a terrifying battlefield. While the invaders consume his CSF's brain-sustaining sugars, the defensive onslaught of white blood cells causes the volume of fluid to swell, raising the pressure inside his skull.
Source : http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/interviews/a23248/the-prophet/