Paige Deiner carrying the child she almost lost after being stricken with Covid.

She had a near-death experience because of Covid. But it wasn't a glimpse of an afterlife that changed her

Updated 10:24 AM ET, Sun March 13, 2022

Two years ago, Covid-19 turned the world upside down. While the pandemic is not over, The Best in Us is a series that highlights people whose pandemic stories exemplify the resilience of the human spirit.

(CNN)The doctor pleaded with Paige Deiner to close her eyes and sleep. But she refused to listen. She was terrified.

"If I go to sleep, I'm not going to wake up," she told him.
It was an October night in 2021, and Deiner was fighting for her life, and the life of her 24-week-old baby. She was in the intensive care unit of a Delaware hospital after being diagnosed with Covid. She had lost 30 pounds in 12 days after being put on a ventilator. A doctor later told her that at one point he estimated she had a 5% chance of survival.
Deiner was trying to calm her nerves when the doctor entered her room. She played Celtic music on her iPhone and watched "Peppa Pig," an animated children's television show, on a TV set. But each breath became a painful rasp, and she couldn't tune out the beeping from the monitors as the doctor urged her to listen.
"You have to sleep," the doctor told her. "If you don't go to sleep, you're going to die. You can't heal yourself if your brain can't sleep."
Deiner fought back her panic and closed her eyes. She thought it was the end. Her world went dark.
But her story was just beginning.

A new kind of near-death experience

Anyone who has read about near-death experiences (NDEs) can imagine what they think happened to Deiner next.
Floating through a tunnel to a light in the distance. Hearing celestial music. Greeting loved ones who died many years earlier. These are the type of stories people tell in bestselling books like "90 Minutes in Heaven" and "Proof of Heaven."
Each survivor of a near-death experience shares stories of being spiritually transformed by what they glimpsed in the afterlife.
Paige Deiner, in a hospital, while recovering from a near-death experience that changed her perspective.
But in the two years since it began, the Covid pandemic has spawned a new category of near-death experiences -- recounted by people like Deiner who returned to see the miraculous in the ordinary rhythms of daily life: Being able to taste and smell coffee, hug a child again and see the sun rise after fearing you'd never again hear birds singing in the morning.
They were spiritually transformed not by a glimpse of the afterlife but by what they saw in this life, when they were struggling to stay alive after being stricken by Covid.
Those type of stories don't t