Ritchie, Dr George
Category: Ordinary person
Dr. George G. Ritchie, M.D. (25 September 1923 – 29 October 2007) held positions as president of the Richmond Academy of General Practice; chairman of the Department of Psychiatry of Towers Hospital; and founder and president of the Universal Youth Corps, Inc. for almost 20 years.
In 1967 he entered private psychiatry practice in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in 1983 moved to Anniston, Alabama, to serve as head of the Department of Psychiatry at the Northeast Alabama Regional Medical Centre. He returned to Richmond in 1986 to continue in private practice until retirement in 1992.
At the age of 20, George Ritchie ‘died’ in an army hospital and was pronounced dead twice by the doctor on duty. Nine minutes later he returned to life. Dr. Ritchie wrote of his near-death experience (NDE) in Return from Tomorrow, co-written with Elizabeth Sherrill (1928-), and published in 1978.
Ritchie's story was the first contact Dr. Raymond Moody, PhD had with NDEs, during his post-graduate studies and residency in Psychiatry at the University of Virginia. This led Moody to investigate over 150 cases of NDEs in his book Life After Life and two other books that followed.
The lead in to the experience
Ordered to return, My Life after Dying – George Ritchie M D
In September, 1941, I entered the University of Richmond just outside of Richmond, Virginia, to study pre-medicine. I expected to graduate in 1945, enter the Medical College of Virginia, and receive my degree as a Doctor of Medicine in 1949. After my hospital training, I would go into practice either in my own home town of Richmond, Virginia, or possibly with my uncle-in-law Dr. John A. Coleman, who was a family physician in Plant City, Florida. I loved and admired Dr. Coleman. In fact, the interest he had shown in me as a child and teenager was one reason I had decided to study medicine. The other reason was my desire to help the disabled, for I had grown up with a wonderful, spirited grand-father who, ever since I had known him, had been crippled with severe rheumatoid arthritis…….
By 1943, I had completed most of my courses for a bachelor of science degree. Because I could no longer feel comfortable sitting in college studying when I knew it was a matter of months before my dad would be sent overseas, I volunteered from inactive army reserve for active duty. I was soon called to active duty and told to report to Camp Lee, Virginia.
After a stay there of two weeks, I was loaded on a train and sent to Camp Barkeley, Texas. It is situated in the Texas panhandle and is the only place I have ever been where I could march in mud up to my ankles and still have dust blowing in my face.
Ten days before basic was completed, the unexpected happened. A young shavetail second lieutenant who was giving us a lecture on the firing range made the entire company sit at attention for five minutes because two soldiers were talking. The temperature was five degrees above zero. As a result of this, at least five percent of our company ended up in the station hospital with upper respiratory infections.
I was one of that five percent. One week later I was still in the hospital and the regimental sergeant, true to his word, had sent me my orders two days before. They read as follows: "You have your rail tickets enclosed for the train leaving Abilene at 0400 December 20, 1943. A jeep will pick you up at the front door of your ward at 03.20 and carry you to the Abilene Station. You should arrive in Richmond in adequate time to report to the Commandant at the Medical college by 14.30 on the afternoon of December 22, 1943. You shall be billeted in your own home."
I had shown these orders to the nurses and doctors on the ward.
They were a great bunch and all of them were pulling for me. The medical officer in charge of the ward said that if my temperature was down to normal by December 19, there would be no doubt about my catching that train.
On the morning of the nineteenth my temperature was normal and I was transferred to the recuperation ward. The next morning at 03.20, I was to be discharged when the jeep driver came to get me. The night nurse was so nice she even lent me her personal alarm clock………….
I awoke later because of coughing, and turned on the bedside light. It was 1:00 a.m., and I was even more feverish than when I had gone to bed, so I took two more aspirin and my second APC tablet. At 2:00 a.m. I awoke again feeling like I was on fire. I took my last three tablets. Because I was coughing up so much material and spitting it into a sputum cup on the bedside table, I couldn't go back to sleep.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity because I felt so bad, I turned on the bedside light to see if it wasn't time for the alarm to go off. It was 2:50 a.m. But what really caught my attention was the sputum cup being full of blood.
Thoroughly frightened, I jumped out of bed, went into the ward boy's office and asked him for a thermometer to take my temperature. A minute later, when I took the thermometer out of my mouth and showed it to him, it registered 106 degrees. He bolted out of the ward and in two minutes was back with the nurse. She took my temperature, read it, then said to the ward boy, "Get the captain in charge of the three wards."
When he came in, he looked at me, put his stethoscope on my chest and told me to breathe through my mouth. A moment later he shouted to the ward boy, "Call for an ambulance to take this soldier to the x-ray section."
While waiting for the ambulance, the doctor called the captain of the x-ray department and told him that he was sending me over and wanted pictures of my chest and the reading on them stat.
"What about me catching my train?" I shouted.
"Forget your train. You are not going anywhere tonight but inside this hospital compound. It will be a long time before you take a train anywhere."
The ambulance men put me on the stretcher, covered me with blankets and carried me out. During the ambulance ride I did all I could to fight back tears. A grown man wasn't supposed to cry- much less a soldier. The chance to be with mv family for Christmas had vanished. Was the opportunity to enter medical school also evaporating? I felt so sick, so depressed, that I could hardly keep my senses.
The next thing l realized was that an army captain was standing over me and my stretcher, which had been placed on this x-ray table in front of the x-ray machine.
"Do you think you can stand long enough, soldier, for us to get a picture of your chest?"
I got up and walked to the machine.
"Raise your arms over your head and lean forward against that panel. Take a deep breath and hold it."
I heard the machine make a funny whirling sound and the click that followed. Then everything began to go dark.
Faintly I heard the captain shout to the nurse and the ambulance driver.
Since I collapsed in front of the x-ray machine at approximately 3:10 a.m. on December 20, 1943, and remained unconscious until the morning of December 24, 1943, what is recorded here has been related to me by other people. The doctor in charge of the medical ward to which I was carried was Donald G. Francy, M.D. The nurse assigned to my case was First Lieutenant Retta Irvine. Statements by both of these attendants were sent to Mrs. Catherine Marshall when she was writing her book, To Live Again. ……
That morning my condition continued to deteriorate. When the ward enlisted man made his rounds, he could find no vital signs.
He quickly summoned the officer of the day, but this medical officer could detect no evidence of respiration, blood pressure or cardiac impulse. He pronounced me dead, and ordered the attendant to prepare my body for the morgue…………………..
The doctor knew for a certainty that it had been 8 to 9 minutes between the two times I had been pronounced dead. I'm sure, as an M.D. myself, the doctor must have become very worried, since no one was sure how long my vital signs had been absent. For then, as now, doctors knew the chance of brain damage after five minutes without oxygen to the brain was profound. This is why Dr. Francy said this in his notarized statement, "I, speaking for myself, feel sure that his virtual call from death and return to vigorous health has to be explained in terms of other than natural means."
Lieutenant Retta Irvine, in her notarized note, says, "Although fourteen years have elapsed and some of the details are not quite clear, I remember that this patient was pronounced dead at two different times by the medical officer who was on duty, yet after he was given an injection into the heart muscle the patient revived and in due time regained his health. During his convalescence Private Ritchie asked me how near dead he had been. When I told him what had happened he said that he thought that he had been dead.”
The observation describes the experience itself.
Dr. Ritchie died on Monday October 29, 2007 at his home in Irvington, Virginia, aged 84, following a long battle with cancer.
Ordered to return, My Life after Dying – George Ritchie M D
People began to learn about my "near death experience" from my speaking in churches and various other organizations, through my first book and the Guidepost magazine article (both entitled "Return From Tomorrow") and reference to me by such writers as Raymond Moody, M.D., in his book Life After Life and Kenneth Ring, Ph.D., in his book Life at Death. As a result of all these, a lot of these people began to think I was a very special or very blessed person. I have consistently said to them that I thought the experience happened to me either because I was possibly more spiritually dense than most people, or because the Christ used me and trusted me to share the experience with others. I do know that ever since the experience, I have carried a terrific sense of urgency to share it with the lonely, discouraged and dis-eased people such as alcoholics, drug addicts and the social outcast.
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