Shiv Grewal, from Peckham, London, suffered a massive cardiac arrest after going out for lunch with his wife five years ago – and now depicts what he believes is the afterlife in his art.The 60-year-old, who just finished an RSC production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, had to be revived by paramedics.
He had been previously healthy and fit, but on the way home from the restaurant he began to feel unwell, before his eyes rolled back into his head.
He said: “I knew, somehow, that I was dead.”
“I was aware my brain was dying and crying out for help. But, at the same time, I felt things completely separate from my body. It was like I was in a void but could feel emotions and sensations.
“Despite knowing I was dead, I also knew that there was a chance of coming home.
“I also understood that I’d be reincarnated, but I didn’t want that just yet. I wanted to return to life, to the material world and to my wife. I demanded that I was coming back and I got my wish.”
Arriving within minutes, paramedics were able to restart his heart, but, in the seven minutes when the actor said it stopped, he went on a strange “cosmic journey,” during which he had the power to choose between life and death.
Shiv said: “I felt there was a whole set of possibilities, various lives and reincarnations that were being offered to me. But I didn’t want them. I made it very clear that I wanted to return to my body, to my time, to my wife and to go on living.
He was rushed into surgery at Kings College Hospital for an operation to put a stent into his fully clogged main artery, Shiv went into an induced coma for a month, because of cerebral hypoxia – oxygen starvation in the brain – which has left him with epilepsy.
The actor and artist is unable to return to the stage and has speech and mobility problems.
He continued: “I needed to be proactive. I said I was coming back. I said it as a demand not a request.”
As part of his recovery he has found painting what he saw a good form of therapy.
He said: “I remembered everything that happened when my heart stopped and have tried to translate it into art.
“My works act as a map to rediscovery and to understanding my experience.”
His art will be at an exhibition called Reboot at The Sanctum Hotel in London’s Soho, from August 15 to September 24.