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'I Saw These Swirling Lights': Double Lung Transplant Pastor Says He Died, Went to Heaven, Heard Jesus


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A Louisville, Kentucky pastor says he died on the operating table during a double lung transplant, went to heaven and even met his organ donor.

Mike Olsen, the pastor of the Iona Community Church in Louisville, has battled Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a terminal lung disease for five years.  He had never smoked, yet the disease meant he couldn't go anywhere without his oxygen tank.

When diagnosed in 2014, doctors told Olsen he likely only had two years to live, according to WDRB-TV. IPF causes the lungs to slowly deteriorate due to a build-up of scar tissue.  The disease kills more than 30,000 people every year. There's no known cause and no cure.

While waiting for a transplant, Olsen turned his plight into a message for those suffering from IPF. He dedicated himself to promoting organ donation and IPF awareness. At present, more than 1,000 patients are on an organ transplant list just in Kentucky, according to organ donor associations. 

Olsen's efforts even took him to the White House where he met President Donald Trump in the Oval Office in March of 2018. 

"That's what I wanted. I wanted (Trump) to see my face," Olsen told the television station. "Remember me when you go to make a vote when you go sign something. I'm a real person, and this is a disease that is devastating to so many people."

"I said, 'I'm trying to raise awareness for this disease,' and I said, 'it's so important I get the word out about this,'" he recalled.

Earlier this month, Olsen finally received the news for which he had been waiting -- a new set of lungs had been donated. 

"I felt so privileged that I got the call, but I know I was at a turning point," he said. "If I hadn't got the call, I would have died." 

During the transplant surgery, things were looking up until something happened and it went downhill. In a Facebook Live video, Olsen's wife Patti asked followers to pray for Mike.  

"His body was not being oxygenated properly by his new lungs," she said.

Olsen ended up in a coma attached to a ventilator.  In an emotional video posted to Facebook, Olsen recounted his time in heaven.

"I saw these swirling lights and I heard this pattern of voices or something. And I just realized now what they were saying," Olsen said as his voice chokes with emotion. "They were saying: 'Mike's coming home. Mike's coming home. And then I heard Jesus say: 'It's not his time. He's just here for a visit.'"

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"But now it's coming back to me like a story unfolding and I'm realizing I had a genuine supernatural experience with God," he said. "And it really helps me realize the love of God for each one of us."

Olsen also told his family he got to go to heaven and also got to meet his lung donor and tell him thank you.  

Life will be very different for the church pastor. He will have to always take special drugs to keep his body from rejecting his new set of lungs. 

"The only thing I have to worry about is rejection of those new lungs," Olsen told WDRB-TV. "Some people live five years more. Some people live 10 or 15."

Olsen said he's going to make every breath count in whatever time he has left. He plans to launch his own foundation to help families in Kentucky fighting IPF. 

Meanwhile, Mike's friends have launched a GoFundMe page to help as he recovers, writing, "With God's help, Mike will soon be out of the woods medically. Patti won't have to worry about Mike's health so much, just bills..."

Watch The Mike Olsen Story below -- a short video produced to raise awareness for IPF. 

The Mike Olsen Project from Videobred on Vimeo.

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of