Abingdon resident Michael Solano says he no longer fears death after a harrowing experience that nearly cost him his life.
“I can tell anybody who's willing to listen what it’s like to die,” he said. “I’m very respectful of death. I’m not trying to want it or have it bestowed upon me, but when it happens, I’m not going to be afraid.”
Solano was without a pulse for four minutes after suffering a stroke, on Sept. 24.
He entered the crab cake eating contest for the $500 grand prize in order to pay his mortgage. Times have been tough on Solano and his wife.
Before him sat the last of five crab cake sandwiches from , a popular restaurant in Timonium. He decided to forgo dunking the bread in his water cup and instead chose to stuff the remaining pieces in his mouth all at once.
As the event MC began evaluating the contestants’ plates, Solano began to jostle, eventually collapsing on the stage. (See video.)
“That’s the last thing I remembered. … And then there was nothing,” Solano said.
, as Solano began convulsing uncontrollably. The chaotic scene was tempered by Cucchiella who repeatedly instructed the mob of people on stage to get back if they weren’t qualified to help.
“After that I was in a level of movement that reminded me of like being on a subway train moving at the speed of pi,” Solano recalled of his near death experience. “The lights that were flying by me were in streaking colors. It was like going faster and faster through this tunnel.
“Then I found two talon-like claws made of iron—sharp at the edges—grabbing at my skin,” he continued. “My skin was physically being removed from my body … it was the most excruciating pain that I have ever felt in my entire life.”
Solano said he remembered pleading for the pain to stop.
“When I finally said mercy, it came to an abrupt end, like a boat running into a dock. I was in a very peaceful existence,” he said. “I really truly believed that I was dead. All the area around me was soft and light. I started hearing voices that I couldn’t recognize. A few moments later, for lack of a better term, angels or some sort of flying beings started replacing pieces of my body.”
That’s when he woke up.
In a haze, he asked if he was dead, to which a nurse replied, “no sweetie, you’re at .”
In the days after his “spiritual awakening” Solano said, “after coming back to this life, to this skin, to this shell that we have, I’ve been trying to do good.
“I understand that something does happen after we die,” he said.
The 49-year-old may have suffered a mild stroke, but he said that he doesn’t have any lingering health issues to be concerned about. He said he was grateful to a woman named Lisa who unblocked his airway on that fateful day in Timonium.
Lisa happened to be a nurse practitioner who attended the event to see the opening musical act Bosley perform.
When asked whether or not Solano would ever eat a crab cake again, he laughed, saying that Michael’s Café had treated his family to dinner.
The restaurant also awarded Solano the $500 grand prize.