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New Zealand girl learns from epilepsy near-deaths

When I was 13, I was living in a world of torment after being diagnosed with epilepsy since I was 11 and having up to 6 tonic-clonic seizures every day. On top of that, our family had recently fallen apart with mum and dad’s divorce and our family moving around a lot because of such. 

It was a Saturday afternoon in Taupo, New Zealand. Our family were splashing around having a swim at the Taupo BC Public pools.  I remember talking to a friend in the pool, then my epilepsy auras quickly took over and I had a tonic-clonic seizure immediately. I had no time to get myself out.  As normal during seizures, my memory was blacked out.  But I do recall physically changing from a physical state of extreme panic and anxiety, gasping for life while drowning – to an immediate trance of being pain-free, detached from the pain that I was experiencing. 

It felt like a physical and spiritual transition where I was approximately 20 feet above everyone in spirit.  There were approximately 20 people that were crowded watching the life saver resuscitate me while I was on the concrete ground out of the pool. I spiritually felt relief while I was looking down and definitely felt like continuing my journey into the spiritual world. But I felt a force and presence of another spirit urging me to go back to earth, my time was not yet up. I was briefly wrestling with that spirit as I didn’t want to return back to my body. But I was forced back and all I could recall was coughing up water after my spirit reunited with my body. 

Having experienced a seizure as well as drowning, my memory was not extremely vivid but I do recall how much pain I was in, especially short breath and panic breathing. Then vividly being taken away in an ambulance.  My recovery was a mix of ongoing seizures while I was in hospital until I was back at home recovering with my mother around. 

From that experience, I developed an extreme phobia for beaches, pools, and baths.  It was a daily battle even having showers for a while.  I was banned from swimming sports at high school and also cross country sports – which was totally fine with myself.  To this day, whilst I have become very sensitive to all my feelings, I accept that.   

My 2nd NDE was when I was 17 during the Christmas holiday period in 1995, I was doing volunteer work at Kiwi Ranch Youth Camp grounds in Rotorua New Zealand.  Approximately 100 of us were attending the fun Luge adventure park rides in Rotorua.  At that time, my epilepsy seizures were controlled with medications so I was taking the risk of doing different activities that I used to be restricted from doing.  I recall doing a flying fox with all my safety mechanisms in place. There were approximately 10 different rides from one stop to another – like zig-zag rides. 

Even after the first ride, I struggled to make it to the end, as the ride kept slowing down each time.  By the time it came to my 3rd ride down, I was barely reaching the end of the ride to jump off and there was no ground underneath me.  I started to extremely panic as I had no energy to hold onto the ride for so long.  I had to struggle to wriggle myself down to where I could safely stand with ground underneath me – approximately 10 metres away from me.  But I wasn’t moving and felt like I was struggling to hold on, so much that I had to let go and started suffocating while dangling from the flying fox safety belt.  I was losing consciousness fast while I was severely panicking about dying from suffocation.  I was coming in and out of consciousness, but vividly recall a teenage boy jumping onto the side of a cliff close by to me and reaching out to me with a long stick. I barely had any energy at all. But what I did have, I held onto that stick fast and was pulled down where he loosened my safety belt and I floated in and out of consciousness.  Any seconds later, hanging on the flying fox, I would have died.  He was my teenage hero and was only 17!  I was lifted to the First Aid room and then to the hospital where I recovered from that experience.

My 3rd NDE was when I was 19 in 1997. I was doing my late night studies for university when a sudden severe pain came upon me from my left abdomen area and I was raced to Waikato Hospital, New Zealand.  According to a female, it was as painful as giving birth to a baby.  The world was in commotion with the severity of my pains.  I was screaming tears of agony.  While I was in a hospital lift on a hospital bed with an emergency bed, I recall a quick blackout happened as pain got so severe. 

All I recall the next day is slowly opening my eyes on a life machine and doctors shining a light into my eyes.  I couldn’t hear anything they were saying at first. I can’t recall which day later they told me this, but I was informed that I died from having a ruptured appendix burst which triggered off a seizure during that experience. They had to rush me to the emergency room to do CPR to recover me, then on a life machine once they tracked my heart beat again.  I can’t even remember which doctor told me those words as my memory was very vague and I don’t recall any memory of the spirit life experience.  I stayed in hospital for 7 days before returning home and sleeping mostly, while taking pain relievers. It was a slow journey upwards, but I vividly still remember that experience, especially the pain.

I have come to learn from these experiences that there’s a purpose as to why I’m still alive.  A few decades later I am a solo mother with one child, having studied 3 college degrees, and running my own 2 businesses.  These experiences taught me a lot about having empathy and having a passion to pay it forward and share my lived experiences with other people. 

I won’t deny that suicidal ideation has crossed my mind a lot having experienced these traumas.  But I also look at these experiences as big learning experiences.  I am not afraid of dying again. These experiences have given me a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, a sense of love. In NZ Māori, we have common quotes, whakatauki, and one of my favourite quotes is:  He aha te mea nui o te ao?  He tangata, he tangata, he tangata – What is the most important thing in this world?  The people, the people, the people. 

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