How Dying Changed My Body Image

mind stories Feb 23, 2021

I died when I was 19. It was a standard UTI which turned into a kidney infection which turned into septic shock. I had been training for a swim at the time, so I put the pain in my lower back down to muscle strain.

I started feeling not great at all, really tired and nauseated and just crap. My mum and I were in a car driving to a Robbie Williams concert. We stopped midway through the 3-hour drive to get something to eat, and I just remember feeling so awful, I could barely leave the car. When we got to our accommodation, I decided not to go to the concert - assumed I had some kind of virus or bug. Mum skipped the concert too to take care of me and within a few hours I couldn't keep anything down. She would try to give me panadol for the pain and I'd vomit. I couldn't keep water down. The pain got worse. 

Mum took me to the hospital emergency room to be investigated. I remember arriving in the hospital and lying down on the floor of the waiting room. It was at that point that I can't remember anything else.

I later learned that my vital stats were dangerous. My HR was over 170 at rest. My blood pressure dropped to 80/30. The infection in my kidney had spread to my blood causing sepsis: blood poisoning caused by bacteria or their toxins.

Sepsis occurs when chemicals released in the bloodstream to fight an infection trigger inflammation throughout the body. This can cause a cascade of changes that damage multiple organ systems, leading them to fail, sometimes even resulting in death.

My organs began to fail - starting with my kidney and gall bladder. Then my heart failed. 

I couldn't hear the commotion around me as the machine's bells and whistles went off. I couldn't feel anything. No pain. No sensations at all. And felt myself float out of my body, and begin to watch everything happening to me from a few feet above myself. I could see my mother, tired from a few sleepless nights at my bedside. I could see the doctors. I could see the tubes and machines.

But I survived.

Ironically, the doctors said that if I hadn't been training for a swim, it's likely I wouldn't have been strong enough to survive. It masked the infection itself, but the fact I was training saved my life.

Before I died, I was pretty typical in my attitude to body image. I was keen to be athletic and slim, to look good in my clothes and had parts of my body (thighs, stomach, butt) that I preferred to hide because I thought they were too jiggly.

After surviving sepsis, my entire attitude toward my body changed, and I'm grateful it's something I still carry with me today.

Our body is the greatest gift we are given. Not that I always treat it like a temple (I don't), but it's a vessel that carries our soul. It was that moment hovering above my body that I remember the most.

If I had died, people wouldn't have been talking about the shape, tautness or tan of my body. They wouldn't have been talking about how slim or athletic I was. I'd like to think they would've talked about my kindness. My desire to make everyone I meet feel great about themselves.

I would've imagined they might reminisce about the snort that happens when I laugh hard at something. Perhaps, if those who knew me best were there, they might have talked about my love of cats, of my family and for pizza and chocolate.

If I had a magic wand and could give one gift to those who read this, it would be this.

If you knew how enormous and powerful your soul was, you'd never worry about cellulite again.

Be the person you want people to know. Be who you are. You are beautiful. You are welcome here.