'I survived 3 comas, paralysis and blindness by 23'

2015-12-01 12:00
Miranda and her mother Wilhelmina Mpshane talking about her life of going in and out of hospital. (Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

Miranda and her mother Wilhelmina Mpshane talking about her life of going in and out of hospital. (Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

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Pretoria - She's only 23-years-old, but Miranda Mpshane has already survived three comas, been paralysed from the neck down and at one stage, was completely blind.

Miranda’s life changed when she was 7-years-old and in Grade 2. At that time she was in the athletics and swimming teams, but then things took a turn.

March 2000 was a watershed moment for Miranda and her family. She went on a school outing and from that point on, her life became a battle for survival.

“I started feeling sick but I didn’t think it was anything major. I then developed a severe headache but I also did not take it seriously. I thought it would pass. When we went back to school, we had swimming lessons as we waited for our transport, but the headache persisted and the teacher advised me to sit down,” she said.

Thinking it was a minor headache that would eventually fade away; she went to visit a friend when she got home.

“When I got to my friend’s house, she was not there. I told her sister that I would wait for her but shortly after that I passed out. She carried me home,” she said.

Slipping into a coma

While at home, she told her mother that she was not feeling well and had a headache. She was given aspirin and she went to sleep. Over the next few days her condition deteriorated and she was taken to hospital.

READ MORE: When to see a doctor about nausea and vomiting

“I went into a coma for two weeks. I then woke up for a short while but then went into another one that lasted for six weeks,” Miranda said.

While Miranda was in a coma, her mother Wilhelmina was praying every night hoping she would wake up. One day while at the hospital, she was doctors told her the dreaded words no parent wants to hear - “there are no signs of life”.

“A doctor said there was no chance she would survive. I was told to accept that she was dying and we should switch off the life support. I was devastated when I heard that,” she said.

While her mother and the doctor were discussing whether to switch off the machines, Miranda could hear the conversation but couldn’t respond. At that point, she was also ready to let go.

“I then had a dream where I was climbing a wall and I was ready to jump off. A lady said I should not jump as there was more to life. She said I must take her hand. Then my aunt came in and said they should not switch off the machines. She prayed every night until the day I woke up,” said Miranda.

Near death experience

Wilhelmina said she was left frustrated as doctors did not know what was wrong with her child. She said over 30 doctors from throughout the city went to the hospital to try and understand what was wrong with her but none of them could explain it.

She survived the near death experience but woke up paralysed from the neck down and was blind.

Her mother said she couldn’t bear to watch her like that. The first few days back at home were very hard for both with Wilhelmina dropping to her knees praying for a miracle.

“She would ask me where she was and what was happening. I prayed to God to bring back her eyesight so she could just see. Her eyesight eventually came back but she still couldn’t walk.

“She went for physiotherapy and while at home we helped her walk using walls and furniture. She started getting better but would occasionally get blackouts,” said Wilhelmina.

Root cause of the problem

She gradually got better but the trips to hospital were not over. In 2011 as the family thought the worst was over, she was back in hospital and required a blood transfusion.

“I also had pneumonia and a blood condition that required me to get an emergency blood transfusion,” she said.

Doctors found that there was an imbalance in her blood and the transfusion was not successful. She was placed on medication to restore the balance but the side effects were affecting her way of life.

Trying to understand the root problem of her illness, one doctor was able to ascertain that it was encephalitis.

According to Mayoclinic.org, encephalitis is a swelling or inflammation of the brain. It most often occurs in children, elderly persons and people with weaker immune systems. Viral infections are the most common cause of the condition.

Encephalitis can cause flu-like symptoms, such as a fever or severe headache. It can also cause confused thinking, seizures, or problems with senses or movement. However, many cases of encephalitis result in only mild flu-like symptoms or even no symptoms.

READ MORE: What is encephalitis?

The condition has seen her return to hospital three times since August 2015. She spent two days in a coma in August. Apart from the emotional trauma, Wilhelmina said the financial strain of the illness has been astronomical.

She had to take out loans and cash in her retirement annuity to foot the bills.

Despite the hardships she has been through, Miranda remains optimistic about life. She said she realised she could not achieve her dream of being a professional swimmer, but she wants to share her story and inspire people to live their lives to the fullest and never give up.

Read more on:    pretoria  |  health

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