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A close brush with death left her without hands and legs, but she’s never felt more alive

By DG Carole Ann , 2 April 2021

In 2018, Carole Ann was admitted to hospital due to a sharp abdominal pain. It turned out that a ruptured ovarian cyst had put her in a life-threatening condition. During the month-long coma, her limbs had also turned gangrenous and had to be amputated.

Despite the loss of independence, she now describes herself as “so disabled, yet so abled”. 

It started with the usual stomach cramps and then it moved to a whole different level of pain.

My mum was supposed to come and bring me to the hospital, but I ended up calling the ambulance because I couldn’t wait. 

While waiting for the doctors in the A&E, my system started to crash. My blood pressure dropped and my heart rate fell. 

It was then the doctors discovered that an ovarian cyst had ruptured in my womb and pus had travelled through my body, causing my organs to shut down one by one. I was put in an induced coma.

Carole Ann was in a coma for more than a month, during which her limbs had turned gangrenous.

When the keyhole surgery wasn’t successful, they had to cut a big hole in my abdominal wall to remove the pus, which took weeks.

However, while trying to save my life through administering medication, there was a loss of blood flow to my extremities, causing my hands and legs to become gangrenous.

In the process, I also had two heart attacks and kidney failure. Several times, my family had to be called in for meetings.

It became so exhausting that it came to a point when the doctor asked: “If this does not work, what do you want us to do? Do you want us to do CPR again? How many times do we keep doing it?”

My family told me that I almost died nine times. My mother even bought me a funeral blouse, thinking I was nearly gone.

I was supposed to die, but I lived

When I woke up from my coma, I was in shock because I couldn’t move my limbs. I was on the ventilator as well because my lungs had collapsed twice.

When I could finally piece all the information together, I asked God: “All four limbs? Really? Couldn’t have left me a finger or at least one hand? You could’ve just taken my life and gone what. Why am I back here without anything?”

But very quickly, the answer came: “You can lose everything, but you still have your heart. Your heart is more important – I can do a lot of wonders through your heart.” 

I felt that God was going to let my character flourish, and perhaps use that to move others or fulfil whatever purpose He had for me.

Carole Ann with the hospital staff.

I was in the intensive care unit (ICU) for about four-and-a-half months.

Every part of my body was damaged, or had a tube or something. When people came to visit, they would see machines all over me and they would feel like I’m suffering.

But I wasn’t broken inside.

Carole Ann couldn’t move her limbs after waking up from her coma. She also had to be placed on the ventilator because her lungs had collapsed twice.

I was able to accept the situation without any breakdowns or emotional outbursts. I even comforted my friends and family instead of being comforted.

I didn’t look like a person who had won a battle, but I felt like a person who had won a battle. I was very sure I had seen and encountered God, and that it was God who had saved me.

Four doctors pronounced him dead. How do you explain what happened next?

In fact, when I was in my coma, I had many such encounters.

There was one time I saw my mum standing in a corner of the room. I remember telling her: “Why are you standing so far from the bed? Come closer.” As she came closer, she told me: “It’s okay to go.”

I remember saying: “Aiyoh ma, why? Nothing is happening to me.. this a small matter actually, you don’t have to be so worried over it.”

But I saw her face and I was like: “Okay, something is not right here.” And then I remember calling for Jesus.

When I woke up, I found out that my mum did talk to me and ask me to go peacefully. And that it was actually around that time that I had started to get better suddenly. 

No hands, but I have arms!

I have had people tell me: “But God didn’t heal your whole hand. And you still lost your legs.”

I’ll admit that I didn’t know how to respond in the past. But two years later, I don’t need to give people an answer.

I was the sickest person in the ICU. To see me survive – people can’t believe it until today. 

Carole Ann and her friends from church just before her abdominal wall surgery; an old photo of Carole Ann with her hand.

In fact, I was supposed to amputate my whole arm. But God preserved my wrist.

So when I received this whole arm plus the wrist function, I knew this was God showing me grace and mercy, and telling me that: “It’s not all gone. I’m giving you these limited tools; you can do something with them.”

I felt very happy and loved. To me, that was an amazing thing God did for me.

More than that, I have a heart

I have faith that God can make my legs and my fingers grow out – 100%. Tomorrow, if He wants, I can wake up with hands and legs.

But more than that, I have my heart. I think that is a bigger grace because ultimately, life is about loving people.

My relationship with my mum wasn’t very good previously. But God humbled me to accept her help and my relationship with my mum, who is my main caregiver, is very beautiful now.

Carole Ann with her brother’s family as well as her mother (on her left) who is her main caregiver now.

From being so self-reliant to not having limbs, I had to accept my situation quickly. I couldn’t shower by myself, I couldn’t even poop by myself.

Even now I can’t walk, I can’t move away, I can’t go to another room, I can’t get out of my mother’s face when she nags at me.

Life is very challenging. That suffering is real, but how can I be so happy despite my disability? As disabled as I am, how can I explain my heart’s joy? I can’t.

Carole Ann with her prosthetic legs.

As much as I would love for people to understand my condition, children back away because they’re scared. Even adults look at me and then they go the other way. That makes me feel very small.

It’s nobody’s fault, but I’ve had to accept and understand that. As a disable-bodied person, I’ve learnt to have grace and love, to not take insults or comments very seriously.

God is teaching me how to love, how to show mercy, how to forgive. These are feeling-related qualities – you don’t need hands and legs to have these.

So instead of getting upset, somehow I’m able to have grace and love for people.

Dying from the pain of autoimmune disease, I was desperate for a miracle

God has softened my heart. Sometimes I still get angry at people, but that’s when I focus on the ugly. I’m asking God to teach me how to look at the beautiful instead.

I know that I’m loved by Jesus Christ. And if He loves me so much, then why would I be less than?

Even though I am in this condition, I always go back to the rule of thumb: I can feel, I can love, I can show grace.

I can be kind towards friends and give them a call, even if I don’t have fingers. I can be merciful towards others by listening to their problems.

Carole Ann with her former colleagues and her mum.

Before, I was very self-reliant, secluded and self-centred. I lived alone with my doggie, I took care of myself: the house, work, finances, everything.

I always had this mindset that I was independent – you know, you earn your money and then you don’t have to depend on anybody.

God was in my life, but He was probably in a compartment and not really fully part of my life.

But now I know who I am in the Lord, and I know of His love for me. My identity is in Christ.

I’ve never lived like this before: So disabled, yet so abled. I’m able because Christ is with me.

Carole Ann with her extended family. She credits her grandmother Lena (far left, second row) for being an incredible source of support.

Every fear, every confusion, every doubt… I’ve told God about it in our conversations. In times of trouble, who could I truly turn to? God was the one. 

I just want to tell the world of His love, and let them know that He is real and that He loves and cares for us.

I’m not the same Carole anymore. I wasn’t a happy person in the past, but today I’m happy. Truly happy.

I’m a lot more peaceful, joyful and forgiving. Isn’t that more alive, as disabled as I am?

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