I almost died after a health scare at 25 and here’s what I learnt

If you’re a healthy adult, chances are, you have never gone through a serious health scare or have no reason to think that you’ll be experiencing one anytime soon, especially not when you are 25. The most ill you have ever gotten in your life is probably a high fever or a severe stomach pain from food poisoning. 

That was me before – living life like I’m invincible and taking full advantage of my youth by eating whatever I wanted and recovering quickly from any illnesses. Little did I know, an unidentified, minuscule virus would infect me and compromise my health very suddenly and excruciatingly. 

1. It started with a bad migraine

migraine memeImage credit: @migrainememe

To start off with a disclaimer, I don’t have any serious health issues or birth defects. I’ve always been a normal, healthy adult who falls sick during flu season and succumbs to the occasional food poisoning.

It was two months ago when I woke up with a head-pounding migraine that left me nauseous and exhausted the whole day. I called for a house doctor who then put me on a drip for dehydration as I had a 38°C fever. The doctor also dropped by every day to tend to me as I needed a daily dose of antibiotics and Vitamin C injections.

intravenous drip attached in arm
The first course of intravenous drip at home

Because we were – and still are – in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I made sure to be extra cautious. I monitored my other symptoms and quarantined myself at home, but I had no other COVID symptoms other than fever that came and went. I felt normal, I could move around by myself, and was eating normally.

By the fourth day, my fever still hadn’t fully subsided, which I thought was weird because if it was just a normal viral or bacterial infection, I should have recovered – I’d usually bounce back from any bout of illness by the second or third day after a couple of paracetamol tablets.

After 4 full days of being on intravenous drip, antibiotics, fever meds, and Vitamin C at home, my fever still didn’t seem to be subsiding.

2. Things turned sour abruptly

hospital admission tag on wrist

Although I was still having a slight fever, I was positive that I’d recover really soon. After all, I felt normal – more energetic and alert each passing day.

On his fourth visit, the doctor gave me my usual medication. An hour or so after he left, I started shivering so badly, it felt as though I was experiencing a seizure.

I think I might have passed out for a while because the next thing I remember, I sat up and threw up all over the couch. I also had a headache so intense, it was truly the worst pain I’ve felt in my life.

My partner then rushed me to the emergency room at a nearby hospital which was thankfully, only 5 minutes away from our place.

The next few moments were a blur for me but I could piece together having my fever rise to 41°C, throwing up non-stop, numbness in both my hands and legs, and the headache still tormenting me without mercy.

When I woke up a few hours later, I didn’t know where I was, how I got there, and as if I were in a simulation – I had no sense of the reality in front of me. I had no memory of how I ended up at the hospital at all. In fact, I didn’t even remember being sick the past few days.

I tried to get up to leave the place because it was very disorienting not knowing where I was or how I ended up there, but I was still so nauseous and dizzy that the room felt like a bouncy castle the moment I stood up.

3. It turned out to be one hell of a mysterious infection

virus and vitamin meme
Image adapted from: imgflip

Fortunately, my fever subsided and didn’t recur after the treatment in the emergency room where the doctors injected a new course of antibiotics in me. I tested negative for COVID-19, but my blood tests indicated that I had a virus infection.

My doctor couldn’t ascertain what virus it was, as there are millions of unidentified viruses in the world. But the test for common viruses such as dengue, meningitis, typhoid, and the like came back negative as well.

The virus left me the sickest and most gravely ill I have ever been in my life. I was in the hospital for 4 days after I was admitted to the emergency room, sitting through injections for my meds twice a day and doing blood tests repeatedly until the results came back clear of an infection.

I still had blood abnormalities in my liver from the infection when I was discharged and had to go for a couple of weekly follow-ups. It took around another 2 weeks before I was declared fully recovered. Now, 2 months after the incident, I’m glad to say that there has been no lingering symptoms. 

4. Dying peacefully is easy – the real process of actually dying isn’t 

self deprecating meme about dying
Image credit:

Millennials these days have a self-deprecating perception of life and many joke about wanting to die, including myself. Those whom I know who throw around phrases such as “life is so pointless and tiring, I can’t wait to die” are not suicidal but they have expressed that they wouldn’t mind dying naturally – painlessly, I assume – if the time comes now.

It’s easy to say so when we think that we can just drop dead and die pain-free, and all our worries will go away.

In reality, most people don’t pass away peacefully. Majority will die of old age, some due to diseases and cancers, some in car accidents, and the unfortunate few will get into freak accidents. Other than old age, everything else is likely painful and agonising, with cancers and diseases making you suffer for months or years before killing you.

I was guilty of casually remarking that I’d like to die young previously. But when I had this health scare, when I thought I was on the verge of dying, I realised that I didn’t mean it when I joked about wanting to die, because obviously, it was a horrible experience, and every second, I was wishing so badly that I could escape the situation and come out from it alive.

5. The biggest lesson I learned from almost dying

meme about stress eatingImage credit: Pinterest

I’ve read stories and articles about how people throw themselves into volunteer work, quit their job to travel the world, meditate more, and the like after a death scare. But I didn’t get a true or concrete epiphany. 

I have never wanted to die at 25, and I do appreciate life a lot even before this, but this episode did prompt me to start taking better care of my health. And I do treasure just being healthy and functioning a lot more now. 

I’m not a smoker or a drinker, I live a fairly active lifestyle, but I’ve realised that I’m never conscious of the food I consume.

Having been blessed with a high metabolism, weight gain was never a concern so I had the privilege of eating anything as much as I’d like, especially in a country like Malaysia where good food can be found at every corner.

meme about unhealthy eatingImage credit: Reddit

I never understood the significance of healthy eating but looking at things in a brand-new light now, I see how unhealthy the food we eat every day actually is.

Malaysia is synonymous with delish food but a lot of outside foods are also processed, oily, high in salt, sugar, and preservatives, and contain lots of harmful fats. I definitely haven’t been on the healthiest diet, which didn’t do much to strengthen my immune system over time.

I’m a lot more aware and mindful of what I eat now. I’m cutting down on all those bubble tea, fast food, hawker food, and sweet treats, and changing my diet to more home-cooked whole foods. I hope I can keep at it in the long run, and at the same time, I’ve also committed to exercising regularly just to stay healthy and strong.

A serious and abrupt health scare at 25

What I went through was traumatising, and it’s something I really hope I will never have to experience again. 

“Health is wealth” may be an overused phrase, but it is only after this ordeal that I truly understood the meaning of it. 

A healthy body is also something a lot of people take for granted, especially among younger people. But when you experience a health scare like me, you’ll see that you’d want to take back all those times you threw around the words “I want to die” so casually. 

So here’s to treasuring life, finding happiness in the little things, and taking better care of our health this 2021. 

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Cover image adapted from: Amanda Looi

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