My Coma

Shivani Puri
with Ruth D’Silva

It took me twenty five years to put pen to paper, my Silver Jubilee of recovering from viral encephalitis – a potentially fatal disease. I was told I was one in a million to get it. The type of lottery I did not want to win.

It was the summer of 1995. Steffi Graff had won Wimbledon and people were enjoying the full bloom of summer. But, in my world something was not right. I was struggling with a high temperature that would not dissipate. My concerned husband insisted I go to the hospital. I was not, as the rest of the population were, to enjoy the rest of summer’s bloom. I was to journey into the unknown.

I fell into a coma and lost all awareness. It was up to my friends and relatives to carry the fear for me. No one knew what was wrong, treatments were not working. My husband and daughters were scared out of their wits thinking I might die, and for the first time in my life, I could not console them. 

My fortune changed when a young junior doctor suggested viral encephalitis, a rare and very serious condition that causes inflammation of the brain. She was right, and I could finally receive the right treatment. She saved my life. I’ll never forget her even though I would not know her face if I saw her today.

On the last day at the hospital, my husband had prepared a farewell banquet of cakes and samosas for the nurses and my cheeky daughters had made a card saying, ‘I bet you’re glad to see the back of her.’

……But for me, now fully conscious and aware, the hard work had begun.

My mum, through love of her daughter, was pulled over the Indian Ocean and to England for the first time. I desperately needed her. I had lost some of my memory and my limbs were jelly. I asked the question. Why me? Why had this virus chosen me, Shivani, to ravage my mind and body? I was weak physically, but strong in spirit. I would fight.

After six months of tears, toil and determination I was finally able to piece myself back together and get back onto my feet. To my delight, I was pleased to be back in the clothes I fit in when I first got married!

Back at work someone asked me, ‘Did you see God in your coma?’ I refuse to dismiss my experience as an entertaining ‘near death’ story. I was pulled apart, and it took everything I had to put myself back together again.

I excelled during my return to work. I was chosen to pilot a new scheme. Had my illness given me a new resilience and strength I hadn’t realised? In the words of Gloria Gaynor, ‘I will survive.’

Hello – I am the real Shivani Puri. You just heard my friend Ruth read my words. Today, I continue to coach & mentor colleagues as well as raising money for Encephalitis & various other charities.

My message to you is one should never ever give up. There is always a silver lining at the end of the tunnel. I have been told I have a lovely smile and I have a lot to smile about. Hope you enjoyed it.


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