“I should be dead, so what’s the worst that can happen?”

Recently, I spoke with Ottawa resident Darryl Sequeira about his near-death experience fifteen years ago.

In September 2005, Darryl was a 20-year-old university student in Saint John, New Brunswick.

He got drunk at a party one night and was passed out in the back seat of the car of a friend’s friend.

Unbeknownst to Darryl, the driver was also drunk and so, “It was the wrong car to fall asleep in.”

When the drunk driver crashed, the driver broke both his legs, the front seat passenger broke his right arm, the guy to Darryl’s left broke his left arm and the guy to Darryl’s right managed to get just a few cuts and bruises.

Because Darryl had been the only one asleep in the vehicle, he suffered the worst consequences. The car flipped over three times and he flew forward.

Darryl was in a total coma. Much of his brain had died and he lost a lot of blood. He did not wake up for two weeks and, after that, he was unconscious from September until December while he remained at the hospital in St. John. He turned 20 in the hospital, which he does not remember at all. Only the photos serve to make concrete that his father, who had flown in, was there with him during this time.

Darryl was not expected to survive. If he did, then he was not expected to regain movement. If he did, then he was not expected to regain his speech. If he did, then he was not expected to return to university. The most sophisticated neurologists could not account for his gradual recovery that defied all odds and surpassed all expectations.

In December 2005, Darryl was transferred to a hospital in Dubai. His mother took time off work to visit him and sought to never leave his side. Even though he was unable to see or speak for the first three months of his hospital stay in Dubai, Darryl recalls, “I felt her love. I felt it so strong that I started recovering at an incredibly fast pace.” He says he recovered because of love.

It has been a long path to healing and recovery for Darryl whose entire life is clearly affected by this near-death experience.

Not all of the effects, however, have been negative. When I asked Darryl what he is taking away from this in an ongoing way, he told me, “My experience just made me lose my complete sense of fear for myself. So I will put myself in the most dangerous situation and I’ll just think it’s completely normal, but then I care a lot for everyone else– especially my family. So no matter what happens to me, I want to make sure they’re going to be safe.”

Darryl learned that his family were the only ones on whom he could truly count when he was comatose.

He said that when he was in the hospital in Dubai, he was largely forgotten by his childhood and teenage friends there with whom he had grown up for thirteen years. About this Darryl reflected, “I think it’s because it’s Dubai. It’s such a happening place. Just fun, fun, fun. And so I’m guessing my friends thought that I couldn’t do anything fun anymore and would just be depressing to be around and so they just forgot about me. This made me realize that friends are temporary but family is forever.”

A leading neurologist in India begged Darryl’s father to bring his son to India so that he could be studied but Darryl’s father told the neurologist, “My son’s not a subject for you to study; he has his own life to lead.”

When Darryl eventually returned to St. John, he said that his Canadian friends were more attentive to him. However, he was sometimes unsure about whether this was because they genuinely liked him or because they simply felt sorry for him.

Reflecting on his miraculous survival Darryl remarked, “I think the reason God came to me is not because I was great, but because I was always different.”

Step-by-step, Darryl recovered to a remarkable degree.

The biggest gains and transformation, though, came in the form of his self-confidence.

“Before my coma, I was very weak, reserved, and had no self-strength. I couldn’t push myself to do anything fun at all because I just didn’t have the confidence. My coma gave me a ton of confidence and it hasn’t left me even though I’m almost completely better now.”

Crossing a threshold of extreme danger – and surviving – propelled Darryl to take more of the good kind of risks of life.

“Now I think to myself: ‘I should be dead, so what’s the worst that can happen?'” Darryl said.

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