Young Toowoomba mum 'dies' for 40 minutes

A rare condition means Rebecca Clegg could go into cardiac arrest at any time.
A rare condition means Rebecca Clegg could go into cardiac arrest at any time. Kevin Farmer

NO white lights appeared when Rebecca Clegg "died", but she did think she had been swimming with Steve Irwin.

Ms Clegg suffers from a rare and life-threatening heart rhythm disorder called Brugada syndrome, which can lead to sudden cardiac death.

People with the condition often won't display any symptoms and don't know they have it until an attack as was Rebecca's case.

She was a healthy and active 21-year-old until the attack which nearly killed her, just over two years ago.

"I went to bed as normal and then my fiancé at the time woke up to me snoring and went to turn the lights on and I was lying in bed blue in the face, not breathing," she said.

"He performed CPR and called the ambulance. At the hospital, the doctors and nurses used the defibrillator four times and were waiting to call the time of death. But I came back somewhere after about 40 minutes and they put me in an induced coma, and kept my body cold and on life support for four days.

"The monitor showed my heart flat lining for 40 minutes."

For four days, her body lay ice-cold and lifeless on a hospital bed. Her partner and family were told she wasn't going to make it, or if she did, she would be a vegetable.

Miraculously, she came to and gradually returned to her normal self with no lasting symptoms, just the knowledge something was wrong.

"My heart went back to normal a week later. There were no signs or symptoms of anything, but I went to a cardiologist in Brisbane and they eventually found it in one of my genes."

A medical device called a cardioverter-defibrillator was implanted in her heart to kick in when the rhythm of her heartbeat faltered.

The episode placed other restrictions on her life like not being able to drink or let her temperature rise above 38 degrees.

She doesn't remember the two weeks before or after the episode or what it felt like to "die", but said she had some weird visions when she came to.

"I forgot my children. Before it happened, we were out swimming and fishing and I remember swimming with Steve Irwin and thinking I'd been killed by a stingray like him.

She said the hardest part of everything now was knowing for the rest of her life she would rely on a machine.

"Any minute of any day I could have a cardiac arrest," she said.

Rebecca Clegg values every minute spent with her children Jaxon (left) and Riley Clegg.
Rebecca Clegg values every minute spent with her children Jaxon (left) and Riley Clegg. Kevin Farmer

"I want to spend more time with my children and I don't live with regrets - if I want to do something I do it. I take more notice of everything."

She was grateful for the nurses and doctors at the Toowoomba Hospital who gave her a second chance at life.

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