My veins and lungs had collapsed. My blood pressure had crashed to a dangerously low level. My temperature was 103.5. In the intensive care unit, the doctor and nurse shouted over one another, trying to figure out what was happening to me. This nurse, a sweet redhead named Penny, poked around in my veins so she could hook me up to an IV—but she couldn't find my vein. My body was so numb that I, someone who has been terrified of needles since I was a kid, couldn't even feel the needle she was trying to stick in my arm. "Why can't I find a vein!?" she shouted at the doctor. "Because she's in cardiac arrest!" he yelled. What? I'm in cardiac arrest?

"Where are your parents, sweetie?" Penny pressed. My brain was foggy. "They're not here," I muttered. "They're out of town." Right then, the nurse grabbed the receiver of a bedside phone, one of those old-school beige phones with the long, windy cord. She gave me the receiver. I dialed my mom's number and handed the receiver back to her—given the state I was in, I'm surprised I was even able to dial. "Hello, Miss Purdy?" she said. Long pause. "Your daughter is in the Mountain View emergency room. We have no idea exactly what's wrong with her, but you need to get here as fast as you can; her entire body is crashing and at this rate she has maybe two hours left to live." Click.

Right then, frightened to death, the words the old man told me began reeling through my head: "Don't be scared. Don't be scared. Don't be scared." While the medical team shouted across me, all I could do was picture the wrinkly face and dark skin of that man who'd told me he'd crossed over. "I think the same thing is going to happen to you one day," he whispered, "and when it does happen, don't be scared." Was this my time? Was I crossing over? And what did that mean?

Whatever it meant, I clung to his words. I then passed out.

From On My Own Two Feet: From Losing My Legs to Learning the Dance of Life By Amy Purdy
© 2014 by Amy Purdy
Reprinted with permission from William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers