Close shaves with death have a way of putting things in perspective; all the ice cream you decided not to eat because of fitfam, all the sex you didn’t have because you were saving yourself for marriage, all the trips you didn’t take because you were saving money. A close brush with death isn’t as uncommon as you’d think. You probably just didn’t notice the time a car almost hit you, or when you just missed an ill-fated vehicle or the time you contracted a virus but your antibodies barely saved the day.
Others aren’t so lucky. They’ve had to stare death straight in the face, for some people, multiple times. I spoke to six of those people.
I was eight and spending the holiday at my Grandma’s. Like every eight-year-old, I was bored and constantly seeking things to keep me busy. One day, I found a paint bucket with one side of the handle broken off. I ripped it off and started swinging it in the air like a sword. Soon, I got bored of that too.
I looked around and saw a rarely-used electric socket and the devil decided to use me. “What would happen if I stuck in the bucket handle?” I thought. So I poked in one end of the metal in one of the socket holes and turned it on. Nothing appeared to be visibly happening so I thought maybe I needed to plug in the other end too. I forgot I’d left the socket on and grabbed the metal handle.
The shock flung me to the other end of the room. I was unconscious for a while. I couldn’t move for a while, couldn’t breathe properly and noticed that all the veins on my palms were white. When I was eventually able to move, I didn’t even bother to turn off the switch. I just left the room. After the veins on my palm returned to normal, I summoned the courage to turn off the socket. I tried removing the handle from the socket but it appeared to be stuck so I left it there.
Every year, something is trying to kill me. I’ve been shot at, survived four car accidents and a plane crash landing in Morocco. Funny thing was, the flight was already overbooked and had to fight for a seat on it.
The one that almost took me happened in 2016. One time, while I was travelling from Lagos to Abuja, we were waylaid by armed robbers around Lokoja. We fled into the bush and while I was running, a bullet hit the laptop in my backpack.
Another time, I had driven five hours to go beg my ex who was apparently already dating someone else. I cried all night. On my way back, I slept off while driving. I crashed into the embankment, which was the only thing stopping me from falling down a cliff.
The most poignant experience happened a years ago. I had gone in for an appendicectomy. It went seamlessly until, post-surgery, the pain of the stitches became unbearable. I kept asking for painkillers and this cute nurse, for whatever reason, kept pumping me with morphine.
Now, I’d never had morphine in my life, so I was what doctors call “opioid-naive.” I had a bad reaction to it and stopped breathing. As I was slipping into unconsciousness, I could make out blurry outlines of people rushing to my side with oxygen and other equipment. Then everything went black.
It felt like I was in a vacuum. No sound, no light, no movement. I couldn’t even make out where I was. It was pitch black. I was aware of my own presence but nothing else. Just suffocating blackness. I have no idea how long this lasted but all of a sudden everywhere lit up. Turned out it was a doctor shining a pen torch in my eye.
I don’t know which one disappointed me the most, that there is something on the other side or that it is just black and empty. I wonder if that’s what nothingness is.
During the lockdown, my sister and I were heading back from my aunt’s place after spending two weeks with for Eid. My mom was alone and sick at home, so we had to break Ogun state lockdown rules to go home. The driver of our bus was pretty reckless. We didn’t thin pay it much mind; after all, most bus drivers are reckless. My sister and I were quite uncomfortable, but we chalked it up to being worried about our mum’s health.
Right after MFM camp, a trailer crashed into our speeding bus while it was trying to avoid another motorcycle. My sister was seated in the middle, so she got off lightly with a few bruises. I wasn’t so lucky. After we collided with the trailer, my right leg slipped and was stuck between bus’ doors. When a car behind slammed into the bus, I was jolted forward and left leg twisted behind me. I would 100% sure I would have died. My saving grace was that I held my travelling bag in my laps instead of in the boot, out of sheer laziness. It helped cushion me from slamming against the seat in front of me.
The bus seat came crashing down on us and when the bus stopped, the passengers were stomping on my twisted leg while trying to get out of the bus. Meanwhile, my right leg was still stuck in the door.
The pain was excruciating. I kept screaming in Yoruba until I lost consciousness. I woke up a few minutes later, still stuck in the bus. My sister was beside me, crying and screaming for help. I was dragged from the bus to the side of the road. The other passengers twisted the broken leg back in place. It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt.
I was taken to the hospital and put in a cast. I couldn’t walk for weeks. The funniest part was, instead of worrying about my life, I kept wondering if my boyfriend would still date me if my legs we amputated, LOL. I even told my sister to call him first, instead of my mother. Luckily, my legs are fine and my boyfriend was supportive. These days, I call him when I’m on buses so he can distract me because I still have panic attacks from the accident.
It was just after my university graduation. My parents called me to congratulate me and me to stay in school till I could come home. I, being the good kid they thought I was, lied and said I had no plans. Meanwhile, we were planning on a graduation party. It was the first party I’d ever attend because I’m pretty boring. I definitely did not want to miss out on my first party. I even snuck out of school to buy an outfit for the party.
Sunday evening, the big boys in school pulled up with their rides and I tagged along with my coursemate who was going to the same party. We stopped at Shoprite, Lekki and bought more alcohol more than we had fuel in the car. I’d never tasted alcohol at the time either so I was excited. We arrived at the party and was astounded by the amount of weed and alcohol available and the number of girls there. We partied all night. I smoked a whole pack of cigarettes (it was my first time smoking too). My friends then offered me weed and alcohol till I was in a state of stupor.
A couple of hours later, I was still up but staggering. Everyone I came with was with drunk or high. The driver said he was fine and could make it back to school before 7 am. I couldn’t offer to drive because I couldn’t at the time. We set out for school and I dozed off on the way. I woke up on the Third Mainland Bridge and found that the guy driving had slept. I shouted and he woke up, but it was too late for him to do anything. We were headed straight for the lagoon.
The car vaulted up the concrete guardrail and stopped, the front tire literally hanging by an inch off the iron guardrails. Had I not woken up, we would have plunged straight into the water at full speed. My mom called by 7 am, saying she just felt like checking on me, not knowing that I was inches from certain death a few minutes ago. It was weird as hell. I’m thankful I’m still here today.
I’ve had a couple of experiences. One time, I was in a major car crash on my way to the club after I had lied to my parents that I was going to a vigil. Funny enough, that’s not my closest shave.
In 2006, I was standing on a balcony in secondary school with some of my friends. A crush of mine at the time called me to go buy food for her. I pretended not to hear and continued to talk to my friends. They were teasing me about my crush sending me on errands so it made me more determined to ignore her.
Suddenly, she came over to where I was and dragged my shirt. That was probably what saved me. Immediately she pulled me from where I was standing, the second-floor balcony we were standing on gave way, and I was hanging in the hands of my crush, by my collar. Other classmates rushed to pull me up to safety.
Three people died and many more were injured. One of my friends who I was standing with had to have major surgery on his head. I owe my life to Victoria.
I’ve had a few near-death experiences, from surviving 2 ghastly motor accidents before I was 9, to slipping in the pouring rain and hitting my head on a slab and passing out. No one found me till I woke up, but the one that stuck with me was Christmas eve of 2015.
I overdosed. My folks had travelled to the east for Christmas while I stayed behind in Abuja, alone in the house. My friends and I were supposed to go to a block party, so I drank a mix of codeine and Sprite. The party was supposed to start at 11 pm. By 10:30 pm, I started feeling uneasy, like my lungs weren’t filling up to capacity. I was short of breath and dizzy, so I told my friends I was gonna head home and crash a little before the party.
When I got home, I could barely walk. I collapsed on the sofa and nothing was working except my eyes. I knew I was in trouble. Before I passed out, I remembered to turn on my side to minimize the risk of asphyxiation (choking to death)., I woke up by 8 am the next morning to see that I had indeed vomited. I could have choked and died in a pool of my own vomit.
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