DYING was a life-changing experience for Gympie Masters Games champion Penny Taylor.
A brief experience of death taught her to live life with enthusiasm, she says.
Struck down with the paralysing and sometimes fatal disease Guillain-Barre Syndrome, she remembers being unable even to blink as medical staff put her on life support.
"I died but they brought me back," she said.
That was a generation ago and the beginning of a whole new life for Mrs Taylor.
Speaking at her Alfred St home this week, she had just returned victorious from the regional Masters Games in Maryborough.
It was all a long way from 1981 when, still living in New Zealand, she was struck down by the disease, which damages nerve endings.
"They told me and my husband I would never walk again," she said.
"I was on life support and couldn't move a thing, but I heard every word and I was completely conscious.
"I couldn't speak. I couldn't even wipe tears from my eyes, and they were stinging.
"I couldn't even tell people if they were hurting me.
"I had the first blood plasma exchange ( a blood replacement treatment which seems to cure many cases of the syndrome) ever performed in New Zealand. No one knew how you got it, but they told me it was the body's reaction to a virus.
"Mine came on quickly. Within 24 hours of feeling sick, I was in hospital."
Sheer determination was her secret weapon and she clearly remembers the physiotherapist who took her to the gymnasium in her wheelchair.
She also remembers the doctor who one day forced her to leave the wheelchair behind.
'Take a step towards me. I'm sure you can do it. I'll catch you if you fall,' he said.
"I took one step and started to fall and he caught me," she said.
"I only started back at amateur athletics at Albert Park this year. I trained hard for the Masters Games (in Maryborough)." And it all paid off.
She returned with five medals, all gold, for her five entries in the games - shot put, 100m sprint, 200m, long jump and triple jump.
"My children think it's great. My grandchildren think it's fantastic," she said.
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