TV SPORTS presenter Charlie Webster has spoken of her “conversation with death” after contracting a rare form of malaria in Brazil, at the end of a heroic cycling marathon with Yorkshire fundraiser Mike Tomlinson.
Ms Webster fell ill at the end of a 42-day journey to Rio de Janeiro from the 2012 Olympic stadium in London. As her condition deteriorated rapidly, a doctor told her she was dying.
The 33 year-old Team GB Ambassador said she remained traumatised by the ordeal, during which she was placed in a medically induced coma while doctors tried to discover what had caused her vital organs to collapse.
The former Sky and ITV sports presenter was flown back to the UK at the end of August, still in a serious condition, to be treated at St James’s Hospital in Leeds.
Ms Webster, who is from Sheffield, fell ill during the opening ceremony of the Olympics and admitted herself to hospital thinking she was dehydrated.
But after her condition worsened, a doctor told her: “We need you to know that you are dying. Get hold of your family.”
Ms Webster said: “I remember having a conversation with Death and whether I was going to live or not.
“Death said to me, ‘Come on, you’ve got to go’. I actually said Yes to start with - like I’m happy to die because I just couldn’t do it any more.
“I feel awful as I wanted to die and remember being happy with what I’ve done with my life. But within a second of saying that, I thought ‘No’. And I remember shouting ‘No, no, no’.”
Ms Webster, who had completing the 3,000-mile to raise money for charity, said she had no words to describe how much pain she was in.
But she said she remembered making a promise to her mother, who “had a feeling that something was going to go wrong before the race”, that she would not leave her.
Although she had been given 12 injections before her trip, she said she had been told by two doctors that she did not need one for malaria.
She had cycled to Rio as part of a team that included former Rugby League professionals Keith Senior and Paul Highton, as well as Leeds-based Mr Tomlinson.
Cycling some 90 miles a day over six weeks, the team journeyed from London to the Maracanã Stadium in Rio, arriving in time for the Olympic opening ceremony on August 4.
The challenge had been mounted to mark the 10th anniversary of an epic Ride Across America by Mr Tomlinson’s wife, Jane, her last major charity event before her untimely death from cancer in 2007, aged 43.
At the end of the trek, Ms Webster said: “I feel overwhelmed, in awe of what we’ve achieved, relieved that I made it and all the emotion that I’ve had pent up for the past 39 days has just poured out. Yes, I cried.
“Knowing a small bit of what Jane was going through when she rode across America and the sheer grit she had to show is evidence that we can battle any adversity and make a difference.”
Ms Webster’s family said she had been “gutted” to have missed most of the Olympic action during her time in hospital.
She was brought out of her come as the games drew to a close, and sent a message to her nearly 80,000 Twitter followers, reading: “The last 16 days have been hell - although I don’t remember most of them.”