SC woman dies, but lives to tell about it

By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield - bio | email

CAMDEN, SC (WIS) - Virginia Wilder was dead.

After seven minutes submerged in water, there was little hope and very little chance she was going to live after crashing her car. Emergency workers pronounced her dead at the scene.

But something happened. Call it a miracle if you wish, but there's no denying there was a tiny spark of life left inside her.  It was enough to bring her back to this plane of existence.

"The nurses down in Florence said, 'Fess up. Most people who died see something,'" recalled Wilder as she took a deep breath from her oxygen tank. "I said, 'If I did, I don't remember it.'"

As Wilder says, her memory is hazy, but Craymen Harvey, Camden's newest patrol officer remembers everything in detail.

"Always hear Sarge say 'things can change within the blink of an eye,'" said Harvey. "Literally, things changed."

It was just a Saturday in August. Wilder, a waitress at Shoney's, was cruising down the road. Doctors think she may have had a heart attack. Investigators know she wrecked her car and it ended upside down.

"When I got there, the car was submerged into the water," said Harvey. "All I could hear was people saying there's people in there. After that, I jumped in the water with my gear on."

Sgt. David Hagen arrived on the scene as well and began to aid Harvey.

"One of the fireman and myself were at the front of the vehicle, busted a hole in the windshield," said Hagen. "The side airbags deployed and it was real hard to get through that. We were reaching around, he actually felt her, he pulled, it was an arm, I grabbed it was a really small hole in the windshield."

When the rescuers got Wilder out of the water and on to the shore, they noticed three things, she was blue, she couldn't breathe, and she didn't have a pulse.

Rescuers say she died after seven straight minutes under water. EMS workers on the scene did not give up however, and that little spark in Wilder kicked in. She was revived and made it to the trauma unit in Florence.

"I want to think all of them, without them, I wouldn't be here, I know that," said Wilder.

Her lungs are damaged, but her brain is just fine aside from a memory lapse she is thankful for.

"I can see it in my mind," said Wilder. "Don't know what happened."

Instead of deteriorating, Wilder is getting stronger. She knows that in the seven minutes she doesn't remember, she met the strangers she will never forget. Troopers, firefighters, police officers and passserbys make up those strangers.

Wilder hopes to be off oxygen soon and back at work at Shoney's. She has some regulars she says who only like her to wait on them.

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