4 years of memories erased: Wendy Jacobs on life after mystery illness

SINGAPORE - For more than a year, accomplished model and wife of former footballer Wendy Jacobs was left bedridden, paralysed and wheelchair-bound - all from a mystery condition that none of the doctors she consulted could diagnose.

Incredibly, to this day, neither she nor her doctors know what caused he to suffer countless seizures and a near-fatal cardiac arrest in mid-2008 which robbed her of her independence and at one point of time, her will to live.

Not having any idea of what she was suffering from nor a clear prescription of how to cure her illness made life "hell", said Jacobs.

"I did think of giving up," said the mother of five. "I think I did go through a stage where I said, 'That's it, no more'.

"No more pills, no more doctors, if it happens now and I pass out, don't take me back to the hospital, let it just happen."

However, now 39, she has finally inched her way to normality through sheer force of will. She talked to Simply Her about the effects of her mystery illness that still haunt her till this day and how she has found the strength to keep going.

Four years of memories erased She told Simply Her that she doesn't remember much of her time in Jakarta where she was living during her husband Fandi Ahmad's stint as a football coach there.

"Others remind me. They tell me about when I was hooked up to all these machines at home and doctors couldn't find a place on my body to put more needles in," she shared.

She was told bits and pieces of her ordeal, such as when doctors finally decided to poke the needles in her toes but were stopped by a friend because it looked painful, or another time when a friend panicked because he thought he had broken her ribs while giving her CPR.

She said that while she otherwise has no regrets about her life, she does wish that she could get back those four years of her life she can't remember.

Still plagued by epileptic fits

To the rest of the world, Jacobs looks like she has recovered fully. But she revealed to Simply Her that she is still taking 10 pills a day to control her epileptic fits.

Despite this, she still suffers from the occasional seizure. "Fandi knows how to turn my body and tilt my head when a seizure strikes. I usually don't remember it; I'll wake up and wonder what happened, then go back to sleep," she said.

And that wasn't the end of her health troubles. Last July, Jacobs also went for surgery to remove a benign tumour the size of a 50-cent coin from the front of her head.

They had to remove the tumour before it hit the brain. As it was under the skull, they had to perform an open cranial operation, which meant pulling down her face.

She admitted that one some days, staying positive has been an uphill struggle. "I may walk around with a smile, but on really bad days, negative thoughts creep in, and I feel I can't get out of bed," she said.

What helps her get over these moments is letting her feelings out, she shared. She said that when the bad thoughts come, she sits down with a close friends to talk about things, or just stands in the shower to cry it out. When a sad song comes on the radio while she is driving, she lets her tears out.

But the biggest crutch that has helped her get up and going again is her children. "I can't curl up at home feeling sorry for myself, especially when the kids were so strong for me when I was sick," she said.

"They've never said anything to me about how they felt when I was ill, and I've never asked them because I don't want them to relive such a hurtful time. It's a chapter in our lives we'd like to close."

Hoping for a comeback

Despite her lingering health troubles, the photogenic mum has been outgoing and has also featured in photo spreads in Simply Her and Manja magazines.

"I'm starting to interact more with people in the industry and attend more functions, fashion shows, events and launches. Once people start seeing you again, they start thinking 'okay, maybe she's gonna make a comeback to the modelling world," she told The New Paper.

Wendy Jacobs has made it no secret that she longs for a return to modelling as a career.

Jacobs, who conducted grooming courses for children while she was a fulltime model, has been lecturing part-time in corporate grooming and etiquette at the ITE School of Business & Services since February this year.

"Now that I'm older, I think I've proven myself to stand for products and brands," she said. "I'm looking to become more of a role model rather than a fashion model. It's my way of saying I'm available for shoots and to contribute to the industry again, either by hosting events or doing launches and interacting with people."

The high achieving mum of three has achieved much in her 39 years, where she followed her sporting and modelling dreams as a teenager and became a mother at 23.

"What I could have achieved in those lost years while I was sick, I will never know," she said, mulling over her lost memories.

While nothing will bring back the years of her life she has lost, she has otherwise no regrets. For now, Jacobs told Simply Her that she is simply waiting for an epiphany. "I've always wanted my 'it' moment - when you go 'Aha! That's what I was meant to do'. That's what I'm waiting for," she said.

Timeline of Wendy's illness

JULY 2008: Slipped and fell in the bathroom of Jakarta house. Later lost sight and mobility in the right side of her body and suffered epileptic seizures.

JULY TO OCT 2008: Admitted and transferred to a total of three hospitals in Jakarta, but doctors there could not diagnose what was wrong with her.

NOV 2008: Discharged from hospital and returned to her home in Jakarta, where a mini hospital was set up. Family from South Africa flew to Jakarta, expecting the worst.

FEB 2009: Suffered a cardiac arrest and was rushed to a hospital in Jakarta. Flown via a private SOS plane back to Singapore, where she was placed in an induced coma.

MAY 2009: Slowly regained mobility and ability to talk. Flew to Jakarta to be with Fandi and her children and to continue her recuperation there.

JAN 2011: Came back to Singapore after Fandi's contract with Pelita Jaya expired.

MARCH 2011: Made her first appearance at a public event since her illness when her husband launched the Fandi Ahmad Academy. Well enough to drive.

JAN 2012: Admitted to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital because of epileptic seizures.

JUNE 2012: Benign tumour found beneath her skull at the front of her head. Discharged less than two weeks after surgery.