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BEHIND THE SCENES: Rebuilding a life lost

CambridgeToday reporter Matt Betts takes us behind the scenes

Katrina O’Neil steps before the camera, recounting the transformative events of a softball game in 2016 at Riverside Park that reshaped her existence.

Moments after she completed a triple and turned her attention to cheering on her teammate, an abrupt collapse ensued.

She crumbled onto the ground, face down, gripped by cardiac arrest. Swiftly, her teammates rushed to her side, administering CPR until an ambulance whisked her away to Cambridge Memorial Hospital's emergency room.

Yet, strangely, she recollects none of these occurrences, nor anything from the period spanning ages 15 to 29 when the incident took place.

"I rely on secondhand accounts of the unfolding events," O’Neil reflects.

Emerging from a three-week-long coma, her perception shifted back to her 15-year-old self in a New Brunswick high school, a surreal twist akin to a cinematic plotline. But the reality was stark and unyielding, a challenge she confronts daily while endeavoring to reconstruct her life.

Her journey, intertwined with the incident, has been chronicled in a documentary titled "Losing Yourself," crafted by her close friend Robert Gow. During her hospital stay, her three children—aged one, seven, and ten at the time—visited her, relieved to witness her recovery. Yet, their presence befuddled her.

"I recognized my mother, but comprehending her words proved arduous; she spoke of three children, whereas in my mind, I was a high school student," she shares.

The ensuing period of rehabilitation comprised memory exercises, yet O’Neil found herself fixated on the lost years and her former identity, which medical professionals cautioned might never fully resurface.

Predictably, the ordeal took an emotional toll. Feeling a disconnect from those around her, she distanced herself, her Ontario residence a foreign landscape. Eventually, she returned to New Brunswick in 2018, a pivotal decision.

"I secured a job at the same pizzeria where I had worked during high school," she reveals. "Ontario felt alien. Relocating to New Brunswick reshaped my outlook. I grew more accepting of the unchangeable reality and chose to move forward. One can be defeated by the pursuit of recollection."

Gow's initial connection with O’Neil was through a sports team she captained. Over drinks, she unveiled her story, etching an indelible mark in his mind, compelling him to share it with the world.

"I was astounded," Gow recounts. "I've documented numerous astonishing stories, yet one would never guess that she had lived through such an experience. Her wit and sharpness remain intact."

The filmmaking journey reaffirmed Gow's impression of his friend. "On a personal level, it highlights her resilience and unwavering determination. The film isn't solely about pain; it's a testament to her ability to surmount it."

O’Neil emphasizes that her journey wasn't traversed alone. She praises her circle of friends and family, especially her three children, for their unwavering support.

The essence of living in the moment resonates with O’Neil. This ethos now guides her, not by conscious choice but by virtue of her circumstances.

"The future is both exhilarating and daunting, for the shadow of recurrence looms. Planning becomes a challenge," she discloses.

"Investing in every instant and wholeheartedly committing to every endeavor is my approach now. I've abandoned hesitation, for fear of missing out. Anticipation fuels me for what lies ahead in the next five minutes; every moment holds significance."

The documentary is accessible on YouTube and the AMI website,

Video Summary:

In a new documentary, former Cambridge resident Katrina O'Neil is depicted rebuilding a life she can't recall due to memory loss. The documentary titled "Losing Yourself" explores O'Neil's journey of recovery after collapsing during a softball game at Riverside Park. The incident was triggered by cardiac arrest, resulting in memory loss from ages 15 to 29. O'Neil's friend Robert Gow directed the documentary, shedding light on her resilience.

During the softball game, O'Neil collapsed unexpectedly, with no apparent signs leading up to the incident. Despite hitting a triple and encouraging her teammate, she went face down and doesn't remember the event. The collapse stemmed from cardiac arrest, causing her to lose memories spanning ages 15 to 29. Medical evaluations have indicated that her memory might or might not return, leaving her to focus on living in the present.

The documentary "Losing Yourself" delves into O'Neil's extraordinary journey. Despite the almost unbelievable circumstances, her friends and family have played a crucial role in supporting her through the challenges she faces as she rebuilds her life. While O'Neil remembers some aspects of her past, her memories are disjointed, and her loved ones have stood by her side as she navigates through this unique situation.