At the start of 2004 Sharon Muscet, then 32, was living in London and working 70 hours a week as a marketing executive for a global wine company.
By the end of that year the successful businesswoman was being fed antibiotics through a tube and was facing the prospect of losing her left foot after a horror stingray accident in Adelaide, South Australia.
‘I was on a work trip back to Australia when I decided to take a little paddle at a beach in Glenelg,’ the now 48-year-old told FEMAIL.
It was the first day of their visit Down Under and Sharon was determined to show the wine distributors her beautiful hometown, but in the murky water she didn’t notice a threatening tail.
‘I took a step and landed on a stingray, which pushed its barb into the bottom of my left foot,’ she said.
The stingray’s spine, or barb, has serrated edges and a sharp point. The underside of the barb can produce venom, which can be fatal to humans.
Although it was bleeding Sharon was determined to continue the trip, and simply patched up the wound.
But on the flight back to London her foot ‘blew up like a balloon’ and she was told the barb had caused extensive nerve damage. A serious infection had settled in.
‘I had 10 operations during this time and was off my feet for a total of two years. There was a permanent PICC line inserted into my arm feeding me the harshest antibiotics… they turned the whites of my eyes orange.’
She was flown back to the Royal Adelaide Hospital after three months to be treated by their new foot clinic.
On two occasions doctors talked about amputating her injured foot but they were able to save it by inserting plates and screws around her third and fourth toes.
‘I have been left with neuropathy in that foot, meaning I can’t feel anything,’ she said.
Sharon describes those two years as some of the ‘toughest’ in her life, made lighter by the fact she reconnected with an old friend – who would later become her husband and father to her children Luka, 13, and Hugo, 11.
She also decided to devote herself to things she had always wanted to do but put off when she was working so hard, namely singing lessons, knitting and mosaics.
Sharon even studied to become a marriage celebrant so she could bring joy to her friends, something that occupied her time while she wasn’t able to walk.
However her remarkable recovery was left shaken when the brave Australian suffered a heart attack in 2011.
‘I stared death in the face again. That day I fought for my life. I wasn’t ready to go. I was a mother. I still have so much life to live,’ she said.
It was Easter Sunday and Sharon was at home in bed when she woke with the ‘most intense’ pain in her chest that extended right up to her jaw.
‘The pain was indescribable. An ambulance was called. The paramedics performed an electrocardiogram (ECG) on me. I saw the ambulance officer’s glance between one another when they read my ECG,’ she said.
‘It was the look they gave each other that told me everything. I was scared. I was close to dying and I knew it.’
Thinking only of her boys Sharon was worked on by an emergency heart surgeon.
‘That day I put up the biggest fight of my life and I survived,’ she said.
Knowing that she’d now brushed hands with death twice, Sharon wasn’t in a position to take life for granted.
She now shares the realities of loss and grief with others through a global movement called ‘The Love in Death’ and released a book about her life: 7 Life Lessons Learned Through Loss: Powerful stories of love, hope, transformation and legacy.
In addition to being a marriage celebrant she became a funeral director and has conducted several hundred ‘celebrations of life’ for those who have passed.
‘Let’s say a family has just lost their child. It is unfathomable what the family goes through. It is incredibly emotional and difficult,’ she said.
‘I feel if I can make just a small difference to a family at the most difficult time in their life, by honouring their loved one in a beautiful way and having them focus on the love, then I have been of service to them.
‘I have no feelings to describe that. The work I do comes from a place in my heart, of deep love and connection.’
The accident completely altered Sharon’s life and the course it was going to take, but that’s not something the mother-of-two feels angry about.
‘Upon reflection I can say that this accident was the best thing that ever happened to me,’ she said.