What Amy Purdy Saw During Her Near-Death Experience

05/28/2015 09:28 am ET | Updated May 29, 2015

Amy Purdy has had a lot of unique experiences in her life. She's won a bronze medal for snowboarding at the Paralympics, been around the world competing on "The Amazing Race," given speeches (including a powerful TED Talk) that have been seen by millions, and become runner-up on the ever-popular "Dancing With the Stars." Each challenge brought about its own set of nerves, but one particular experience could be considered far more frightening than the rest: Purdy says she once died on an operating table.

At 19 years old, Purdy contracted a deadly strain of bacterial meningitis and, after listening to a voice in her head that urged her to take action, was taken to the hospital. By the time she arrived, Purdy's lungs and veins had collapsed. She was immediately placed in a coma, put on life support and given less than a two percent chance of survival. Soon, doctors realized that Purdy was also suffering from internal bleeding and that her spleen was about to burst. She was rushed into emergency surgery.

Though unconscious, Purdy says she could feel herself slipping away.

"I remember thinking, 'I know these people are here to save me, but I am going. I am going right now,'" Purdy tells Oprah in the above video from "Super Soul Sunday." "It felt as if I was hanging on by my fingertips, and every heartbeat, I was moving closer and closer to the edge."

That's when she stopped breathing. "All of a sudden, I felt my last heartbeat," Purdy says. "It was so powerful. It took my breath away... my last breath."

As doctors fought to save her life, Purdy says she was very aware of what had just happened to her.

"I remember suddenly being in this space, in a dark space," she says. "I had just died. And I saw a light -- not the bright, typical light that you would visualize at the end of the tunnel... It was kind of a foggy, hazy green light. It was enough of a light to see that there were three silhouettes standing in front of me."

Purdy didn't feel as if she knew any of those three figures, who she says began gesturing for her to move toward them.

"They were saying, 'You can come with us, or you can stay,'" she says.

Immediately, Purdy's thoughts flew to all of the things she loved about life.

"I love the smell of rain, and I love the sound of the ocean waves," Purdy says. "I thought, 'There is no way I am ready to give up this stuff.'"

Looking back on this near-death experience more than 15 years later, the world-class snowboarder is struck by what it was that she held most dear during what could have been her final moments.

"It was all sensory stuff to me, the things that I really do love about life," Purdy says. "I didn't think about money or cars or anything like that. I thought about these sensory things."

"That's so interesting to me," Oprah says. "Because in that moment, what will be the things that you actually think about? What will you cherish?"

More: Was this ordeal foretold? Purdy says that just one month before her near-death experience, a stranger told her that she would "cross over."

"Super Soul Sunday" airs on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network.

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