On June 24, paramedics responded to a severe crash near the South African city of Johannesburg.
They followed usual protocol and did all the required checks before declaring all the three occupants, including the female driver, dead at the scene.
According to reports the woman’s car rolled over, and ejected all passengers out of the vehicle.
“We did all the checks, breathing, pulse, everything,” ambulance service Distress Alert’s operations manager Gerrit Bradnick told ABC News. “We made certain. Our job is to save lives. We’re not in the business of declaring living people dead.”
The remains were then transported to the mortuary, where they were placed in a refrigerator while awaiting the autopsies to begin.
Everything seemed to have been going well, until a mortuary technician opened the fridge a few hours later and discovered that one of the victims was actually still alive.
“You never expect to open a fridge and find someone in there alive,” a source at the Carletonville mortuary told the Sowetan newspaper. “Can you imagine if we had begun the autopsy and killed her?”
The health department has since notified the woman’s family and an investigation has been launched to figure out how the mixup happened.
South African news channel eNCA reported that the woman is currently hospitalized and is in critical condition.
To many people’s surprise, this woman’s case isn’t a one-time occurrence and it happens in countries all over the world, even the United States.
In 2014, a 78-year-old man from Mississippi was pronounced dead after a nurse at the hospice he was staying in found him unresponsive with no pulse. He woke up the next day in a body bag at the morgue.
Three years prior, a 66-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest during an abdominal surgery. After 17 minutes of failed resuscitation efforts, doctors declared him dead. In his case, his body didn’t even make it to the morgue because a surgeon felt a pulse 10 minutes after he “died” and the team continued the operation.
Apparently, these cases happen often enough that scientists have come up with a name for the strange phenomenon.
The Lazarus phenomenon, named after the Biblical figure who was brought back to life by Jesus Christ four days after he died, is defined as “a delayed return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) after CPR has ceased,” according to Medical News Today.
The term was first coined in 1982 and since then, there have been dozens of reported cases. It’s still unclear was causes the effect, but some experts believe that the pressure buildup in the chest during CPR is to blame.
“The Lazarus phenomenon is a grossly underreported event,” notes Maxillofacial Surgeon Dr. Vaibhav Sahni in a 2016 report.
“The reason for these can be attributed to the fact that medicolegal issues are brought to light in cases which are pronounced dead which later turn out to have been alive,” he explains. “The professional expertise of the resuscitating doctor can be brought into question, not to mention the fact that such an event can lead to disrepute among colleagues.”
It is estimated that 45 percent of the patients do experience good neurological recovery, so there’s hope that the South African woman could recover.
Doesn’t it sounds like something straight out of a horror movie? Share your thoughts in the comments!