Man comes back to life half an hour after dying

Posted: June 12, 2009 in science

There are several mysteries in the world which are yet to be resolved and the question of birth, death, life after birth, rebirth are a few which have been posing a challenge to man for the time immemorial. In India several saints have found their own answers for these things which are beyond the reach of common man, rather, man is so busy in his day-to-day life that he hardly finds time to think about such things.

Today, I read a report where a 23-year-old man came back to life 30 minutes after doctors pronounced him dead. It was called as a rare example of a phenomenon known as Lazarus Syndrome. Doctors at the Royal Preston Hospital declared Michael Wilkinson dead on February 1. However, half-an-hour later, doctors realised that his pulse had returned. Wilkinson survived for two days before being pronounced dead a second time. An inquest heard that his return to life was known as Lazarus syndrome — the spontaneous return of circulation after attempts to resuscitate fail.

There have only ever been 38 cases recorded worldwide.

The syndrome takes its name from the biblical story of Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus.

John Whittaker, a consultant at the Royal Preston’s accident and emergency department, said it was “not a small thing” to pronounce a patient dead. “You make absolutely certain,” he added.

Michael Wilkinson died of a previously undiagnosed heart condition. But 30 minutes after he was pronounced dead, medics found a pulse

Michael Wilkinson died of a previously undiagnosed heart condition. But 30 minutes after he was pronounced dead, medics found a pulse

Wilkinson had collapsed after an evening in which he had enjoyed a number of drinks with his family. However, tests showed that alcohol played no part in the incident. A post mortem conducted at the Royal Blackburn Hospital found that he had an undiagnosed heart condition in which his left ventricle had become abnormally thickened.

Lazarus Syndrome

Lazarus syndrome is the spontaneous return of circulation after failed attempts at resuscitation. Also called Lazarus phenomenon, it takes its name from the biblical story of Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus.

Occurrences of the syndrome are rare and the causes are not well understood. One theory for the phenomenon is that a chief factor (though not the only one) is the build-up of pressure in the chest as a result of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The relaxation of pressure after resuscitation efforts have ended is thought to allow the heart to expand, triggering the heart’s electrical impulses and restarting the heartbeat. Other possible factors are hyperkalaemia or high doses of adrenaline.

One example is a 61-year-old woman from Delaware, USA, who was given “multiple medicines and synchronized shocks”, but never regained a pulse. She was declared dead but was discovered in the morgue to be alive and breathing. She sued the medical centre where it happened for damages due to physical and neurological problems stemming from the event.
Another case is a 66-year-old man suffering from a suspected abdominal aneurysm. During treatment for this condition, the patient suffered cardiac arrest and received chest compressions and defibrillation shocks for 17 minutes. Vital signs did not return; the patient was declared dead and resuscitation efforts ended. Ten minutes later, the surgeon felt a pulse. The aneurysm was successfully treated and the patient fully recovered with no lasting physical or neurological problems.

A 27-year-old man in the UK went into cardiac arrest following recreational use of heroin and ecstasy. After 25 minutes of resuscitation efforts, the patient was verbally declared dead. About a minute after resuscitation ended, a nurse noticed a rhythm on the heart monitor and resuscitation was resumed. The patient recovered fully.

An 18-year-old girl in Missouri, USA, committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping medication. Resuscitation was attempted, but with no luck. She was declared dead. Seven minutes later, her heart started beating and she started breathing on her own again, though she was comatose. The girl regained consciousness five days later and was oblivious to what had happened. Nurses were horrified to hear screams coming from the room, and found her alive and wide awake.


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