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French woman declared dead after 40-minutes of heart massage wakes up

She woke inside a body bag on the way to hospital

A lady miraculously resuscitated after 40 minutes of inconclusive cardiac massages Pic: MCorfield / Shutterstock

A woman who was found floating unresponsive in a canal came back to life after being declared dead by medical professionals following 40 minutes of cardiac massage in Digoin (Saône-et-Loire).

The 74-year-old woke up in a body bag in the ambulance as the medical team returned to the Centre Hospitalier de Roanne. They had already completed her death certificate.

The woman was spotted floating in a canal on July 1 by Jean Sellier, 60, a retired police lifeguard who was riding his bike alongside the waterway.

He rescued her and performed cardiac massage for ten minutes before the SAMU and firefighters arrived.

Their combined cardiac massage intervention lasted for 40 minutes and went according to medical procedure, Thomas Guérin, emergency unit chief at Roanne’s hospital, told French regional newspaper Le Progrès.

The woman is now being treated in intensive care where she was placed in an artificial coma and sedated.

“I got a call from firefighters telling me she had survived,” said Mr Sellier after he returned home when the medical team said the woman had no heartbeat and had died.

“Never have I seen a heart starting to function again after an intervention,” said Mr Sellier, who has practised countless medical interventions in the Gironde department during his career.  

“I could not perform a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation since the air could not go into her lungs [as they were full of water],” said Mr Sellier, adding that he was unable to estimate how long she was floating in the canal before he rescued her.

Several medical professionals told The Connexion such a scenario in which a heart starts again after such an extended period is extremely rare. 

Mr Sellier said he saw a gilet, walking stick and sunglasses laying on the ground along the canal, elements suggestive of a premeditated attempt, he said.

The lady resides in the Bonvert nursing home, 200 metres away from the canal.

The home is conducting an inquiry to explain how the lady was able to leave, an administrative clerk confirmed to The Connexion

Mr Sellier now plans to visit her to see how she is doing.

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