Audrey Schoeman, whose heart stopped beating for nearly six hours, was brought back to life. Doctors described it as an “exceptional case” and said she had the longest cardiac arrest ever.
The 34-year-old, who lives in Barcelona, developed severe hypothermia, a medical emergency, in a snowstorm while she was hiking in the Spanish Pyrenees with her husband, Rohan, last month.
Schoeman said she is excited to do hiking again by spring after making a full recovery.
Her husband said she started having trouble speaking and moving when she caught up in the snowstorm in the Pyrenees, and later she fell unconscious. He believed she was dead because her condition got worse while waiting for emergency services.
On Thursday, Schoeman told Catalan channel TV3, “I was trying to feel a pulse… I couldn’t feel a breath, I couldn’t feel a heartbeat.”
The rescue team arrived a couple of hours later when Schoeman’s body temperature had already fallen to 64 F (18 C).
She was taken to Vall d’Hebron Hospital, Barcelona, where she was found to have no vital signs.
Dr. Eduard Argudo, who treated Schoeman, said the lower mountain temperature, which made her ill, actually saved her life. “She looked as though she was dead,” said Dr. Argudo. “But we knew that, in the context of hypothermia, Audrey had a chance of surviving.”
He explained that hypothermia protected her body and brain from damage while she was unconscious in spite of bringing her on the verge of deathbed.
Dr. Argudo added, “If she had been in cardiac arrest for this long at a normal body temperature, she would be dead.”
The doctors who treated Schoeman used a specialized machine that is capable of removing the blood and infusing it with oxygen, and reintroducing the blood into the patient. They used a defibrillator to pump back her heart once her body temperature reached 86 F (30 C). She was defibrillated nearly six hours of cardiac arrest.
She was discharged from the hospital after 12 days of treatment.
Dr. Argudo said, “We were very worried about any neurological damage. Given there are practically no cases of people who have had their heart stop for so long and been revived.”
Schoeman thanked the hospital staff and said she still has no memory of what happened in those six hours. She said, “It’s like a miracle except it’s all because of the doctors.” She added she would not return to hiking this winter but may do so in spring. She said, “I hope that in spring we will be able to start hiking again, I don’t want this to take away that hobby from me.”