Imagine waking up in a morgue after being declared dead by your doctor half a day earlier.
That’s what happened to 91-year-old Janina Kolkiewicz, who was declared dead by her doctor last week after her family found her unconscious at her home in the eastern Polish town of Ostrow Lubelski.
"I went to my aunt’s room to ask her what she wants for breakfast," said niece Bogumila Kolkiewicz, who takes care of the elder Kolkiewicz. "It’s then that I noticed that she is not breathing and does not have pulse. I called for our family doctor."
After examining Kolkiewicz, the family doctor declared the death Nov. 6 at about 9:30 a.m. local time and wrote her death certificate.
“She was in her bed for another two hours, she was ice-cold, did not breath, did not move, had her eyes and mouth closed,” the niece, 52, said. “When the body was taken to morgue it was carried on the stretchers; she never moved and was ice cold.
“We were slowly coming to terms that aunty has passed away. By Thursday evening everything was sorted. We paid for her death notice, bought the coffin, talked to priest and booked her funeral.”
After midnight, however, Bogumila and her husband were awakened by ringing at the door more than 12 hours after the morgue vehicle had departed with her aunt. It was an anxious morgue employee informing them that there was a mistake and that her aunt was alive, Kolkiewicz said.
“Morgue staff noticed that she was moving in her zipped body bag,” she said.
"When she came home, she complained she was cold. Together with our doctor we were fighting hypothermia the whole night.”
The doctor who issued the death certificate said she had no idea how her patient came back to life.
"I'm stunned, I don't understand what happened," Dr. Wieslawa Czyz, a medical doctor with 28 years of professional experience, told national TVP. "Her heart had stopped beating and she was no longer breathing, all vital signs were gone. I wrote the death certificate, but after 11 hours it turned out that the patient was alive.
"I can't explain it," she said. "If I had had any doubts about her being dead I would have called an ambulance and would have tried to resuscitate her. But she had no vital signs: no pulse, nothing."
The woman is now back home and is doing well, her niece said. “She does not recall anything as she is suffering from dementia,” she said.
An investigation is now underway into the circumstances of the incident.