A 76-year-old woman who was declared dead at a hospital in Ecuador astonished her relatives by knocking on her coffin during her wake, prompting a government investigation into the hospital.
Bella Montoya, a retired nurse from the city of Babahoyo, was admitted to the hospital on Friday with a possible stroke and cardio-pulmonary arrest. When she did not respond to resuscitation, a doctor on duty declared her dead and issued a death certificate. Her cause of death was listed as catalepsy, a condition that causes muscle rigidity and reduced vital signs.
Her family then brought her to a funeral home and were holding a wake for her later that day. About 20 people were gathered around her coffin when they started to hear strange sounds.
“After about five hours of the wake, the coffin started to make sounds. My mom was wrapped in sheets and hitting the coffin, and when we approached we could see that she was breathing heavily,” her son, Gilberto Barbera, told The Associated Press.
“It gave us all a fright,” he added.
Relatives left the coffin behind and rushed Ms. Montoya back to the hospital, where she was put in intensive care and intubated. Her condition remained critical and the doctors said she had a low chance of survival.
“My mother is on oxygen. Her heart is stable,” Mr. Barbera said. “The doctor squeezed her hand, and she reacted. They tell me this is a good sign because it means she is reacting little by little.”
“Now, I only ask that my mother’s health improves,” he added. “I want her alive and by my side.”
Mr. Barbera described the event as a “miracle from God” and said he was “coming to grips with what has happened.”
Ecuador’s health ministry said Ms. Montoya was in intensive care Monday at the Martín Icaza Hospital in Babahoyo while the ministry investigates doctors involved in her case. A technical committee has been formed to review how the hospital issues death certificates, the ministry said in a statement.
No details have been released about the doctor who had prematurely declared Ms. Montoya dead.
This is not the first time that a person has been determined to be alive at their own funeral. In 2019, relatives of a 3-year-old Mexican girl were stunned when they noticed the glass window of her coffin fogging up at a funeral viewing.
– Woman declared dead knocks on coffin during her own wake in Ecuador: “It gave us all a fright”, CBS News, 6/12/2023
– ‘Dead’ woman wakes in coffin at her own funeral: ‘Miracle from God’, New York Post, 6/12/2023
– ‘Dead’ woman found breathing in coffin at own funeral, Yahoo News, 6/13/2023
– Woman wakes up alive inside coffin after declared dead for 2 days, The Philippine Star, 6/13/2023