Woman Mistakenly Pronounced Dead Woke Up In Funeral Home Body Bag

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Receiving the news that a loved one has passed is devastating. Even if you know they’re older or in poor health, that doesn’t make the news any easier. No amount of preparation or predictability eases the pain of saying goodbye.

Now imagine you hear that news, only to be told later that “whoops, our bad, they’re not actually dead!” How does one even react in such a situation? How does it happen to begin with? A situation exactly like this took place early this year, but we’re still missing a lot of answers.

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Back From The Dead

When we hear stories about someone rising up from the dead, it’s typically due to a supernatural element. Movies about zombie uprisings, vengeful spirits, shapeshifting monsters, or otherwise are rife in pop culture and have added a new, frightening layer to the oft-thought-of permanence of death.

Two dead hands clawing at the edge of a cliff.
Unsplash / Daniel Jensen
Unsplash / Daniel Jensen

But it can happen in real life as well. Well, sort of. It’s just not in such a fantastical fashion is all. It’s also less about people returning from death in a new form, and more about a set of symptoms being mistaken for death—like what happened in Iowa earlier this year.

Ordinary Origins

The Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Iowa is facing fines of approximately $10,000 after they wrongfully pronounced a 66-year-old resident dead, only to have her awake again at the funeral home.

The outside of an assisted living facility.
Unsplash / In The Now Mag
Unsplash / In The Now Mag

A report from the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA) explains the situation in full, including all that happened before the resident (who has not been identified to the public) was said to have died.

She was initially put in hospice care on December 28th due to “senile degeneration of the brain.”

Early Signs

During her first few days at the facility, staff members said they took “comfort measures” so her stay would be as easy as possible, but within the first few days of her admittance, occurrences of “diminished” lung sounds and minor seizures were recorded.

A doctor pointing at an x-ray of someone's chest.
Pexels / Anna Shvets
Pexels / Anna Shvets

It was just days after her initial arrival at the facility, on January 3rd, that she was pronounced dead at 6 A.M. She was found by a staff member identified as Staff C who claimed she “did not feel a pulse” and found the “resident was not breathing at that time.”

Jumping The Gun

Staff C then told a licensed practical nurse so the next steps could be taken. The patient’s family and a local funeral home were then called.

Two workers walking into a morgue.
Pexels / RODNAE Productions
Pexels / RODNAE Productions

The funeral director arrived shortly after 7:30 A.M. and placed the patient in a body bag. She was zipped up, loaded into the director’s vehicle, then driven back to the funeral home for preparation.

However, it was upon her body bag being reopened at 8:26 A.M. that employees at Ankeny Funeral Home and Crematory “observed (the resident’s) chest moving and she gasped for air.”

Double Checking

The funeral home called 9-1-1 and Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center to report what had happened.

An ambulance turning through an intersection.
Unsplash / Yassine Khalfalli
Unsplash / Yassine Khalfalli

EMS arrived promptly on the scene and, while they were able to record a pulse and breathing, the patient wasn’t giving verbal responses nor any eye movement. She was taken to the hospital for a full assessment.

She was later returned to the care facility that same day, but her re-admittance did not last long, as she passed away (with certainty this time) the morning of January 5, this time with her family at her side.

The Inevitable Consequences

Lisa Eastman, executive director of the facility, spoke to CBS news about the event. “We have been in close communication with the family of the resident, and we just completed an investigation by the Department of Inspections and Appeals regarding the matter.”

A gavel against a marble background.
Unsplash / Tingey Injury Law Firm
Unsplash / Tingey Injury Law Firm

“We care deeply for our residents and remain fully committed to supporting their end-of-life care. All employees undergo regular training so they can best support end-of-life care and the death of our residents.”

The facility is facing two state violations from the DIA, which could result in a fine of $10,000.

Twice Over

Imagining the grief felt by the resident’s family is heavy. Having to grapple with the news that a loved one has died not just once but twice is unimaginable. At least there was a silver lining in them being given a chance to be with her as she passed away for the second and final time, but that’s not enough to forgive what happened.

A woman holding a loved one's hand as they lay in a hospital bed.
Pexels / RODNAE Productions
Pexels / RODNAE Productions

An emotional roller coaster that intense is nothing to be brushed off, and they’d be well within their rights to pressure the care facility for more answers regarding what happened.

Big, Big Feelings

Asking anyone to downplay their feelings regarding death is not only useless, but callous. Death is the greatest tragedy we face as people who are all bound to die one day, so facing a lie or a falsehood related to the realm of death is sure to cause a tumultuous emotional course.

A man sitting on a mossy grave.
Pexels / cottonbro studio
Pexels / cottonbro studio

Hopefully, the family is finding peace and answers in these times, and the whole facility receives a lesson on how to tell when someone’s really dead.

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Daniel Mitchell-Benoit

Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.

He can’t wait to share his insights with a[…]