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Mother Pronounced Dead Heard Gasping for Air

February 8, 1992

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) _ A 75-year-old woman declared dead from heart failure was lying inside a body bag, her toe tagged for the morgue when her children arrived at the hospital about an hour later to say their farewells.

They found her gasping for air.

Emma Brady was listed Saturday in critical condition at Palms of Pasadena Hospital, where she was pronounced dead Jan. 24.

Dr. Bill Minnix, director of the hospital’s emergency room operations, said there was a flat line on Mrs. Brady’s heart monitor that day, she had no pulse, was not breathing and no heart beat was detected.

″It appears by every indication the patient was clinically dead,″ Minnix said.

But Mrs. Brady’s daughter, Arlene Walsh, said she and her brother, Richard Brady, found their mother wrapped in a plastic bag up to her chest and gulping for air when they were summoned to the hospital.

″Her head was going back and she was going ‘Gasp ... Gasp,‴ Mrs. Walsh said last week. ″I thought maybe she was waiting for us. I put a hand on her shoulder and said ’Mom, you can go now. Arlene and Dickie are here.‴

Mrs. Walsh asked a nurse: ″Is this what a dead person is supposed to do?″

She said respiratory therapists rushed in as Brady shouted, ″Get this body bag off my mother 3/8 She’s not dead 3/8″

Later, as Mrs. Brady heard her children’s voices, her eyes started flickering, they said. She was able to blink ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to questions.

″I rubbed her fingers and she’d move them. We’d rub her feet and her toe would twitch. We kept it up. It was like a miracle,″ said Mrs. Walsh, 52.

Mrs. Walsh said her mother later told her: ″They wrapped me up like a baby and they were going to take me to the morgue. That night I couldn’t breathe. They didn’t have to pound on me. All they had to do was give me oxygen. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t tell them I was alive.″

Mrs. Brady also said she saw her own parents, who died long ago, and Jesus Christ, who sent her back, Mrs. Walsh said.

A retired beautician, she was hospitalized Dec. 12 after an allergic reaction to a muscle relaxant, her family said.

While in the hospital, she had heart and respiratory problems. She was hooked to a respirator and given a tracheotomy, an incision in the throat to ease her emphysema and help her breathe, Mrs. Walsh said.

Because of the tracheotomy, Mrs. Brady cannot talk. Her family reads her lips, Mrs. Walsh said.

Hospital administrators refused repeated requests for interviews and would not discuss any medical details of Mrs. Brady’s case.

Tom Fitz, administrator at the 30-year-old, private 310-bed hospital, said in a statement issued Jan. 29 that family members were saying goodbye when ″they saw signs of respiration″ and resuscitation was tried again.

″Miraculously, the patient exhibited vital signs that were absent previously,″ Fitz said.