Doctors mystified by miracle recovery of mother of four who was 'dead' for over 10 hours


I have shaken her hand, held her gaze and spent more than an hour chatting with Tasleem Rafiq and her children and I can report that she is no ghost. The 52-year-old mother of four is very much alive.

Quite how she comes to be, however, is a medical mystery. A month ago, she had a heart attack and stopped breathing. What happened next has astonished doctors, shocked her family and raised questions about medical practice. For Mrs Rafiq returned from the dead.

"God will take you when he chooses. Everyone was praying and God said: 'I am going to leave this lady.' I am a very lucky mother," she said. She does not want her picture in a national newspaper, but she looks younger than her 52 years.

She has had multiple sclerosis for 20 years, cannot walk and occasionally gets chest infections which develop into pneumonia, requiring hospitalisation. But on 14 September, she collapsed. An ambulance was called and resuscitation commenced, but without success. Her son Fezaen, 28, said: "We were waiting [in the A&E department] when the doctor came out and said: 'I have to tell you that we have been trying to get your mother's heart started for 45 minutes and we haven't had any luck. Unfortunately she has died.'"

The family, in shock, asked to see the body, to bid goodbye. They were shown into a private room and warned that because their mother had been injected with adrenalin her body would make involuntary movements and they should not think that these were signs of life. It was 11.30am.

Fezaen said: "She was lying with her eyes rolled back, gasping. My brother [then] said: 'She's looking at you.'

After two hours a doctor was summoned, who examined the "corpse" and declared there was, indeed, a faint pulse.

But doctors assessed her twice, found her unresponsive and concluded that, though she was alive, she would have suffered irreversible brain damage and would be likely to die soon.

At around 10pm, her daughter Shabana was sitting holding her hand and noticed her pulling it away. "Mum, if I have done something to upset you, tell me," she said. Mrs Rafiq turned to her and said: "What have you done to upset me?"

By next morning, she was chatting and joking with her family. On 2 October, she was discharged home, alert and alive.

David Mossop, a consultant at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, said resuscitation protocol had been followed correctly and after 45 minutes, with blood tests showing a profound lack of oxygen "you would expect a severe amount of brain damage".

But there was none. "That is very unusual," he said.

She was lying with her eyes rolled back, gasping. My brother then said: 'She is looking at you'