Texas teen shocks doctors as he comes back to life just moments after being pronounced dead: ‘A literal miracle’

Sammy Berko, 16, was rock climbing at a gym in Missouri City when he suffered cardiac arrest

Andrea Blanco
Thursday 20 April 2023 00:58 BST
(Caring Bridge/Sammy Berko)

A Texas teenager miraculously came back to life two hours after he was declared dead.

Sixteen-year-old Sammy Berko’s doctors were left baffled when he regained vital signs just moments after he was pronounced clinically dead.

The teenager, of Missouri City, was brought to the hospital in dire condition on 7 January after he went into cardiac arrest while rock climbing at a local gym, local Fox affiliate KRIV reported.

Staff at the gym, first responders, and doctors at the hospital tirelessly performed CPR on Sammy. But after two hours of unsuccessful attempts to bring him back to life, medical staff delivered the tragic news to his family.

“They looked at us and said, ‘I’m so sorry, but he’s gone,’” Sammy’s mother Jennifer Berko told KRIV.

Ms Berko says she mustered up every bit of strength to say a final goodbye to her son but after five minutes, her husband realised that Sammy was moving. The Berkos, overcome with emotion, rushed to get help from medical staff, who were shocked to see the teen was indeed alive.

“Each and every one of them afterwards came to us and said that they have never seen anything like this before. Ever. Never had they ever pronounced somebody and suddenly they came back five minutes later,” Ms Jenko said. “That feeling of seeing his heartbeat, there are no words for that. There are no words. We just stood there. I mean, grateful is the biggest understatement ever to know that he might make it.”

Despite the at least five minutes that Sammy’s brain went without oxygen, he only experienced short-term memory loss. He’s also recovering from an ischemic spine injury he sustained after he became unresponsive as he was lowered from the rock wall he was climbing.

“We do see kids all the time here who have had CPR, but with very prolonged CPR, we typically see very severe global anoxic brain injury, so to me, he is a literal miracle,” Sammy’s doctor told KRIV.

Sammy with his parents Jennifer and Craig
Sammy with his parents Jennifer and Craig (Caring Bridge/Sammy Berko)

“The last thing I remember is the night before we had to sign waivers online, and then I woke up, not even in the pediatric ICU,” Sammy told KRIV. “I woke up in the transitional ICU and that’s the first thing I remember.”

His parents told the network that Sammy’s episode was likely caused by a rare genetic condition known as catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, which claimed their younger son Frankie’s life in 2020.

Frankie died after suffering several seizure episodes, which led to head trauma. His father performed CPR on him during his final episode, but Frankie did not survive.

Ms Berko described being called to the emergency room earlier this year as the “most horrific rendition of Groundhog’s Day,” adding she could not believe Sammy, who had never had medical problems, was going through the same thing as his brother.

Sammy is now focusing on his physical health
Sammy is now focusing on his physical health (Caring Bridge/ Sammy Berko)

“We thought we had already been through the worst of the worst,” she said. “We had been shopping for a car for Frankie’s birthday when we lost him and now we were two years away from Sammy’s graduation and getting ready to buy him a car for his birthday as a surprise, and then this happened.”

Sammy and his mother have since tested for the rare genetic mutation and are receiving treatment for it.

“The testing came back and my husband was cleared, but my two sons and I have a genetic mutation that apparently started with me. I never knew I had this,” Ms Berko said.

As part of his therapy, Sammy has been encouraged by doctors to pursue his passion for playing music
As part of his therapy, Sammy has been encouraged by doctors to pursue his passion for playing music (Caring Bridge/Sammy Berko)

Sammy is now focusing on his physical health, noting that the experience has been “crazy.” As part of his therapy, he has been encouraged by doctors to pursue his passion for playing the drums and the keyboard.

“It has just been an amazing experience here actually, like I’ve noticed that I’m better every day! I’m doing something new every single day,” he said.

According to the Berkos’ updates on the website Caring Bridge, the teen is expected to be discharged soon in order to begin outpatient therapy at TIRR Memorial Hermann.

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