British woman brought back to life six hours after cardiac arrest

A British woman has described the “miracle” that brought her back to life after her heart stopped beating for more than six hours when she collapsed with hypothermia on a Spanish mountainside.

Audrey Mash arrived at Barcelona’s Vall d’Hebron hospital on November 3 after a dramatic mountain-peak helicopter rescue in appalling weather conditions in the Pyrenees with a body temperature of just 20ºC.

Thanks to the quick thinking of rescue workers and doctors’ use of a state-of-the-art ECMO machine that warmed and oxygenated her blood externally, Ms Mash’s heart was sparked back to life with electric defibrillators almost seven hours after she had stopped breathing.

Eleven days later she was discharged, with no ill effects beyond a slight lack of feeling in her fingers. “It supersedes belief.

When I arrived at hospital my chances of survival were not good,” Ms Mash told the Telegraph, adding that around 40 people were involved in her rescue and treatment.

“The amazing thing is the work the doctors and also the firefighters and the medical team that brought me to the hospital did. I am lucky they all realised there was something they could do and not give up on me,” said the 34-year-old English teacher who lives in Barcelona.

“I am ok. I can go back to work, go back to my life. I am not a religious person but it’s like a miracle.” “It’s an exceptional case in the world; the longest cardiac arrest on record in Spain,” said Dr Eduard Argudo, an intensive care specialist who treated Ms Mash at Vall d’Hebron.

Audrey and her husband, Rohan Schoeman, were celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary with a weekend in the Pyrenees near the French border.

That Sunday the couple set out from the hiking lodge earlier than the two friends who were spending the weekend with them.

The weather took an unexpected turn and it began to snow, but they pushed on to the 2,563-metre peak of Torreneules.

“We love hiking,” said Ms Mash, who has been on two trips to the Himalayas but says she cannot remember anything about her anniversary jaunt.   

Mr Schoeman said that when they reached the top, they were hit by a white-out.

They sheltered from the storm behind a rock for a couple of hours, but when the blizzard continued they started to crawl in what they hoped was the right direction. Mr Schoeman said Audrey began to behave strangely, speaking nonsense before she fell unconscious.

“Her eyes rolled and she sighed what seemed to be her last. I looked for her pulse and to see if she was breathing, but there were no signs of life. I thought she was dead. That was about 3pm.”

Alerted by the couple’s two friends, helicopter search teams were scouring the mountains. At 6pm Ms Mash arrived at the hospital and in 20 minutes was being hooked up to an ECMO machine.

When her body reached 30ºC, the medical team successfully jumpstarted her heart at 9.46pm. “The hypothermia saved Audrey’s life functions.

Because her brain was cold, there is no damage,” Jordi Riera, the director of the ECMO team at Vall D’Hebron told The Telegraph.

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