Morgue opens body bag, finds woman is alive

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Everyone thought 83-year-old Mildred C. Clarke was dead.

After city rescue squad members examined her, a coroner pronounced her dead. She was zipped into a body bag and shipped to the morgue at Albany Medical Center Hospital. There she was kept in a cooler at 40 degrees for about 90 minutes.

But when funeral home attendants came to pick up her body, a morgue attendant who slid her out of the cooler was startled to find that Ms. Clarke was very much alive.

Ms. Clarke was recovering Wednesday night at the hospital. Ms. Clarke was responsive and aware of her surroundings, said Laurie Goodman, manager of the DeWitt Clinton apartment house, where the widow has lived alone for about 12 years.

Ms. Goodman checked on Ms. Clarke about 2 p.m. Monday because she had not been seen since early in the day. She found Ms. Clarke motionless on her living room floor.

"She was blue," Ms. Goodman said.

Rescue personnel arrived within minutes with two city police officers. They found no sign of life.

Albany County Coroner Philip Furie checked Ms. Clarke for vital signs and found none -- no breathing, no pulse, no sign of a heartbeat. Firefighters advised paramedics that it was unnecessary to come to the scene because they believed there was no chance of resuscitation.

"She was as cold as ice and she was stiff," said Mr. Furie, who is not a physician. He said he waited in Ms. Clarke's apartment for about 90 minutes, until the arrival of a morgue employee and a funeral home operator. "She didn't move one iota."

Ms. Clarke was placed in a body bag and taken to Albany Medical Center Hospital. At the hospital, Ms. Clarke was not examined by a doctor because she had been pronounced dead by the coroner, a hospital spokesman said.

When an undertaker from a Troy, N.Y., funeral home called to say he was en route to pick up the corpse, a morgue supervisor removed Ms. Clarke from the cooler.

"All of a sudden he saw her stomach starting to move. She started to breathe," Mr. Furie said.

"It's like a miracle of God. I never heard of anything like this."

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