Mother-of-four Tasleem Rafiq had suffered a heart attack and medics had not been able to revive her.
Doctors warned that even if they could restart the 52-year-old’s heart, she would have suffered irreversible brain damage.
But just as her grieving children tried to come to terms with their loss, Mrs Rafiq apparently came back from the dead – and spoke to her stunned daughter.
And by the next morning, the patient was joking and chatting with her family as if nothing had happened.
Mrs Rafiq, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis aged 32 and cannot walk, said she feels ‘very lucky’ to have survived.
The grandmother, who did not want to be pictured, added: ‘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.’
The ordeal began when Mrs Rafiq collapsed at her terraced family home in Reading.
An ambulance was called and medics started trying to resuscitate her at home, continuing in the ambulance and at the accident and emergency department at Royal Berkshire Hospital.
Mrs Rafiq’s son Fezaen, 28, claimed: ‘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.”’
This was at 11.30am, he added, and the devastated family requested some private time with Mrs Rafiq’s body to say goodbye.
They were warned that, because their mother had been injected with adrenalin, her body would make involuntary movements which should not be mistaken for signs of life.
Fezaen said: ‘We were sitting with her, praying. I was on the right and my brother was on the left when he said, “She’s looking at you”.
‘We called the nurse and asked if that was normal. She said yes, it was quite normal.’
But over the next two hours, this happened several more times. Eventually, a doctor examined Mrs Rafiq again, and confirmed that there was in fact a faint pulse.
However, the family was warned that though she was clinging on to life, she would have suffered irreversible brain damage and was expected to die soon. Doctors also advised that if she had a second cardiac arrest, she should not be resuscitated.
Despite this, the family stayed by her bedside, praying for a miracle. At around 10pm, Mrs Rafiq’s daughter Shabana, who was sat holding her mother’s hand, thought she felt her pulling it away.
She said: ‘Mum, if I have done something to upset you, tell me.’ To her astonishment, Mrs Rafiq turned to her and replied: ‘What have you done to upset me?’
After collapsing on September 14, Mrs Rafiq was discharged and allowed to go home on October 2.
Her family have claimed that at the time, doctors described her recovery as a ‘miracle’. However, a spokesman for Royal Berkshire Hospital said that Mrs Rafiq had never officially been declared dead.
He added: ‘It was felt that she was unlikely to survive and it is very fortunate that she had not suffered brain damage but at no point was she dead. She had a very faint pulse which may have gone undetected. ‘Her recovery was unusual. Everyone is very pleased that she didn’t suffer any permanent damage.’
David Mossop, lead consultant in emergency care medicine at the hospital, said resuscitation protocol had been followed correctly. After Mrs Rafiq’s heart had stopped for 45 minutes, and with blood tests showing profound lack of oxygen, a severe amount of brain damage would be expected, he said. But Mrs Rafiq suffered no effects from her ordeal, other than some temporary memory loss.
Mrs Rafiq’s family are adamant that staff at the hospital had said that she had died.
Fezaen added: ‘It is not something we would mistake; they told us she was dead. But she is doing well now, there have been no lasting ill effects on her.’
Mrs Rafiq’s eldest son Yousif said: ‘It was obviously very traumatic, the doctor had said she passed away so we started breaking the news to the rest of the family and relatives began making their way to the hospital.
‘But then she started to squeeze my sister’s hand... the doctor said it was a miracle.