Revived Briton Audrey Schoeman ‘lucky to have second chance’

A British woman whose heart stopped beating for six hours has told the BBC she “feels lucky” to have a second chance in life.

Audrey Schoeman developed severe hypothermia on 3 November when she was caught in a snowstorm while hiking in the Spanish Pyrenees.

Doctors managed to revive Mrs Schoeman and said her cardiac arrest was the longest ever recorded in Spain.

The 34-year-old said she hoped to get back to hiking.

Mrs Schoeman, who lives in Barcelona, told the Today programme that she does not remember the accident itself and said it has been “much worse” for her husband Rohan.

She said: “By the time I came round in hospital I knew it was serious as my parents were there but I did not feel like I was at risk of dying, whereas everyone else spent the last few days thinking there was a very good chance I wasn’t coming back.

“The first few days were quite blurry, I was on quite a lot of medication.”

Audrey Schoeman
Image captionMrs Schoeman has no memory of the six hours

Mrs Schoeman began having trouble speaking and moving during severe weather in the Pyrenees, later falling unconscious.

Her condition worsened while waiting for emergency services and her husband Rohan believed she was dead.

But the low mountain temperatures which made Mrs Schoeman ill also helped to save her life, her doctor Eduard Argudo said.


Hypothermia had protected her body and brain from deteriorating while unconscious, Mr Argudo explained, despite also bringing her to the brink of death.

He added: “If she had been in cardiac arrest for this long at a normal body temperature, she would be dead.”

Doctors who treated Mrs Schoeman at Barcelona’s Vall d’Hebron Hospital said she had no vital signs of life.

They used a specialised machine that removed her blood and infused it with oxygen, before reintroducing it into her body.

Once her body temperature had reached 30C, the doctors used a defibrillator to jump-start her heart six hours after the emergency services were contacted.

Mrs Schoeman was released from hospital 12 days later.

Apart from some lingering issues with the mobility and sensitivity of her hands, due to the hypothermia, she has made an almost full recovery.

She said: “I had an understanding of what happened but did not know how lucky I was to have survived it.

“I like the life I had before I had the accident, I am not going to be quitting my job or anything like that.

“I am looking forward to embracing it because I know I’m lucky to have a second chance again.

“I hope [to go hiking again]. Maybe not soon, we won’t be going in the mountains this winter. I think it will be a long time before my husband goes anywhere near any snow.”

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