How Southfield mother found out her daughter, declared dead hours before, was still alive

Southfield paramedics say 20-year-old woman was showing no signs of life

A Southfield woman said she received a phone call that her daughter was still breathing hours after she had been pronounced dead at their home.
A Southfield woman said she received a phone call that her daughter was still breathing hours after she had been pronounced dead at their home.

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – A Southfield woman said she received a phone call that her daughter was still breathing hours after she had been pronounced dead at their home.

Southfield Fire Department paramedics were called around 7:30 a.m. Sunday to a home where a 20-year-old woman had gone into cardiac arrest, officials said.

Medics said they worked to save the woman for 30 minutes. They communicated the data they had on the woman to an emergency room doctor at Ascension Providence Hospital, who then declared her dead, according to sources.

“They said, ‘Ma’am, she’s gone,’” the woman’s mother said. “I told them, ‘Are you absolutely, 100% sure that she’s gone?’ They said, ‘Yes, ma’am, she’s gone.’”

Medics said they called the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s office with no foul play. The body was released to the family, officials said.

Just before noon, the mother got a call from the Cole Funeral Home in Detroit. What officials had found was shocking and sensitive, so they asked to keep the details off the radio.

“I will give you a call via phone and let you know what we have here,” the medic said.

READ: Sources reveal who declared Southfield woman dead before she was found breathing at funeral home

The woman’s daughter, who had been declared dead four hours earlier, was breathing.

“Somebody pronounced my child dead and she’s not even dead,” the woman’s mother said. “She’s in the hospital.

“They said, ‘Ma’am, your daughter is on her way to Sinai Grace Hospital. She is breathing. She is alive,’” she said. “This devastated my life. Then she just told me, ‘No, ma’am, your daughter is breathing.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? What do you mean she’s breathing?’ She said, ‘Ma’am, she’s in the hospital.’”

Oakland County officials had issues with the Southfield Fire Department’s statement, so they asked for a clarification. Southfield firefighters released a new statement Monday afternoon.

“A local emergency department physician pronounced the patient deceased based upon medical information provided by the Southfield Fire Department at the scene,” the Southfield Fire Department said in a statement. “After which, the Southfield Police Department contacted the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office to notify them of the findings and the on-duty forensic pathologist released the body to the family. The Southfield Fire and Police Departments followed all appropriate city, county and state protocols and procedures in this case. The city of Southfield is currently conducting a thorough internal investigation in addition to the Oakland County Medical Control Authority which will be reporting their findings to the State of Michigan Bureau of EMS, Trauma and Preparedness. In an effort to provide as much transparency as possible, more information will be provided as it is available.”

The woman’s mother said she isn’t sure if her daughter is going to survive.

The Southfield Fire Department issued a clarification regarding the incident:

“A local emergency department physician pronounced the patient deceased based upon medical information provided by the Southfield Fire Department at the scene. After which, the Southfield Police Department contacted the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office to notify them of the findings and the on-duty forensic pathologist released the body to the family. The Southfield Fire and Police Departments followed all appropriate city, county and state protocols and procedures in this case. The City of Southfield is currently conducting a thorough internal investigation in addition to the Oakland County Medical Control Authority (OCMCA) which will be reporting their findings to the State of Michigan Bureau of EMS, Trauma and Preparedness (BETP). In an effort to provide as much transparency as possible, more information will be provided as it is available.”

Local 4 News at Noon -- Aug. 24, 2020

About the Authors:

Shawn Ley is an Emmy-Award winning reporter. In more than 20 years covering stories in television news, Shawn’s reporting has taken him from war-torn eastern Europe, to reporting from an F-16 fighter jet and now to the fast and furious breaking news of Detroit.

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.