‘What do you mean she’s breathing?’: Southfield mother discusses daughter’s wrongly declared death

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

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – The mother of a Southfield woman who was declared dead, taken to a funeral home and suddenly found to be breathing again spoke with Local 4 about the devastating rollercoaster of emotions.

Southfield Fire Department paramedics were called Sunday morning to a scene where they found a 20-year-old woman, officials said.

She wasn’t breathing, and after performing CPR, paramedics said they found no signs of life. She was declared legally dead, according to authorities.

The Oakland County Medical Examiner released the body to a Detroit funeral home, where the woman was found to be breathing, officials said.

She was rushed to a hospital.

The woman’s mother spoke exclusively with the Local 4 Defenders on Monday morning, saying she has been through a cruel emotional rollercoaster and wants answers about what happened.

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

“I’m devastated that my daughter is going through what she’s going through,” she said. “My family, her twin brother, her older brother -- it’s just, I don’t even have words. I haven’t slept all night. I just don’t know what to do. My heart is so heavy.”

She was told Sunday morning by Southfield paramedics that her daughter had died.

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

Officials said the 20-year-old woman went into cardiac arrest Sunday morning at her mother’s home, so paramedics tried to revive her.

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

But hours later, her phone rang again. This time, it was from Cole Funeral Home in Detroit.

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

“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.‘”

Southfield firefighters said there was no foul play at the house, so they contacted the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s office. Oakland County officials have issues with that statement and are asking Southfield officials to clarify it for more information.

Sources told the Local 4 Defenders that medics at the scene communicated with a doctor at a nearby hospital, providing the data that they had from the house on the woman. It was the doctor at the hospital who actually declared the woman dead, sources said.

“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.

About the Authors:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.