Dead Man Wakes Up

Dead Man Wakes Up

A 50 year-old man who suffers from asthma passed out in South Africa on Sunday. His family, assuming the worst, decided not to phone the police or take him to the hospital. Instead, they phoned the private mortuary directly.
I'm guessing that either there was a conversational SNAFU, or the mortuaries in South Africa aren't so good with the follow-up. They picked up the man's body and transported it back to their cooler without question.
24 hours later, the man woke up in the cold, dark, sealed morgue.

He began screaming, and I'm sure you can't blame him. The morgue attendants fled in terror, but eventually "put on their brave faces" and returned to find, not a screaming ghost (as they had first assumed) but a disoriented and cold middle-aged man.

The victim was taken to the nearest hospital for hypothermia treatment. I can only imagine the conversation with his family members when he returns.
Before "The Serpent and the Rainbow" became a rather bad 1998 Wes Craven movie starring Bill Pullman, it was a fascinating non-fiction book by anthropologist Wade Davis on the possible origins of the zombie myth. Davis included a long and fascinating chapter on the topic of the "waking death" phenomena, and how difficult it can be to pronounce a body actually dead.
This theme was revisited in the also-very-excellent book Stiff by Mary Roach.

Before EKG machines, death was often determined by observing the patient's respiration and heart beat. However, there are circumstances (as witnessed by this poor South African man) where both the respiration and heart beat can be so slow and shallow as to be nearly undetectable by most ordinary means. They would show up on a modern hospital's finely tuned high tech equipment, of course. But in the absence of a multi-million-dollar EKG machine, what are you to do?

In the modern world, this kind of thing doesn't often happen. But in less developed areas, and in the past, it was not entirely uncommon for the "dead" to revive. This is also no doubt the source of many cultures' rituals which involve the dead body lying in state for a period of time before being buried. After all, as Davis concluded, the only true sign of death is the presence of decay and putrefaction.

The lesson is clear: if someone seems non-responsive, don't just call the mortuary, okay? Call an ambulance and get the doctors to declare them actually dead! This gentleman is just lucky he "died" over the weekend, otherwise I imagine he would have already been buried. Shudder!