Her Heart Stopped for 6 Hours. Now She’s Ready to Go Back to Work.


LONDON — Audrey Mash’s life was hanging in the balance. Her heart had stopped beating when she was caught in a snowstorm on a hike in the Spanish Pyrenees with her husband, and when she arrived at a Barcelona hospital she had no vital signs.

“I was trying to feel a pulse,” her husband, Rohan Schoeman, told the Catalan news Channel TV3. “I couldn’t feel a breath. I couldn’t feel a heartbeat.”

When Ms. Mash, a 34-year-old English-language teacher, arrived at the Vall d’Hebron Hospital last month, “she was blue and cold and she had no vital signs,” Dr. Eduard Argudo, who helped treat her, said in an interview on Friday.

But after she spent six hours in cardiac arrest, doctors managed to restart Ms. Mash’s heart and save her life with the aid of a highly specialized tool.

Ms. Mash’s experience will go down in the record books in Spain as the longest period of cardiac arrest in which the patient survived, the doctors said.

On Thursday, she appeared at a news conference in Barcelona and stood smiling while surrounded by the doctors and members of the rescue teams that had worked to save her life. She said she felt happy and grateful to be alive.

“I am the lucky one,” she said. “I’m the one who didn’t have to do anything.”

Ms. Mash, a Briton who lives in Barcelona, had gone on the hike in early November with her husband but when the snowstorm hit on the trail, they lost their way in the inclement weather and clung to each other, trying to shelter from the wind and cold.

Her body temperature dropped sharply, she developed severe hypothermia, and she ultimately went into cardiac arrest.

First, she began to “talk nonsense,” her husband told Channel TV3. Then, she had trouble moving. Later, she became unconscious.

Born in Britain, she spent part of her childhood in South Africa, where she met her husband, and has also lived in China. The couple moved to Barcelona two years before the hiking rescue.

She is a keen hiker and tries to go to the mountains with her husband at least once a month, and has previously trekked in the Himalayas. Doctors said that her experience there might have helped her to survive, in addition to her young age and active lifestyle.

“There is very low levels of oxygen in the Himalayas, so her body was in some way prepared for this,” Dr. Riera said.

The hypothermia has left Ms. Mash with some mobility and sensitivity issues in her fingers, which means she cannot do up buttons on her own or put earrings in herself, she said, but she hopes that will improve.

She praised the 40 people involved in her rescue and medical treatment as “absolute heroes who should be in the limelight for this.”

While near-death experiences can prompt some people to reassess their priorities in life, she said that was not her style.

“There is nothing I am going to be changing about my life,” Ms. Mash said. “I like my life. I have good friends; I love my job and my husband. If anything, it has made me realize how much I do not want to lose that.”

The experience has also not deterred her from one of her favorite activities.

“I hope that in spring we will be able to start hiking again,” Ms. Mash said. “I don’t want this to take away that hobby from me.”

But she will steer clear of the mountains in winter.



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