7 students who were found clinically dead for 6 hours talk about the experience of death and their return to life / BBC, Editing: Amit Simcha
The story of the seven Danish students who died on a school trip in 2011 is one of a kind, as it is the only documented case in history in which doctors were able to revive all seven dead at once. A BBC documentary titled Life After Death: How Seven Children Came Back from the Dead tells the story of schoolchildren who are clinically dead after their boat capsized in a frozen lake. The film is accompanied by two of the survivors, Catherine and Casper, who returned to the scene and recreated the moments they thought would be the last of their lives.
Catherine, now in her mid-20s, was one of 12 students who went on a hike in the frozen lake. 8 years after the accident, she returned to the lake and burst into tears: "I remember it now. It was so freezing, so cold. There was ice on the water. A nightmare." Casper added: "It was bad weather. There were strong winds. The boat capsized in the middle of the sea and all the people fell." Catherine recalled screaming: "When I got out of the water the nightmare started. Everyone was shouting and everything was unreal. You see the panic. The teacher said we had to swim in, otherwise we'd all die."
Catherine and Casper were found clinically dead for 6 hours and brought back to life/Screenshot, BBC
The water temperature was only 2 degrees Celsius and the children were hundreds of meters away from the shore. Casper added: "I couldn't swim. One of my friends came up to me and tried to help me, but after a short while I was clinically dead because of the water temperature." Casper's heart stopped while he was in the water, along with six other children. Catherine managed to swim to shore but did not have enough strength to call for help. She suffered from severe hypothermia but tried to seek help, "It was really hard to walk because I didn't have strength in my legs. I kept falling. At that moment there I thought, 'OK, I'm going to die.'" What she didn't know was that luckily, one of her school friends had already managed to run a mile and call for help. When she saw a man running towards her in the distance, her hope returned to her, "When I saw him I screamed so loud."
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Catherine recounts the moments she thought were the last of her life/Screenshot, BBC
"Okay, now I'm going to die"/screenshot, BBC
When paramedics arrived, the children were already dead for more than two hours. Dr. Michael Jagger Wunsch recalled: "We landed there with our helicopter. Someone ran towards us and shouted: 'They're all dead, they're all dead, they're all dead,' but it wasn't lost yet. They were ice cold. When you are in such a situation, you can be revived. They were dead, but they weren't really dead. We still had a chance." Hypothermia stopped their hearts but also managed to slow down their metabolic rate so that their organs could still warm up and return to work. Dr Wunsch added: "At this point, we planned to heat the blood to one degree every ten minutes. Casper was 17.5 years old at the time. He recovered and his normal heart rate returned when we reached 26 degrees." All seven dead students were brought back to life through a similar process, "It's amazing. This is the largest number of hypothermic victims in an accident that we have been able to revive at once, with 100 percent success."
Casper was clinically dead for 6 hours/screenshot, BBC
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Casper stared at a picture taken while he was in a coma: "My father took some pictures while I was lying in bed. It's strange to see yourself lying dead there." No one knew if the children's brains were damaged, but after a few days Casper and the other children woke up and showed positive signs. "The main focus from then on was the brain. Will patients be able to recover? We didn't see any irregularities in their scans and we were optimistic." Catherine summed up the experience: "It taught me to appreciate life. Know what is worth fighting for. I'm really glad I'm alive."
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