BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — A mother in Argentina says she fell to her knees in shock after finding her baby alive in a coffin in the morgue nearly 12 hours after the girl had been declared dead.
Analia Bouter named her newborn Luz Milagros, or "Miracle Light." The tiny girl, born three months premature, was in critical but improving condition Wednesday in the same hospital where the staff pronounced her stillborn on April 3.
The case became public Tuesday when Rafael Sabatinelli, the deputy health minister in the northern province of Chaco, announced in a news conference that five medical professionals involved have been suspended pending an official investigation.
Bouter told the TeleNoticias TV channel in an interview Tuesday night that doctors gave her the death certificate just 20 minutes after the baby was born, and that she still hasn't received a birth certificate for her tiny girl.
Bouter said the baby was quickly put in a coffin and taken to the morgue's refrigeration room. Twelve hours passed before she and her husband were able to open the coffin to say their last goodbyes.
She said that's when the baby trembled. She thought it was her imagination – then she realized the little girl was alive and dropped to her knees on the morgue floor in shock.
A morgue worker quickly picked up the girl and confirmed she was alive. Then, Bouter's brother grabbed the baby and ran to the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, shouting for the doctors. The baby was so cold, Bouter said, that "it was like carrying a bottle of ice."
A week later, the baby is improving. Bouter said she still has many unanswered questions about what happened. She said she had given birth normally to four other children and doesn't understand why doctors gave her general anesthesia this time. She said she also doesn't know why she wasn't allowed to see her baby before it was put into a coffin.
She said she had to insist on going to the morgue's refrigeration room, where she brought her sister's cellphone to take a picture of the newborn for the funeral. Her husband struggled to open the lid, and then stepped aside to let her see inside.
"I moved the coverings aside and saw the tiny hand, with all five fingers, and I touched her hand and then uncovered her face," she said in the TeleNoticias interview. "That's where I heard a tiny little cry. I told myself I was imagining it – it was my imagination. And then I stepped back and saw her waking up. It was as if she was saying `Mama, you came for me!'
"That was when I fell to my knees. My husband didn't know what to do. We were just crying and I laughed and cried, cries and laughter. We must have seemed crazy."
She says the family plans to sue the staff at Hospital Perrando in the city of Resistencia for malpractice, and still wants answers. But they've been focused for now on their little girl, whom she described as amazingly healthy despite being born after just 26 weeks of gestation. So far, she hasn't needed oxygen or other support commonly provided to preemies, she said.
"I'm a believer. All of this was a miracle from God," she told Telam, Argentina's state news agency.