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Mother, Infant Die and Come Back to Life


Mike Hermanstorfer watched the mother of his child die, and then held his infant son’s limp body after the newborn was delivered by Cesarean section on Christmas Eve. Then the miracles occurred: both mother, Tracy, and child, Coltyn, came back to life.

Tracy Hermanstorfer, age 33, went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing during labor. Despite efforts to revive her, including chest compressions and a breathing tube, it appeared Tracy had died. The doctors then decided to take the baby by Cesarean section.

Once the Cesarean section was done, Tracy was taken to an operating room, while doctors worked on the Hermanstorfer’s infant son, who lay lifeless in his father’s arms. Soon the infant began to breathe, and while this was occurring, Tracy’s pulse had miraculously returned as they wheeled her to surgery. Doctors estimate that she had been without a heartbeat for about four minutes.

About 400,000 people suffer sudden cardiac arrest each year in the United States. The death rate is very high: only 6 to 7 percent of people survive the event. In fact, according to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, the number of people who die of sudden cardiac arrest is greater than the number who die of breast cancer.

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Thus far, the doctors have not been able to find an explanation for Tracy’s cardiac arrest, nor her return to life. Mike Hermanstorfer is quoted in an Associated Press article as saying it was “the hand of God.”

Cardiac arrest occurs in one in 30,000 pregnancies. In an article authored by Helene Finegold, MD, formerly an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Magee Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh and now associate residency program director at Western Pennsylvania Hospital, she noted that pregnant women who suffer cardiac arrest during labor or delivery tend to be young, healthy, and without previous medical problems or hospitalizations.

Cardiac arrest in pregnant women in labor has numerous causes. The most deadly is amniotic fluid embolism, which presents as cardiac arrest, hypotension, bronchospasm, and fetal distress. Other causes can include pulmonary embolism, trauma, congenital or acquired cardiac disease (typically undiagnosed), complications of anesthesia, and hemorrhagic shock. In Tracy Hermanstorfer’s case, the doctors have not yet found a cause for her cardiac arrest.

Mother, infant Coltyn, and father returned to their home in Security, Colorado, on Monday. The Hermanstorfers are concerned that Tracy may have another cardiac arrest, but for now they are enjoying a delayed Christmas with their 3-year-old son Kanyen and Tracy’s 11-year-old son, Austin, from her previous marriage. It will be a Christmas they will likely never forget: it’s not every day that a mother and her infant die and come back to life.

Associated Press
Finegold, Helene. Cardiac arrest in labor and delivery: A current review. Winter 2003
Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation