'Dead' Hospital Patient Wakes Up Just as Doctors Prepare to Remove Organs

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Colleen Burns, a 41-year-old woman mistaken for dead, actually woke up in the hospital just as her organs were about to be harvested by doctors.

Burns, an organ donor, was taken to the hospital and pronounced brain dead following a drug overdose in 2009, and surgeons prepared to dissect her.

Hospital Pic

Brain death occurs when oxygen from blood is no longer delivered to the brain, causing activity to stop permanently and leaving no chance of the person waking up.

Burns did not meet the criteria for brain death, however, despite a staff diagnosis of irreversible brain damage, according to hospital documentation.

A nurse performed a reflex test and found Burns' toes was still reacting, and nurses also noticed that her nostrils flared, and she was breathing independently.

Nevertheless, she was then prepped for surgery for organ harvesting.

Her family agreed to take her off life support after doctors explained they thought she suffered "cardiac death," the Syracuse Post-Standard reported.

Just as her organs were about to be removed, however, she woke up.

After Burns woke up, hospital officials decided that overdosing on multiple drugs could have accounted for her unresponsive state, ABC News reported.

Burns was discharged two weeks later, and the hospital was fined, according to the Post-Standard, citing New York's Freedom of Information Law. 

An investigation revealed a number of mistakes in caring for Burns, including that one nurse suspected she was improving, alerted doctors and was ignored.

While clearly frightening, a mistake like this is "exceedingly rare," American Academy of Neurology member Dr. Eelco Wijdicks told ABC News.

He explained that the Academy's guidelines call for "about 25 tests for doctors to perform to be absolutely sure a patient won't get better."

It's unclear how many of those tests were conducted in this case, but what was already a sad story ended on a different, but equally tragic note.

The woman's mother said that her daughter wasn't even upset about almost losing her life to a mistake, because she had been suicidal anyway.

Moreover, this brush with death didn't change Burns' mind about hastening her own demise, and she later committed suicide, reports indicate.

No word on whether her organs were harvested afterward.

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And those doctors probably did not know what they were doing...God therefore woke her up.


Too eager with the harvesting - it's becoming big biz and that's scary.


To Geronimo Dam if they did brain surgery on u then shit they must have done a dam good job if u typin


They said 25 tests are taken to see if the patient will get better. This patient was DECLARED DEAD. How does it seem like one in the SAME..If a patient as a illness/cancer and the END is evident, then all precautions are taken to make the patient comfortable. This patient was DECLARED DEAD, so it was a MIRACLE that she WOKE UP... God made her wake up, and He wanted ALL of us to pay more attention to our doctors and their procedures followed. There are always MISTAKES made in LIFE, but when they happen in a HOSPITAL, then that HOSPITAL should be INVESTIGATED and if they find it or someting suspicious went on, IT SHOULD BE CLOSED.


Hospital staff MAKE mistakes, and when they happen they are HUGH. I had brain surgery, and while in ICU they asked me the gauge of pain I was having from 1-10.I said in the head about a 6, but in the LEFT chest, it was a 12. Nurse looked at the monitor and said, I'm sorry but the monitor doesn't show anything. And increased the MORPHINE for the remainder of the 4 days.Operation was a FAILURE, and I then picked a different one. Froedert Hospital, has some of the BEST doctors, and had the SKULL sawed open from the widows peak down the side of the head to my ear. During recovery, I had that same PAIN in left chest, and thy QUICKLY brought in a type of X-ray machine and X-rayed the heart. I had another heart attack. They asked me if I had ever had this before and I said, yes, at Mercy in Oshkosh... So, within 3 weeks I had TRIPLE BYPASS. So, they are some times just nurses doing a JOB, but other times they actually CARE about the patient. This individual just HAPPENED to be LUCKY. OMG, how close to death can one get. That was SLOPPY medical service. I can't imagine it at all... But, this doesn't SURPRISE me anymore.

@ Geronimo

Dude, back off the caps lock.

@ Skylar

I second that. Or should i say, "I SECOND THAT."

@ Skylar

OH MY LORD!!! wha-at? Listen, if WE don't get family or someone checking everything "they" do, we'll all be done for. Are hospitals becoming sausage machines? My friend got a shot of tramadol just post operatively and when she reached the ward, the nurse said: aaah, let me give you something for pain and promptly gave her the same shot. Needless to say, she had a near death experience and all medical personell came on board to save her life. Even while under, you have to keep one eye open - it's recommended. No morals or dedication to be found any longer


I'm pissed she was donating her asshole to me n I was so jazzed up getting ready to bang it

@ Sancho

sorry that was for Skylar


WTF for a second I thought I was reading a scripture from a movie.take care burn.get that money cuz ur owed big time


Bizarre story! Is this an old story? Was the woman in a coma for 2 years since her overdose happened in 2009? This is why I do not indicate being an organ donor on my drivers license.


Things like this happens all the time. Doctors and nurses overlook things.

@ TY

That is what we go to HOSPITALS for. We are supposed to get the BEST care/TREATMENT money can buy. This time, ALL of those involved should be BLACK LISTED from ever doing any kind of MEDICAL work again.


wow!,frightening story? please doctors take care and see whether burn can survive before the harvest.

@ abdi halkano

After surviving she commited suicide!!!!!!! then RIP, nothing much. That is being too eager to meet GOD.


Fleet!! Is your statement TRUE, or are you trying to make a FUNNY at someone elses expense?