BOCA RATON, Fla. — Ruby Graupera-Cassimiro had gone 45 minutes without a pulse when doctors called her family into the operating room and told them there was nothing more they could do.
A team of more than a dozen Boca Raton Regional Hospital doctors and nurses had been working desperately to revive her. But they’d lost hope that the 40-year-old, whose heart had given out without warning after a routine cesarean section, was going to live.
Graupera-Cassimiro’s husband, mother and sister said goodbye to her just hours after they’d welcomed a healthy baby girl. The medical team stopped all lifesaving procedures. They watched a heart monitor, preparing to record a time of death.
And then, the seemingly impossible happened: A blip of a heartbeat showed up. Then another, and another.
Within a few hours, Graupera-Cassimiro, a human resources manager, was tugging at her breathing tube and scribbling notes to family.
“There’s very few things in medicine that I’ve seen, working in the trauma center myself and doing all the things that I do, that really were either unexplainable or miraculous,” said Dr. Anthony Dardano, president of the hospital’s medical staff. “And when I heard this story, that was the first thing that came to my mind.”
Graupera-Cassimiro made a complete recovery. She was taken off the life-support machine a day after the Sept. 23 near-death experience.
It was caused, doctors say, by an amniotic fluid embolism. The rare, serious condition occurs when fluid that surrounds a baby in the uterus enters a mother’s bloodstream and heart, clogging it. Sudden and unpredictable, it causes a vacuum and stops circulation.
Doctors say it’s hard to put a number on the odds of Graupera-Cassimiro’s survival. In many cases, amniotic fluid embolism is not diagnosed until after death. But living through 45 minutes without a pulse is extremely unusual.
And the decision to call in Graupera-Cassimiro’s family wasn’t made lightly.
“Once we say that’s it, that’s it,” anesthesiologist Anthony Salvadore said.
Doctors say Graupera-Cassimiro suffered no reduced brain function from the loss of circulation or burns from the shocks doctors delivered in hopes of restarting her heart.
Within days, she was back at home.