Doctors told Karl De Leeuw that his wife had suffered so much brain damage that she wasn’t the same person anymore. That’s when he decided to remove her life support.
As Fox News reports, 57-year-old Michele De Leeuw suffered a heart attack in August. Karl found his wife and called 911. The operator coached him through CPR until paramedics arrived. Still, Karl was persuaded that his wife had died. Their daughter, Myles, told NBC News:
“When my father called me after she was rushed to the hospital, was that he felt that she was dead. It was the most earth-shattering phone call of my young life. It was horrible to see my mother on more IVs and tubes than you can ever imagine.”
Rescue workers had to revive Michele multiple times on the way to the hospital. During the heart attack, Michele was without oxygen for about 15 minutes. Doctors held out little hope for her survival and told the family her brain function was only 5 percent and heart function was 25 percent.
Michele was unconscious for three weeks before Karl made an agonizing decision. Advised by doctors who told him that “the woman that you know as your wife is not there anymore,” Karl decided to discontinue his wife’s life support. He told NBC News:
“I took her off the ventilator. I unplugged her.”
Karl called it the “hardest decision of my life.” And Myles added:
“When we pulled the plug, it was just so sad to start living with the reality that my mom is dead.”
Only Michele didn’t die.
Moments after being removed from life support, Michele started breathing on her own.
But the wife and mom was still unconscious, and doctors believed there was no hope of survival. Michele was given “comfort care” as staff waited for her to pass away.
But Michele was about to surprise the doctors again. Two days after the ventilator was removed, her eyes opened. Two days after that, she spoke. Karl told NBC News:
“She told the nurse she’s hungry. I said, ‘Well, feed her.’ Two days later she was sitting up in bed feeding herself.”
Though she was now conscious, Michele was far from her old self. She was incoherent, confused about where she was, and had blockages in her veins.
Michele underwent open heart surgery, then spent weeks undergoing speech and physical therapy. Now, nearly four months after her heart attack, Michele is back at home and on the way to a full recovery.
Last week, Michele was presented with a “Survival Coin” from the first responders who treated her during her heart attack. Michele told WDIV that she’s still trying to process everything that happened in the last four months:
“I just thank God I was saved. I know it means something good is going to come of this.”
Her family agrees that there’s something special about Michele. As Karl told WDIV:
“I truly believe she is a depiction of a miracle.”