Funeral Home Finds Woman With Cerebral Palsy Is Still Alive
DETROIT — When the funeral home unzipped the body bag that Timesha Beauchamp had been in for hours, the embalmer faced a startling scene: the 20-year-old on the table who was thought to be dead was very much alive.
Her eyes were open — and she was breathing.
The macabre account, delivered Tuesday by the family’s attorney Geoffrey Fieger on a video conference call, is making international headlines. Fieger’s law firm and the Southfield police are both investigating what happened. The scene was surreal, as if it were out of a horror movie.
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Fieger on Tuesday offered journalists a detailed narrative of what happened Sunday. He said he does not yet know whether there was negligence or whether the misdiagnosis led Beauchamp — who has cerebral palsy — to not get the treatment she needed and caused her more harm.
The Free Press left messages Tuesday for comment from Southfield officials.
“Perhaps they wrongly believe that under unfortunate circumstances, Timesha had passed away,” Fieger, a well-known Michigan plaintiffs’ attorney, said of the paramedics who treated Beauchamp. “But they were wrong — terribly wrong.”
To make matters worse, one of the people at the scene, a nurse, told others Beauchamp might be alive but was apparently ignored.
Beauchamp, Fieger said, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant. The disorder affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture, which Fieger speculated may have contributed to the medical misdiagnosis.
There’s no question that someone made a mistake in pronouncing Beauchamp dead. But who made it — and how it happened — is still unclear.
It’s also unclear, Feiger said, what caused Beauchamp to stop breathing to the point that trained paramedics concluded she was dead. The hospital, he said, has not yet reached a conclusion on what happened.
There was no indication, he said, that her condition is connected to the pandemic.
For now, Fieger said, the family’s first concern is for her health and welcomes prayers for her.
Once the funeral home realized she was alive, Fieger said, Beauchamp was taken to Sinai-Grace Hospital, where she has been on a respirator and in critical condition. Her heart rate is up, and her blood pressure is low. Whether she will survive, he added, may be “touch-and-go.”
Fieger read a statement from Beauchamp’s mother, Erica Lattimore.
The ordeal, she said, began between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. Her daughter had apparently suffered a seizure. As a result of Beauchamp’s cerebral palsy, the family usually helps Beauchamp eat and get ready for the day at that time, Lattimore said.
An earlier account by the Southfield Fire Department said Beauchamp suffered a heart attack. But Feiger said Beauchamp was having difficulty breathing. Her lips looked pale. The family gave her a breathing treatment. Lattimore called her son, Steve Thompson, and EMS.
“It is at that point,” Fieger said, “the entire sad scenario gets very, very murky.”
EMS and police arrived at the home and at some point Beauchamp was pronounced dead, Fieger said.
According to the Southfield Fire Department, paramedics performed CPR and tried to revive Beauchamp. But after 30 minutes they concluded she likely was no longer alive.
Paramedics contacted an emergency room physician and the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office. The body was released to her family to make funeral arrangements.
Feiger said that before the police left, Beauchamp’s godmother, Savannah Spears, said she thought her goddaughter had a pulse and was breathing but others disagreed. Spears, Fieger added, is a registered nurse.
The James H. Cole Funeral Home in Detroit confirmed it picked up Beauchamp at about 11:30 a.m.; she had been placed in a body bag. But when funeral home employees opened the bag, they noticed Beauchamp was still breathing.
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