Back from the dead

May 15, 2018

Steve Clarke pictured with wife Nadine, flatlined for 37 minuets during ankle surgery after reacting to the anaesthetic. Photo by Luke Hemer.

STEVE Clarke has died and come back to life.


When his heart stopped for 37 minutes after a surgery went drastically wrong on March 23, doctors thought they’d lost a patient.

And Nadine Clarke thought she’d lost her husband.

But Steve wasn’t done with life yet.

Defying the odds, he has not only survived, but also made a complete recovery, astonishing doctors in what they’ve hailed a ‘‘complete miracle’’.

But when Steve and Nadine drove from Rochester to Epworth Richmond the Friday morning before the surgery, they were blissfully unaware of what lay ahead.

Steve was going in for a simple ankle surgery to repair three ligaments torn in a workplace accident.

As they drove, Nadine turned to look at her husband.

“Do you ever worry about not waking up from a surgery?” she said.

Steve replied without hesitation, “Nah, I never worry about that.’’

They didn’t know the conversation was an eerie prelude to what was to come.

Heading into the hospital, Steve got into a lift to pre-op — and that’s the last thing he can remember. Everything was pitch-black until he woke up five days later.

But thankfully Nadine was there to fill in the gaps.

“In the afternoon I decided to head back to the hospital to check on him and my phone started ringing,” she said.

“The doctor said, ‘I’m just ringing to let you know I haven’t been able to do Steve’s surgery’.

“I thought Steve must’ve just been bumped down the list. But then the doctor said, ‘Unfortunately he had a reaction to the anaesthetic and went into anaphylactic shock. I need you to come in’.”

That’s when her blood ran cold.

Nadine immediately raced back, her heart beating almost out of her chest as she searched frantically around the hospital for her husband.

Not knowing if she’d reach him in time.

She’d later find out what had happened before the doctor called her.

The surgery had started smoothly enough when the anaesthetist noticed something concerning. Steve was going bright red and swelling up — fast.

She immediately pressed the emergency button, cutting the stream of anaesthetic and bringing every doctor on hand to the bedside.

“It was miraculous, every doctor was there. Even a doctor who was supposed to be in Sunshine had stayed back because he felt he needed to be there,’’ Nadine said.

His body overwhelmed by the reaction, Steve went into atrial fibrillation.

The doctors quickly hit him with defibrillator paddles and, when that didn’t work, ran a wire directly to his heart.

Even that didn’t work.

His heart pumping so hard no blood

was making it back, Steve went into cardiac arrest.

Then his right coronary artery collapsed. But doctors were prepared, immediately installing two stents to keep the artery open.

They then pumped his body with drugs to keep his lungs and liver from collapsing and placed him on kidney dialysis.

The entire time doctors were fighting to keep Steve alive, Nadine was in a room nearby, waiting anxiously for news of her husband.

“At the end of the night the doctor came to me and said, ‘Imagine the sickest person in the hospital — that’s your husband. Imagine every machine available on him and no more drugs left to give him’,” Nadine said.

When Nadine was finally allowed to see Steve, she said he was cold and waxen. He looked dead.

Sitting by his bed, holding his icy-cold hand, Nadine had an idea.

“Steve owns a 1970 Monaro he’s had since he was 18 and loves to bits,” she said.

“As he lay there I said, ‘You need to do something right now or I’m going to sell your Monaro’.”

Nadine then left the room.

Steve may have been in an induced coma, but he must have heard her.

Just 40 minutes later, the doctor came out from Steve’s room, his face lit up by a smile.

“He said, ‘I don’t know what’s happened, I’m not sure if it’s the drugs finally working. But Steve’s heart has gone back into rhythm’,” Nadine said.

“They said it was a miracle. But I think it was just him hearing me say I’d sell his Monaro and saying ‘no way!’”

In the following days, Nadine and their four kids waited anxiously for Steve to keep improving.

“On Saturday I drove back to the hospital, crying as I drove. But then I thought, ‘pull your socks up, get on with this’,” Nadine said.

“On Saturday night I told Steve I’d had a couple of offers on his car (even though I hadn’t really put it on the market).”

Once again, Steve must have heard her.

He kept improving gradually until, on Tuesday, he was brought out of the coma.

Doctors were worried he could have brain damage from a reduced supply of oxygen to the brain throughout the ordeal.

However, the miracles continued to roll in for Steve. When he woke up, his brain was in perfect shape.

“He was soon doing quizzes and answering questions on The Chase. The doctors were stunned. They said it was a miracle he survived anaphylactic shock and cardiac arrest, much less had a brain in such good condition,” Nadine said.

“People couldn’t believe it. He had essentially been dead on Friday night.”

Looking back on those five pitch-black days (he said there was no light at the end of a tunnel) Steve hovered on the brink of death, he can’t even begin to say how thankful he is to be alive.

“I asked a doctor what the odds were. In the end he admitted four out of 100 people would’ve survived what I went through. And only one out of four would’ve survived without brain damage,” he said.

“I owe a big thank you to the staff at Epworth. And I wouldn’t still be here without Nadine’s strength.

“It’s experiences like these that make you treasure every moment you’re alive.’’

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