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Woman Accidentally 'Embalmed Alive' During Surgery

We demand high standards from our medical professionals — years and years of schooling and workplace guidance, as well as professional oversight — because the stakes couldn't be higher. While for the most part, we can have faith that they know what they're doing, doctors and nurses do make mistakes — and in rare cases, those mistakes can have tragic consequences.

And in one case out of Russia, the consequences for an error in the operating room wasn't just tragic, but also gave rise to new nightmares.

In a horrible medical mishap, a young woman in Russia lost her life after being mistakenly injected with embalming fluid while she was still alive.

Unsplash | Piron Guillaume

As The Verge reported, Ekaterina Fedyaeva had sought out help from doctors to remove some ovarian cysts. However, during the procedure, a mix-up resulted in Fedyaeva receiving a lethal dose of formalin, which contains a large concentration of formaldehyde.

It's unclear whether she received it via her IV drip instead of saline or whether it was used to clean and prep her for surgery, but either way, it was the stuff of nightmares for Fedyaeva.

Somehow, Fedyaeva survived for the next 14 hours.

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But it was an unimaginably rough 14 hours, during which she reportedly suffered convulsions and horrible pain before falling into a coma.

"Her legs were moving, she had convulsions, her whole body was shaking," her mother said, according to The Sun. "I put socks on her, then a robe, then a blanket but she was shivering to such an extent, I can’t even describe it."

Formalin is stronger than the embalming fluids typically used at funeral parlors.

Unsplash | Levi Meir Clancy

That's according to funeral director Caleb Wilde, who told The Verge that the strongest his funeral home uses is a 30% formaldehyde solution — formalin is more like 40%.

"If she had a bag, and if the entire IV bag was injected into her system — well, I just don’t know how she lived for 14 hours," Wilde said. "So I’m thinking that maybe the entire bag was not injected into her system. But then again, it’s not like a gunshot wound where we have a bunch of examples and things we can reference to know what really happened. It’s obviously unethical to try to embalm someone alive, so we don’t have other examples."

And chemically speaking, while formaldehyde is remarkable for preserving dead tissue, it's a horror show for living tissue.

Unsplash | Marcelo Leal

"Formaldehyde changes the tissue on a molecular level so that the bacteria can’t feed on the tissue. You could say it tears apart the constructs of your tissue," Wilde said.

"The heart probably pumped the formation through the arterial system, and so it would have spread all throughout her body. I can only imagine that it would have felt like a burning sensation. You’re being ripped apart on a molecular level from the inside out."

Fedyaeva's mother accused her daughter's doctors of "murder."

Unsplash | Piron Guillaume

She accused them of trying to cover up their blunder at first. "I think they just wanted me to go away and to hide everything," she told The Sun.

The outlet also reported that the doctors tried 52 different drugs in an attempt to save Fedyaeva's life, to no avail.

h/t: The Verge, The Sun