Teen who died and came back to life again gets 'shocking diagnosis'

This 17-year-old was diagnosed with a rare genetic heart condition after dying and miraculously coming back to life.

'Shocking diagnosis' for family of boy who died and came back to life
© MR. NOBODY / Wild Bunch
'Shocking diagnosis' for family of boy who died and came back to life

Sammy Berko was pronounced dead following two hours of unsuccessful CPR. He had suffered a cardiac arrest and nothing seemed to be working; his parents were told to say goodbye to their son. But then something unbelievable happened: Sammy moved. Then, his pulse started back up. After 24 hours in intensive care, Sammy woke up.

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His parents had lost Frankie, their 10-year-old son, in 2019 and were terrified it was going to happen again. However, medical research into Sammy’s experience has also helped to solve the mystery of Frankie’s death. Here’s the incredible story of the Berko family.

The family have a rare heart condition

The teen went rock climbing in January 2023 at a sports centre near his Houston home. Without warning, he suddenly went limp in his safety harness. He had experienced a cardiac arrest. After his recovery, doctors ordered genetic testing for the whole family - including Frankie, who had genetic material remaining from a DNA trial he had been planning to take part in.

The tests showed that Sammy, Frankie and their mother Jennifer have a rare genetic heart rhythm condition. It is known as catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT) and can cause fainting, seizures, and sudden cardiac arrest in people who are otherwise in good health.

The family’s reaction

Jennifer, 47, told People:

It’s a shocking diagnosis.But finally, for the first time in three and a half years, what happened to Frankie makes some sense to us because we could never understand why he had a seizure and his heart stopped.

Frankie died of a sudden seizure. His death was something that, at the time, no one could understand - not even the doctors. Now the family is aware of this condition and know that it can be triggered by exercise, stress or excitement. Dr Michael Ackerman, a genetic cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, explains that ‘the adrenaline trigger can cause the heart to go out of control into a chaotic, dangerously fast rhythm’. The ‘warning sign’ is ‘an exercise-triggered faint’.

Once diagnosed, the condition is thankfully very treatable.Beta blocker medication can block the adrenaline and a small surgery called a cardiac sympathetic denervation can be performed through the left armpit.

Sammy underwent surgery and both he and his mother take beta blockers. The accident left Sammy paralyzed in his lower body so he now uses a wheelchair. However, both Jennifer and Sammy can safely return to their activities and sports now - for Sammy, this means a return to basketball and drumming.

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Source used:

People: How the Texas Teen Who Died and Came Back to Life Helped Reveal a Dangerous Family Heart Condition (Exclusive)

National Library of Medicine: Catecholaminergic Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia

This is the story of a woman who came back to life insider her own coffin in 1915 This is the story of a woman who came back to life insider her own coffin in 1915