Ecuador 'victim' of coronavirus finds her family already held funeral

Ecuador ‘victim’ of coronavirus wakes up from coma to find medics told her family she was dead and they had cremated another body thinking it was her

  • The family of Alba Maruri, 74, were told she had died from coronavirus. They took receipt of a body health authorities told them was hers and held a funeral
  • Health authorities then returned to the family home to inform them Alba was still alive and that they did not know who had been cremated in her place
  • Alba Maruri is no longer in intensive care and her family are very thankful but are unsure as to what to do with the cremated remains of the unknown person
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

An Ecuadorean woman in Guayaquil city learned on Friday that her sister was alive, weeks after cremating a misidentified body.

Alba Maruri, 74, was admitted to an intensive care unit on March 27 suffering from a high fever and difficulty breathing, and medical personnel told her family later that day that she had died.

According to Maruri’s sister, Aura, health authorities then handed the family what they thought were Alba’s remains. 

Health workers on Friday returned to the family’s home in Guayaquil, the epicentre of Ecuador’s coronavirus outbreak.

Alba Maruri pictured in her family’s announcement that she is still alive 

Aura Maruri said: ‘An ambulance arrived with a doctor, a psychiatrist and the social worker. They apologized, and they tell us ‘Your sister is alive,’ and we were in shock.’

‘It is a miracle of God what has happened.’

Maruri was suspected to have contracted COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but was never diagnosed with it because she was not tested.

Her family was not able to visit her until Saturday because of curfew measures enacted to prevent the continued spread of the disease.

Aura Maruri says she does not know what to do with the metal chest holding the ashes of the body delivered by mistake.

‘I couldn’t sleep because I was afraid they would take her (remains) to those containers for the dead,’ said Maruri, referring to refrigerated containers set up as mobile morgues as the pandemic spread through Guayaquil.

‘There was a failure by the hospital.’

The incident underlines the difficulties facing Ecuador, where the coronavirus pandemic has overwhelmed the health system and left sanitary workers struggling to collect and identify the burgeoning number of bodies. 

Funeral workers wait with a coffin in the back of a pick-up truck outside Los Ceibos hospital as health and funeral services have been overwhelmed amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Guayaquil, Ecuador, April 15, 2020

Alba Maruri is still alive in the Abel Gilbert Ponton Hospital, where she is still being treated but is no longer in intensive care.

Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos told reporters that case was under investigation, adding that health authorities guarantee the identification of corpses and that hospitals keep track of the deceased.

The country has recorded nearly 23,000 cases of the coronavirus, 576 deaths, and another 1,060 people who are suspected to have died from it.

But the Ecuadorian government recognizes that the total number of deaths during the pandemic has been much higher than normal, and that many have died before being tested.

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