When Jean Hilliard was driving home from her friend’s one night and skidded off the icy road into a ditch, she decided to attempt to walk to another friend’s house nearby. The temperature had reached negative 22 degrees Fahrenheit, and she was afraid she would freeze to death if she staying the car.
Despite having underestimated the walk to her friend’s, which was over two miles long, the 19-year-old nearly made it to the door. But as reported by Liftable, just 15 feet before reaching it, she collapsed. She laid face down in the snow for 6 hours before being found.
Around 7 a.m. the next morning, a man named Wally Nelson was leaving for work when he discovered the girl in front of the house. She had frozen with her eyes wide open. He attempted to bend Hilliard’s joints, but upon discovering they were frozen in place, he loaded her into his car diagonally and drove her to the hospital.
Upon her arrival, doctor’s were immediately skeptical as to whether or not Hilliard would survive. Her skin was too hard and prevented doctors from giving her an IV, her eyes had no response to light, and her temperature was off the charts low.
“I couldn’t open her mouth. I couldn’t raise her arm. She was frozen solid, as stiff as a log covered with ice.”
Doctor George Sather and his colleagues wrapped her up in an electric heating pad in hopes of increasing her body temperature. And that’s when the miracles started to happen. About two or three hours after the thawing process started, Hilliard’s heartbeat began to start up again.
Gradually, she began to come to, making noises and responding to her parents. She was taking just 12 breaths per minute, but it was promising progress. As she continuously regained consciousness, Hilliard couldn’t figure out why people were asking her if she knew her name.
“Things were kind of hazy and people were asking me questions as to who I am and things like that. And I couldn’t figure out why they were talking to me that way or why they were treating me that way. Of course, I knew these people. Of course I knew who I was. I mean, what’s the big deal?”
Although she’d entered the ER with severe frostbite, it miraculously faded away, absolutely shocking everyone including Dr. Ryan Killy.
“It was enough that she survived. That was a wonderful enough thing. But to have this added gain of not losing any fingers or toes, and in fact, just having what I guess would be minor scars, this is remarkable.”
In total, Hilliard spent six more days in the ER and 49 days in a normal hospital bed before being released nearly unscathed. For someone who had literally been frozen stiff, we’d say that’s beyond incredible.
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