Not dead until warm and dead

As the weather gets colder, I start hearing complaints (you will not hear any from me!). One day I found myself standing on a bus stop telling my shivering girlfriend to embrace the wind and subzero temperature, as the cold is much better for you anyway. It’s the heat that’s dangerous. She looked skeptical.

The medical professionals have a saying: “not dead until warm and dead”.

Anna Bagenholm

In Sweden in 1999 Anna Bagenholm spent 80 minutes under ice of a frozen waterfall where she was pulled under the ice during a skiing accident. Two rescue teams were called to the top of the mountain, the second one had to bring a pointed garden shovel to break through the ice.

She was taken to the hospital where her condition was described as “She has completely dilated pupils. She is ashen, flaxen white. She’s wet. She’s ice cold when I touch her skin, and she looks absolutely dead. ” Anna was then successfully warmed up and revived by a “ a team of more than a hundred doctors and nurses worked in shifts for nine hours to save her life” and contunied to live her life “with minor nerve damage to her hands and feet

Lincoln Hall

In 2006 Australian climber  Lincoln Hall became sick and delusional during his Everest climb and was pronounced dead by the expedition leader and left on the mountain to allow his sherpas to descend safely. His family was notified of his death.

The next morning another team was on their way up. This is what they saw:

“Sitting to our left, about two feet from a 10,000 foot drop, was a man. Not dead, not sleeping, but sitting cross legged, in the process of changing his shirt. He had his down suit unzipped to the waist, his arms out of the sleeves, was wearing no hat, no gloves, no sunglasses, had no oxygen mask, regulator, ice axe, oxygen, no sleeping bag, no mattress, no food nor water bottle. ‘I imagine you’re surprised to see me here’, he said. Now, this was a moment of total disbelief to us all. Here was a gentleman, apparently lucid, who had spent the night without oxygen at 8600m, without proper equipment and barely clothed. And ALIVE.”

“Death is not as black and white as it seems,” Mr. Hall told an audience in Sacramento, Calif., in 2008. “In Tibetan Buddhism, death is interpreted as consciousness leaving your body in separate stages over a period of time. It’s different if you’re run over by a truck, but if you’re just dying, say, on Everest, there are stages of death. I ticked the first two of those eight stages, and for some reason that process reversed. So I think saying I died is probably more accurate than saying I didn’t.”

Donna Molnar

Donna Molnar, 55. Ontario found after laying several days in the snow, She went shopping for groceries in her vehicle, then became disoriented in a snowstorm and was found three days later with “..only her face and neckline exposed, and there was little snow underneath her.”.  Snow had acted as insulation until a police dog and it’s handler found her face sticking out from the snowbank. She asked where her purse was – that’s what I would say the first thing too :) See full story here.

Well, it looks like cold and dead is better than hot and dead! I say bring on the winter!


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4 Responses

  1. Ðørsun says:

    Nice post Natalia, very interesting. What else is the human body capable of, that we’re not aware of? If you haven’t checked out “The Ice Man”, here’s a guy who goes under freezing temperatures willingly, with and without scientific-medical supervision. I believe he was on TED Talks also. –>

  2. Brante says:

    I have been taught about this potential since I was quite young – that people can be brought back or can naturally “wake” up after freezing “to death”. One of the most common tragedies (besides freezing)…is drowning, and with simply taking the time to drain water from the lungs, and giving gentle massage to the heart and lung muscles, (as well as all limbs) for up to several hours (using oil so as to not abrade the skin), many many people can be brought back. Usually the colder the water the better of course, though in Canada I would say that almost every drowning is in cold water. My heart breaks every time I hear of someone pronounced dead after only a few minutes or hours of drowning. With some dedicated effort, the majority of those people can be resuscitated (with the proper training).

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