A hiker from Washington who was rescued after being lost in Mount Rainier National Park was declared clinically dead before being brought back to life in what his medical team called a miraculous recovery. While the man continues to have problems related to heart, kidneys, and frostbite, his doctors said his health will improve.
Michael Knapinski, a 45-year-old native of Washington's Woodinville, was lost in Mount Rainier during a hiking trip with his friend on November 7. The two got separated following a severe whiteout and when the friend realized Knapinski was lost he informed park officials. A search team tried to locate the hiker the next day and found him unconscious.
Knapinski was airlifted to a Seattle hospital, where he was treated in the emergency room. Dr. Jenelle Badulak told the Seattle Times that the hiker had a pulse when he was brought to the hospital but his heart stopped.
Man Recovers After Being Declared Clinically Dead
"He died while he was in the ER, which gave us the unique opportunity to try and save his life by basically bypassing his heart and lungs, which is the most advanced form of artificial life support that we have in the world," Badulak said, adding that Knapinski was clinically dead for about 45 minutes.
Following this, the medical team administered Knapinski with CPR and hooked him up to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine that pumps blood outside of the body to a heart-lung machine that removes carbon dioxide and then back into the body. Knapinski woke up after two days.
Recalling the incident, Knapinski told the Seattle Times that he could not see anything due to the whiteout conditions at Mount Rainier. "I was pretty close to the end (of the trail) ... Then it turned to whiteout conditions, and I couldn't see anything," Knapinski said, adding that he remembered walking slowly down the mountain. "I'm not sure what happened. I think I fell."
Trauma nurse Whitney Holen said that the first thing Knapinski did after waking up was to call his family. "He was crying and they were crying and I'm fairly sure I cried a little bit," Holen reportedly said. "It was just really special to see someone that we had worked so hard on from start to finish to then wake up that dramatically and that impressively." Holen added, "It reminded me of this is why we do this. This is why we are doing the long hours, this is why we're away from our families, this is why we're here."