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October 12th, 2009
06:05 PM ET

From an icy slope, a medical miracle emerges

By David S. Martin
CNN Senior Medical Producer

NARVIK, Norway (CNN) - Fresh from medical school, Anna Bågenholm chose to do her residency in the Norwegian city of Narvik because of its spectacular mountain slopes. An expert skier, Bågenholm had gone off the trail with two other young doctors on a warm spring afternoon when she fell.

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/10/12/cheating.death.bagenholm/art.bagenholm.rescue.jpg caption="Rescuers worked frantically to save Anna Bagenholm from a hole in the ice of a mountain stream."]

What happened that day in 1999 changed her life and has redefined what is possible in cases of accidental hypothermia.

Bågenholm slid down a steep, icy gully and ended up submerged head first in a hole in the ice in a mostly frozen stream. Only her skis and Telemark boots and bindings protruded from the thick, opaque ice. As the 29-year-old struggled, her friends Marie Falkenberg and Torvind Næsheim began a frantic effort to free her, made impossible by a torrent of frigid spring runoff pouring over them into the hole where their friend was submerged.

They called for help, starting a chain of events that is now part of medical literature and local lore.

Bård Mikkalsen, a police lieutenant in Narvik at the time, took the call.

"I realized this was really a serious case," said Mikkalsen, who has since retired. He scrambled a pair of rescue teams in Narvik, one from the top of the mountain, the other from the bottom. He also contacted the nearest rescue team in Bodø, nearly 200 miles away, but the Sea King helicopter had already left to transport a sick child. Read the full story »

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Filed under: Cheating Death • Health
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Brent

    Some cities in North American (major centers in Canada, Edmonton, Toronto) put suspected heart attack patients on ice while in transit to the hospital and then in the hospital in order to cool the brain. Sanja, you probably know the statistics for this type of therapy, but the research is conclusive on better outcomes.

    October 13, 2009 at 9:23 am |