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The Mysterious Case of Jean Hilliard Who Recovered After Freezing Solid at -22ºF

Sara Martinez

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It was after a reckoning icy storm when Wally Nelson found a 19-year-old woman identified as Jean Hilliard frozen to death outside his home. Nelson was on his way out when he noticed the human body covered with ice. The woman was frozen to death but completely recovered back to life miraculously. Doctors seem to have no explanation whatsoever of how she made it, but the story is legit.

Jean Hilliard was driving home in Lengby, Minnesota after visiting a friend. There was a heavy downpour of snow on that day of December 20, 1980. Hilliard’s car skidded on an icy road and lost control into a ditch. Luckily, she was unhurt from the accident.

Hilliard knew she’ll froze to death if she stayed inside. So she got out of the car, started walking on a gravel road, and struggled to brave the mad snow to reach someone she knew who lived nearby.

Hilliard walked for 2 miles to her friend’s house despite the -22ºF temperature.

However, it was negative twenty two degrees (-22ºF) temperature that time and her friend’s house was quite far away. After walking two miles in the snow, she finally reached her friend’s home. But her legs started freezing and due to exhaustion, she collapsed near her friend’s driveway.

Jean recalled that she arrived at her friend’s driveway around 1 AM. But due to extreme tiredness, she no longer have strength to walk further. She fell down and collapsed on the cold ground.

Jean collapsed due to exhaustion and her body slowly froze.

She lay there in the pavement for six hours in a state of unconsciousness as her body slowly froze as if turning her into an ice sculpture.

When Mr. Wally Nelson walked out the door at 7 o’clock the next morning. He saw Ms. Hilliard frozen like a human ice sculpture and thought she was dead since her face looked pale like a ghost. Mr. Nelson loaded her ”diagonally” in the back seat of his car and immediately rushed her to Fosston Municipal Hospital. But the doctors had no idea how to save her. Her body was unresponsive to any form of medical care.

Dr. Edgar Sather told The New York Times,

Doctors were unable to give her intravenous feedings because ‘she was frozen too solid to penetrate the skin.’

The doctors didn’t know what to do with her frozen body.

According to the doctors, Hilliard was breathing really slow and getting just eight heartbeats per minute. They couldn’t even insert the thermometer to take her temperature. She was frozen rock solid. None of her joints were moving. They couldn’t move any of her body parts, and could not even pierce her skin for a needle. Her eyes were unresponsive to light. Everything was dead frozen and there seemed to be no hope of life for her. They just placed warm and moist packs around her body to raise the body temperature.

“The reaction didn’t appear until two or three hours after she started thawing out,” Dr. Sather said. “The body was cold, completely solid, just like a piece of meat out of a deep freeze.”

Around 1 PM, Jean started making noises and requested water. Miraculously, she came back to life after her mother held her hand and prayed.

It was only later that night when Jean’s hands and arms began to defrost. And by the third day, her legs were able to move too. The doctors were stunned to think that Hilliard miraculously survived without undergoing any amputation. Interestingly, the prediction of the doctors of Jean losing both her legs was proved wrong. The doctors were pretty amazed at this and said it was the first time they ever saw such a miracle.

After 49 days, Jean was discharged from the hospital and she was as good as new!

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Dr. George Sather, who helped treat the young woman, said,

“I can’t explain why she’s alive. She was frozen stiff, literally. It’s a miracle.”

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