December 20, 1980
After an accident and walking 2 miles in -22°F (−30 °C) weather, Jean Hilliard collapses, is frozen solid, is found 6 hours later, and goes on to make a full recovery
During the night, Hilliard had been driving down a rural gravel road when she lost control of her car, sending it into a ditch. Fearing she would freeze to death if she stayed in her car, she began walking to a friend’s home who lived nearby. However, he lived farther away than she had thought and ended up walking 2 miles in -22°F weather, against the wind. Hilliard collapsed 15 feet from her friend’s door where he found her at 7am.
Hilliard’s friend loaded her unconscious body diagonally in his vehicle and transported her to the hospital. There was little hope; Hilliard’s joints were completely frozen, her body temperature was too low for thermometers to read, and fluids could not be administered intravenously as needles could not penetrate her skin. When doctors were able to find her pulse, her heart was beating at just 8 beats per minute.
Despite the low chance of survival, medical staff elevated Hilliard’s temperature with electric heating pads, and within 2 hours she began having violent convulsions, but she regained consciousness. The doctors braced Hilliard and her parents, warning she would probably lose her legs. However, after 49 days in recovery, Hilliard was discharged with no amputations and no permanent damage to her body or brain.
Photo source: Snopes
(Note: though the picture is attached to numerous stories about Hilliard’s ordeal, it is likely not of Hilliard herself and is possibly from a reenactment instead.)