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He Was Found Frozen Without a Heartbeat, But His Doctors Did Something Amazing



Cold winter morning

It was a cold winter morning in Pennsylvania, Don Smith was just driving around the area when he noticed something strange. A pair of boots were sticking out in the pile of snow beside the road. He squinted his eyes and recognized the pair of shoes. It belonged to his son, Justin. “It couldn’t be,” he whispered to himself.

(National Park Service) 

His car screeched to a halt as he tried to investigate further. 

Shocking discovery

Don went out of his car and walked towards the pair of boots covered in snow. To his despair, there was indeed a body attached to the pair of boots. Don wasted no time and started digging the body out, still desperately hoping that the man is not his son. The body was almost completely buried so he had to do some digging.


Once Don was able to dig enough, he pulled the body out of the snow. He finally saw the man’s face.

A dad’s nightmare


It was indeed his son! Don was horrified, his son’s face had turned into a pale blue color and he looked almost lifeless. He immediately tried to check his son’s pulse, nothing. Don then decided to call 911, he braced himself for the worse yet still remained hopeful. “Is there still a chance?” he’d ask himself. 

Rescue arrived

Rescuers immediately responded to Don’s call despite the harsh snowy weather. It turns out, Justin had been laying in the snow for over 12 hours with the temperature going as low as 5 degrees below zero. 

(Touch Magazine Torch Magazine)

They transported Justin’s body using a helicopter to get him to the nearest hospital. It seems as though all the odds were against him, could his son possibly survive this?

At the hospital

(Deposit Photos)

Don patiently waited as the doctors examined his son. Teams of doctors and nurses would warm Justin’s body up while the paramedics tried to find any signs of life from Justin’s body. A pulse, a heartbeat, anything but after several attempts of reviving Justin, they declared that the boy might be dead.

Horrible news

They draped a white sheet over his son’s body and as he watched, he now understood that his son was dead. It was difficult to accept things because it happened way too fast but there was nothing he could do but watch. 


The police and the coroner then jumped right into action and began their investigation on Justin’s untimely death. But one doctor is convinced that Justin may still be alive. 

A test

Emergency Department Physician Dr. Gerald Coleman didn’t believe that Justin was completely dead. So he requested to be permitted to conduct some tests to determine whether Justin is still alive or not. 

(Newsner Stories EN)

Coleman conducted a potassium test, which determines whether Justin’s hurt muscle activity had been significantly reduced or has completely stopped and the results were unbelievable. 

The Result

Don held his breath as Coleman announced Justin’s test results, the hospital staff was also listening. “His results are normal,” Coleman announced, he was shocked by his own discovery as well. 

(Virtual Medical Assistant)

It’s almost like the entire hospital staff let out a sigh of relief after hearing this and everyone immediately went to work. It’s time to revive Justin once again. 

Reviving Justin

To restart Justin’s heart, the doctors would use a special technique called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation which pumps warm oxygenated blood into Justin’s heart and entire body. 


As the doctors tried to revive Justin once again, Don felt anxious and nervous. He didn’t want to experience having his heart broken once again if the doctors can’t revive Justin for the second time, but there’s nothing he could do but patiently wait again. 

The moment of truth


The doctors and Don observed the monitor as they attempted to revive Justin. To their surprise, his heart slowly began to quiver. The doctors then used shock pedals to get Justin’s heart functioning again. The intense shock restarted Justin’s frozen heart, but that’s not the only problem they have to overcome. Despite having a heartbeat, there is a possibility that Justin’s brain may be dead. 

Brain scan

The doctors were worried. Although they were able to successfully restart Justin’s heart, there is a big possibility that he may just end up getting into a coma. After all, his body had been frozen for over 12 hours.

(The Straits times)

The doctors frantically rushed Justin to the MRI to detect his brain activity.

A miracle


The doctors couldn’t believe their eyes. The machine started picking up electrical signals from Justin’s brain and it only increased every moment. The results were now clear, the state of Justin’s brain was miraculously normal. His father was ecstatic, though he may have to lose a few body parts. 

Waking up

Due to frostbite, the doctors have no choice but to cut off Justin’s toes and little fingers. But it’s a small price to pay for the massive recovery he made. Justin would eventually wake up from his coma and see his dad, just happy to have his son alive.

(national post)

But how exactly was this medical miracle possible?


Ironically, the very thing that could have killed Justin was the same thing that kept him alive. There was a thin line between life and death and fortunately for Justin, the odds were in favor of him. 

(Times News)

Justin survived thanks to his heart staying strong. It would slowly beat for several hours after being buried under the ice and lucky for him when his heart stopped beating, the doctors were able to give him CPR just in time.

The science to this miracle 

His oxygenated blood played a huge role in keeping all his organs alive. The same phenomenon actually happens to animals when they hibernate, managing to reduce both their heartbeat and breathing rate in order to stay alive in extremely cold temperatures. 

(The Franklin Institute)

Justin’s miraculous recovery now proves that no temperature is too low to try to resuscitate someone. Believe it or not, a case similar to Justin’s has actually happened and it was back in 1994!

Little girl

Back in 1994, a five-year-old girl was believed to have frozen to death but she was miraculously brought back to life. 


Karlee Kosolofski was greeted goodbye by her father as he left the house to go to work. He kissed her forehead and tucked her in bed with her mother before he left. But it turns out, Karlee would sneak out.

Big mistake

Dressed in her pajamas, Karlee got up and tried to follow her father. She opened the door and managed to get out without her mother noticing, unaware of the harsh weather waiting for her outside. 


As Karlee walked out, she started feeling unbearably cold. She walked back towards her house and tried to come in, but there was one problem… 

Staying out


It turns out, Karlee was too short to reach the door handle. She tried jumping and reaching as high as she could, but she was unsuccessful. What turned from only a few minutes in the cold, turned to five hours. To make things worse, her body had to endure the below zero winter weather. 

Finding Karlee

Her mother woke up and she saw that Karlee wasn’t beside her. She panicked and tried to look for her all over the house but she was nowhere to be found. She then decided to look outside and as she opened the front door, she was surprised to see Karlee’s stiff frozen body. 

(Laerdal Medical)

Fortunately, she was trained to give CPR and tried to resuscitate Karlee as best as she could, but she was unable to. She then decided to rush Karlee to the hospital. 

Another miraculous recovery

When Karlee arrived at the hospital, the doctors immediately gave her all the medical attention she needed. They warmed Karlee’s body up and attempted to revive her.

(Global News)

Fortunately, they were successful. It was also amazing how Karlee did not suffer from any major injuries aside from the frostbite she developed. Karlee’s lower left leg was amputated but she miraculously didn’t suffer from any brain damage. 

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