Hiker whose heart stopped after Mt. Rainier rescue recovers

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Susan Gregg/University of Washington Medicine

This Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, photo provided by University of Washington Medicine shows rescued hiker Michael Knapinski, 45, of Woodinville, Wash., recovering at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Knapinski was rescued after being lost overnight in a whiteout in Mount Rainier National Park on Nov. 8. His heart stopped for 45 minutes in the emergency room after he was airlifted off the mountain, but the medical team at Harborview used an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine to save his life, according to spokeswoman Susan Gregg. (Susan Gregg/University of Washington Medicine via AP)

SEATTLE – A hiker who was rescued after being lost overnight in a whiteout in Mount Rainier National Park has been brought back to life after what his medical team is calling an amazing recovery.

The Seattle Times reports that 45-year-old Michael Knapinski, of Woodinville, died in the emergency room at Harborview Medical Center after being airlifted off the mountain last Sunday.

He had a pulse when he arrived at the hospital but soon his heart stopped, said Dr. Jenelle Badulak, one of the first people to start treating him.

“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.

The medical team repeatedly performed CPR and hooked him up to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which pumped blood out of his body into a heart-lung machine that removes carbon dioxide, and then back into the body.

His heart remained stopped for 45 minutes. After the doctors restarted it, the medical team spent the night beside him to make sure he continued to stabilize.

Two days later, Knapinski woke up. Trauma nurse Whitney Holen was there and said the first thing he wanted was to call his family.

“He was crying and they were crying and I’m fairly sure I cried a little bit,” Holen 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.”