A hiker was rescued and “brought back to life” after being lost overnight in Mount Rainier National Park amid freezing, whiteout conditions last weekend.
45-year-old Michael Knapinski from Woodinville was on a snowy hike with a friend on November 7 when the two separated below the Muir Snowfield.
His friend continued on skis to Camp Muir while Knapinski snowshoed down toward Paradise, where they expected to meet up.
“I was pretty close to the end (of the trail). … Then it turned to whiteout conditions, and I couldn’t see anything,” said Knapinski.
“I’m not sure what happened. I think I fell.”
His friend reported him missing after not showing up at the Paradise parking lot that evening.
Three National Park Service teams searched for the lost hiker until early morning November 8, when winter conditions minimized visibility and temperatures dropped to 16 degrees.
Knapinski was found unconscious with “barely a pulse” in the Nisqually River drainage, about a mile upstream from the Glacier Bridge.
He was brought to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he eventually went into cardiac arrest.
“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,” said Dr. Jenelle Badulak, one of the first people to start treating him.
“He came back from the dead,” said Dr. Saman Arbabi, “Maybe not medically quite correct, but his heart wasn’t beating for more than 45 minutes. It’s amazing.”
After restarting his heart, the hospital’s surgical intensive care unit spent the entire night at his side making sure he continued to stabilize.
Knapinski opened his eyes two days later.
In a video he posted on Facebook, Knapinski called his recovery a miracle and said he’s got “a million people to thank” and just wants to spend his life giving back.
“And as soon as I get physically able, that’s going to be my calling in life,” he said, “Just helping people. I’m still just shocked and amazed.”