- Michael Knapinski was hiking back from Mt. Rainier when he got lost on his way down and endured freezing temperatures overnight.
- After he was rescued, he was brought to the hospital where he suffered a cardiac arrest.
- His heart stopped beating for 45 minutes, but after 2 days of being unconscious while on artificial life support, he finally awoke.
Lazarus came back from the dead after 4 days. But Michael Knapinski, 45, was brought back to life by a scientific miracle after being dead for 45 minutes.
As Dr. Saman Arbabi of Harborview Medical Center told the Seattle Times, “He came back from the dead. Maybe not medically quite correct, but his heart wasn’t beating for more than 45 minutes. It’s amazing.”
Knapinski went hiking with a friend in Mt. Rainier. They decided to separate with him descending on snowshoes and his friend on skis. But after he failed to show up in their supposed meeting place, his friend informed authorities.
Due to inclement weather, the rescue team had to call off operations. Knapinski said, “I’m not sure what happened. I think I fell.” Conditions at the mountain were “whiteout” and he could not see anything. He had to endure freezing temperatures (16 degrees).
Fortunately, he was found and airlifted to Harborview Medical Center. He was unconscious. He had a pulse but he soon went into cardiac arrest.
Dr. Jennel Badulak said, “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.”
They attached him to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which pumps blood outside of the body, then sends it back in.
Badulak said, “You’re rebooting the most complicated computer in the world: the brain. It shut down. It got cooled on Rainier, and it was completely offline. His heart wasn’t working.”
After two days, Knapinski finally regained consciousness.
ICU trauma nurse Whitney Holen shared that it was an emotional event for everyone. “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.”
Although he still has to stay in the hospital to allow his skin to recover from frostbite, his kidneys to function properly, and his heart to circulate blood regularly, Knapinski vows to dedicate his second chance at life to the service of others just like his medical team did for him.
He will continue helping in building houses for foster children through Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, as well as giving back and volunteering for the Salvation Army Food Back in Seattle.
Knapinski said, “As soon as I get physically able, that’s going to be my calling in life. Just helping people. And for the medical team, he says, “They did one heck of a job at keeping me alive. I’ve got a million people to thank.”