Nationalgeographic.co.id—One night in 1980, a woman named Jean Hilliard driving the car home after visiting her parents’ house. That night the weather in Minnesota, United States, was very cold and snowing.
Hilliard’s 19-year-old car suddenly broke down in the middle of the road. Hilliard got out of his car and started walking for help. He decided to go to a friend’s house near the road to seek help.
That night the air temperature reached minus 30 degrees Celsius or minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit. Jean Hilliard running in air temperature frozen wearing a season coat cold, gloves and cowboy boots. Until the next day, no one knew what happened to Hilliard that night, whether he had returned home or whether he had managed to get help from his friends.
One New Year’s Eve morning in Minnesota in 1980, a man named Wally Nelson tripped over the body of his friend who was lying on the bed snow. His friend’s body lay only a few feet from Nelson’s door.
Wally Nelson’s friend named Jean Hilliard. Apparently, last night Hilliard fell and lost consciousness. For six hours, Hilliard’s body lay in cold. The warmth slowly flowed away from his body. According to some records, Hilliar’s body has been freeze, completely turned into “frozen congested”.
“I grabbed him by the collar and dragged him onto the porch,” Nelson said in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio.
“I thought he was dead. Freeze stiffer than a board, but I saw some bubbles coming out of his nose,” said Nelson Science Alert.
In George Sather’s words, the doctor who treated him said that his body was cold, absolutely solid, like a frozen piece of flesh.
If it weren’t for Nelson’s quick response, Hilliard might well be one of the thousands of deaths from hypothermia every year. Instead, his story has become part of the new medical lore and piqued the curiosity of the scientific community.
How could Jean Hilliard’s body survive in such a frozen state?
Hiliiard’s body temperature was found to be nearly 27 degrees Celsius, a full 10 degrees below a normal healthy human body temperature. His body was clearly frozen. His face was pale, his eyes became congested, and his skin was reportedly too tough to be pricked with a syringe.
In the words of George Sather, the doctor who treated him, “His body was cold, absolutely solid, like a frozen piece of meat.”
But in just a few hours, warmed by the heating pads, Hilliard’s body recovered. He began to talk during the day, then at night he was able to go home and can live his life as usual.
For her friends and family in her community, it’s all thanks to the power of prayer. But what is the scientific explanation for this occurrence?
Unlike many materials, water takes up a greater volume as a solid than as a liquid. This expansion of frozen water is bad news for body tissues affected by the flu, because the fluid content runs the risk of swelling until the container bursts.
Even some wild ice crystals that expand in the wrong place can penetrate cell membranes. Because the shards of ice crystals are sharp like needles. As a result, black patches can appear from dead skin and muscles. This condition is commonly known as frostbite.
Some animals have developed some fine adaptations to deal with the dangers of sharp, expanding ice crystals in sub-freezing conditions. For example, a deep-sea fish known as the Antarctic blackfin icefish produces glycoproteins as a kind of natural antifreeze. As another example, the wood frog turns the contents of its cells into syrup by flooding its body with glucose, thereby resisting freezing and dehydration.
Without an in-depth examination effort other than external observation, it was difficult to say with certainty how Hilliard’s body had survived the freezing. Is there something unique about his body chemistry?
Minnesota is a midwestern US state bordered by Canada and Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. The state has more than 10,000 other lakes, including Lake Itasca, the main source of the Mississippi River.
Unique factors in Hilliard’s body may indeed exist. However, a much more important question is what exactly “frozen” means in this case. Although low, Hilliard’s core body temperature is reportedly still well above freezing. There’s a world of difference between the “cold to the bone” metaphor and literally condensed water in a vein.
The fact that Hilliard’s body felt solid was a common sign of severe hypothermia, as muscle stiffness increased to such an extent that it could even resemble rigor mortis, the stiffness that occurs in corpses.
That the surface of his body was cold and white, and that even his eyes looked glassy and “solid”, might not actually be a completely surprising condition. Basically, the body will close the channels to the blood vessels under the skin to keep the organs functioning, so that the body will look pale and remain very cold to the touch.
So far, we can only speculate as to whether Hilliard’s “frozen” body was a typical response to cold weather, or whether it had a truly unique ability to withstand such extreme changes in circumstances. It was undeniable, however, that Jean Hilliard was truly lucky.