January 26, 2016 2:17 pm
Updated: January 26, 2016 2:19 pm

Frozen to death: How U.S. man with no pulse came back to life

Justin Smith, 26, of McAdoo, Pennsylvania is what doctors are calling a medical miracle. Smith was found nearly frozen to death on the side of the road about one year ago. Last week, he was able to thank the medical professionals who helped save his life.


His friends call him the Iceman.

When 26-year-old Justin Smith was found lying in the snow, he had no pulse or heartbeat. He had been there nearly 12 hours in -5 C and it was snowing.

At first glance, it seemed as though the Pennsylvania man was dead. But in what doctors call a medical miracle, Smith was brought back to life.

It was Smith’s father, Don, who found his son’s toes peeking out from a snowdrift on the side of the road one year ago.

“I looked over and there was Justin laying there,” he told local TV station WNEP.

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“He was blue. His face – he was lifeless. I checked for a pulse. I checked for a heartbeat. There was nothing,” Smith’s father recalled.

READ MORE: Brrr, it’s cold outside! What you need to know about health and winter weather

When paramedics got to the scene, they thought they’d lost Smith, too. Police draped Smith in a white sheet, while the coroner was called in to investigate.

It wasn’t until Smith turned up in hospital that his fate turned around. The doctor on duty, Gerald Coleman, noticed Smith’s body was ice cold.

“My clinical thought is very simple: you have to be warm to be dead,” Coleman told local reporters.

“Something inside me just said, ‘I need to give this person a chance,’” he told the Standard-Speaker newspaper.

READ MORE: Canadian scientists study snow slips and falls in winter laboratory

He jumped into action. Paramedics performed CPR on Smith as doctors pumped Smith full of warm, oxygenated blood using a therapy called extracorporeal oxygenation (ECMO).

By evening, Smith’s heart started to beat once again.

READ MORE: Slipping on your back, breaking bones or triggering a heart attack – Should you be shovelling the winter snow?

Two weeks later, he woke up from his coma. He was weak, disoriented and had lost his toes and both pinkies but had no signs of brain damage.

“I consider myself a miracle,” Smith told local reporters.


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