Jan 27
melaniesidney's picture

Hypothermically Unconscious: Joe's Story (part 1 of two)

Joe was on a regular trip out to check his traps. It was a nice day for Alaska. The temperature was a balmy -5, but with a wind chill of -15. He was out on his snow machine with a little black sled on the back for bringing in firewood,a deer, or whatever he needed to transport. It was just a handy little sled.

It was snowing, but not hard and it didn't seem like any of it was accumulating. Joe was on his way back from checking his traps. He only got a couple minks, not what he was hoping for but not a bad day either. He was a trapper, but since he lived off the land he didn't need much money so it was more of a hobby. He would check his traps once a week and bring the furs to town to sell. He had a nice amount of money saved up in an old coffee can back in his quaint log cabin hidden in a secret compartment in his bedroom.     

As he was riding back home with only a mile and a half to go he noticed something that he hadn't seen before. He slowed down, puzzled, looking to the right a couple yards. There was an indented path in the snow like if something had walked through. The rest of the snow was smooth and pristine like a pillow, a stark contrast to the rutted uneven path that cut through the landscape. Joe hopped off the snow machine and trudged across the deep, crusty snow, wishing it was fine powder. As he approached the path he noticed that is was a human trail. Who ever made it was dragging their feet and stumbling. To Joe’s knowledge there was nobody around for miles and he thought nobody would be stupid enough to walk through the woods in the middle of nowhere Alaska. The tracks seem to be leading from the nearby woods and heading west of his house. He jumped on the still running snowmachine and decided to follow the tracks. The didn’t look too fresh which worried him because this meant that the person who left them could quite possible be dead or pretty close to it. He had no idea what he would do if the person turned up to be dead, but he didn’t want to think about that now. Over the small mound of the hill he saw a lump,  covered in a dusting of snow not too far away.

      He sped up until he reached it and then stopped and jumped off the machine. Cautiously he approached the mass on the snowy ground. He saw movement and froze. It was a small black dog raising it’s head the slightest bit to see him. He saw it try to wag its tail, but to little success. Joe dropped to his knees and pet the dog telling her it was okay. Then he notice the figure curled around the dog. He moved the hood to see a frostbite face of a girl with frozen eyelashes. She was barely breathing and her face was pale with almost no color. He scooped her up and brought her frozen body to the snowmobile. He looked back at the little dog not being able to move. He knew he couldn’t leave it out here to die. He removed the jacket of the girl and put his warmed jacket on her. Then he took her jacket and put it in the sled and went back for the dog, carrying it over and placing it on the jacket in the black sled. He picked up the girl again and sat on the snow machine with her resting her body on his and her back on his right arm, sitting side saddle. He drove home in no time.

    When he reached his house he rushed the young woman into the house and laid her on the couch and ran back out for the dog who seemed to be getting worse. The cabin didn't have a lot of furniture; a couch, a couple old chairs, a table, a bed, and a few other odds and ends. He put the puppy in front of the fireplace and started to rub it to increase circulation. Then he turned his attention to the girl, who was top priority because she was human. He went to his room and brought back his electric blanket. He plugged it in and wrapped her up in it. She was cold and her fingers showing signs of severe frostbite. Her breaths were shallow and he could barely find a pulse. She was severely hypothermic and no matter how much he wanted to save her the outlook was looking rather grim.

    He pulled out his first aid kit to see if he had anything that would be of use. His mother is a doctor and sent him a very extensive medical kit hoping he’d be prepared for any situation, clearly not thrilled of the idea of him living out here alone in the wilderness with no one else around for miles. He found a book of medical problems and what to do. He was amazed to find a hypothermia and frostbite section and read. It said to put a hat on the victim and wrap in blankets, even though skin to skin contact was the best way to warm them. He put the heated blanket on medium and propped her up so she was sitting at a 120 degree angle. He went to the kitchen and boiled some water. He poured the water into bowls and brought them out to the living room. He went and got a washcloth from his linen closet and dipped it in the water. After ringing out he placed it on her face. He put her hands and feet in the hot water to try to warm them and reverse the frostbite. After making sure the girl was okay for a minute Joe went over to check on her dog which he had momentarily forgotten about. He wrapped the dog in a blanket too and set her in his lap and pet her. The tag on her collar said her name was Toto.

    Joe pet the dog for a while and went to the first aid kit and got a thermometer. He took the girls temperature, gasping when it read 86 degrees, thinking it must be broken. All he could think was why was this poor girl out in the cold and how long was she out there for. He didn’t even know her name and she could very well die here in his house before night time.

    After a few hours her face was no longer pale and slightly blue.  Joe was still very worried and had replaced the bowls of water a couple times. She seemed to be improving; her temperature was up to 90 degrees which was still dangerously low. He had eaten some soup for dinner and decided to sleep in a chair in between the couch and the dog on the floor. He had offered the dog some luke warm water to which she accepted.

    The chair wasn’t very comfortable and he couldn’t sleep move than a few hours at a time. Periodically he woke up to stoke the fire and check on the girl and Toto. Her heartbeat was stronger and breathing was becoming normal. By morning her temperature was up to 95 degrees. Her color was back. Joe went out for firewood, making breakfast, getting dressed, and went about his morning routine. In fresh clothes, looked at the dog who wagged her tail when she saw him. He brought her back some water, which she drank, and some venison stew to eat. She scoffed down the food and licked his hand. Holding a bowl of stew for himself, Joe sat back in the chair that he had spent the night in and watched the girl.

    Once he had finished his breakfast and was getting up to bring his bowl to the kitchen when he saw her eyes flutter like hummingbird wings. He attentively dropped to his knees at the side of the couch and grabbed her still cool hand. Her eyebrows came together and she emitted a small moan. Her eyes fluttered again and she slightly turned her head towards the man holding her hand. Flabbergasted, Joe stared at her in amazement. He honestly didn’t think that she would recover, and yet her opens were now open and quizzically trying to focus on him. She tried to move again, arching her back between the shoulder blades, and groaned once more as doing this.

    “Shhh,” Joe urged her to stay still, “It’s okay, just lay there. You’re okay.”

    She looked at him with an expression on her face that he read as puzzled. Her dog seeing this wearily stood and unsteadily walked over and sat beside Joe and licked the girl’s hand. Joe watched as the girl’s eyes softened as the fell on the dog’s face that now rested on the edge of the couch and the edge of her stomach. Slowly she turned her head to look at the cabin and her surroundings and the blanket that swaddled her. She turned her head back to look at Joe.

    “Hey, can you hear me? Do you understand me?” Joe asked her still worried.

    She slowly nodded, still staring at him. She opened her mouth a couple times while squeezing her eyes closed.

    “ Are you thirsty? Would you like a glass of water?”

    Another nod but with her eyes still closed and her face facing the ceiling. Joe went and got her a cup of water, helped prop her up more and slowly let the water drip in a steady, small stream into her mouth. She swallowed and looked at him again as he eased her back down.

    “My name is Joe. You’re safe, I promise. Can you talk? Can you tell me your name?”

    She looked at him and opened her mouth and again, but no sound came out. She attempted to clear her throat and tried again. She opened her mouth and out came a squeak.

    “It’s okay. You can try later when you’re stronger. Would you like to try to eat some venison stew?”

    This was answered again with a nod. Joe went in the kitchen and warmed up a bowl of soup and grabbed another pillow from the linen closet. He went back in the living room and set the soup on the seat of his chair. He took the pillow and used it to prop up the girl to a 100 degree angle. He picked up the soup and pulled the chair closer to the couch. He fed the girl as she graciously took the stew. After that Joe helped her to the bathroom, laid her back down, covered her up and decided she needed her rest. He set Toto on the couch and she laid down on the girl and nuzzled under her hand. Her temperature was almost normal and she seemed fine. Her hands and toes didn’t look great, but considering everything they looked okay.

    Joe went about the house doing small chores, but made sure not to stray too far from the couch. After a two hour cat nap she woke up again and as before Joe sat next to her and held her hand in both of his. He talked to her and she stared and listened. He told her what had happened and how he found her and how he got her to this state. “Can you talk now? If you can’t it’s fine. Can you try to tell me your name? Do you remember why you were out in the snow?”

She cleared her throat and opened her mouth and out came a hoarse whisper this time, “Dottie.” Joe gave her some more water. “Dottie,” she said a little less harsh.

“Dottie? That’s your name? Dottie, like short for Dorothy?” She nodded. “Dorothy and Toto, like the Wizard Of Oz?. Nice to meet you Dottie,” Joe replied with a warm smile.  TO BE CONTINUED (maybe)