10 People Who Survived the Impossible

Back to Life From an Icy Underwater Grave
Dr. Anna Bagenholm was skiing in Narvik, Norway when she fell into an icy river. Gabe Rogel/Aurora/Getty Images

In May 2000, orthopedic surgeon-in-training Dr. Anna Bagenholm, 29, was skiing on a familiar trail outside Narvik, Norway, when she lost her balance on a gully and fell headfirst into an icy river. Her head and body became stuck under thick ice, but she managed to find an air pocket so that she could keep breathing [sources: BBC News, CBS News].

After 40 minutes of struggling to free herself without success, the exhausted skier was in the throes of hypothermia, a potentially lethal condition in which the body loses heat faster than can be generated, which renders the heart, nervous system and other organs unable to work normally [sources: BBC News, Mayo Clinic].

It took another 40 minutes for Bagenholm's companions to cut the ice and drag her out of the cold water. By then, her body temperature had dropped to just 57 degrees Fahrenheit (13.7 Celsius), and her vital signs were so low that she was clinically dead. (Normal body temperature is 98.6 F or 37 C). But emergency doctors managed to revive her by pumping her blood through a special machine that warmed it. After several months of rehabilitation, she returned to normal health, except for a persistent tingling sensation in her hands [source: BBC News].

Bagenholm's case led to the development of therapeutic hypothermia as a protective procedure for some stroke and epileptic patients. In 2013, she was working as a senior radiology consultant at the same hospital where her life was saved [source: Cox].