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 Post subject: Re: Death by hypothermia
PostPosted: July 1st, 2018, 4:50 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2012, 1:10 pm
Posts: 16
The US army study is relevant if you have no other clothing to put on--might as well put on a hat.

I had a stage 1 hypothermia experience. We were climbing in August in southern BC. During the day, we got rained on and put on warm layers, rain gear and boots with socks. Our/my mistake was not eating enough. We topped out at 9k feet after the sun went down. Temps were under 10deg C and there was a stiff breeze. We descended until we lost the trail and crawled into a tiny cave (lucky) that kept us out of the wind. We covered ourselves in a mylar tarp. I began to shiver uncontrollably, so much so that my teeth and jaw hurt from the jarring that I could not stop. Once i got food in me, I was fine. At daybreak, we exited the cave and descended without issue.

I understood that the act of removing clothing comes when the body's core temp drops and in a last ditch effort, it sends blood to the extremities. Hence, the victim feels warm and sheds clothes.

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 Post subject: Re: Death by hypothermia
PostPosted: July 1st, 2018, 5:12 pm 
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Joined: February 24th, 2005, 1:15 pm
Posts: 234
I was on a search team incident a few years ago wherein a man in the army of another country (a captain who had lost his men during a battle in Afghanistan) traveled to Saranac Lake NY in the cold of winter (first time in the USA for him). He purchased a considerable amount of alcohol and proceeded to a trail, climbing a nearby minor mountain with no other provisions or gear, leaving a note to his family in his hotel room. He was found a couple of days later in a small clearing a short distance off the trail. The coroner's official finding was: "suicide by hypothermia".


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 Post subject: Re: Death by hypothermia
PostPosted: July 10th, 2018, 10:36 am 
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Joined: August 19th, 2007, 5:40 pm
Posts: 469
Location: Timmins
I can tell you Hypothermia is not fun.... this is long and may be a bit ‘rambly’ but here is my encounter.

Last August I competed in the Adventure Racing World Championship, a grueling 7 day, non-stop race that had teams mountain bike, trek/bushwhack, paddle and climb/ropework, 800km across the state of Wyoming all while navigating a wilderness course via map and compass. https://arworldseries.com/

On day 6, a wicked storm blew through during a lengthy lake and river packrack section. Teams that were on the water made a bee-line to shore and hunkered down under what shelter they could find. There wasn’t much as we were paddling through the high desert of Wyoming…. Our team took shelter under some sage brush and slept out the rest of the storm, pummeled by hail, high winds, torrential rain and lightning. I even saw a funnel cloud form on the distant ridge!!

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When we awoke, the sun was setting and the evening chill was starting to creep in. Temperatures in the high desert can reach a scorching +40C during the day, but plummet to below freezing during the night. I had all team members strip down and put on their dry clothes, as we re-grouped and got our packrafts ready to continue. We all did some jumping jacks and light aerobics to get the blood flowing and generate some much needed body heat. The shock to them was that right before we got on the water, I told everyone to change back into their wet clothes. The idea being, you always keep a spare change of dry clothes for another situation where you need to keep warm. While paddling, we would generate heat and stay warm despite the wet clothes. This worked perfectly and we reached the landing of the next stage amongst a flurry of emergency personal who were treating racers for various stages of hypothermia. Four teams dropped out as a result of the storm and chill. The CP staff looked on in bewilderment as we pulled ashore, cheery, chipper and warm.

We assumed we had escaped the grasp of Hypothermia…..

Later that night, we were pushing up the backside of Casper Mountain on the final bike leg. We had slept a grand total of 5.5hrs in the subsequent 6 days and needless to say, our bodies were beat. As we were summiting (read pushing/hiking our bikes through heavy clay – a result from the rains), we were joined by several other teams. It’s night, it's dark and all you can make out are the headlamps of others. It can be tricky to peg down who your other 3 teammates are in these situations. After a couple hours of slogging, our Sat communicator went off and the RD approved use of a paved side road to reach the summit. It's a much longer go around (+50km), but in the long run it would be faster than hiking our bikes up 4000ft through tire sucking clay. Upon receiving this news we turned around, but I only counted 2 lamps.... our teammate John was missing!! My co-nav Gregg, communicated that he had spoken with John 5mins ago, but had lost track of where he was in the scramble to re-plot the new route to the summit. Scrambling back down, we found him 200m below us, bivyed out in a ditch, alone and asleep. CRAP! Telltale signs something was gravely wrong.

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We coxed John back on his bike and he attempted to ride down but he could barely keep balance and started showing signs of severe confusion. Gregg and our other teammate, Molly, tried to support him on the ride down as I was pretty useless in this regard (I broke 3 ribs in a bike crash 20hrs earlier). Eventually, after a great deal of struggling, we had descended roughly 800ft to a now paved road. It was 4am and very cold. I would estimate the ambient temp was hovering around freezing and the cold crept into our bones due to sweat and still wet packs/bibs from the intense rains that had swept through hours earlier.

John was now in a deep state of confusion. He did not know his name, what we were doing and where we were. He was shivering, mumbling, clumsy and showed signs of a weak pulse. All signs pointed to Hypothermia and Shock. It's important to note that as you become more fatigued and exhausted, your risk for hypothermia rises as your tolerance for cold falls. We assessed the situation and biviyed out in a ditch. We got John into warm dry clothes, wrapped him in emergency blankets and cuddled with him to share body heat. We had him take some fluids, electrolytes and small amounts of solid food which was a slow and arduous process. If we called for an evac, our race (we were mere hours away from being official finishers among a ~60% DNF rate) would be over and we toed a very fine line between doing so. Further, a full response unit would likely take 1-1.5hrs to arrive, so the situation was very much in our hands to control.

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When the sun rose an hour later, John showed some minor signs of improvement. His pulse strength had improved and he was able to mumble semi-coherently (though he was still confused). We knew we had to get him to a warmer, lower elevation and made a small goal of getting down to the nearest major roadway and reassessing there. Wrapping John in layers of emergency blanket, we slowly made our way down the mountain. As the sun crept higher, John’s condition improved. His biking was still erratic and he bailed into the ditch on more than one occasion. Eventually, the blanket layers started to peel off and John was able to get more fluids and food down.

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File comment: John, regaining motor function
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Reluctantly, we made the decision to skip the final checkpoint on the summit of Casper Mountain and ride into the finish line unranked but as a team. It was an emotional time crossing that line and I admit there were tears by all. John immediately went to medical and was treated accordingly. As we were about to finalize our race by ‘punching’ the finish line checkpoint, the Race Director came up to us and said, “You know, there are still 3.5hrs left on the clock. If you don’t punch in now but go and grab that final checkpoint within the time limit, you can still finish”.

With this news, we rushed to the medical tent and relayed the info to John. We had decided it was his decision to make, but he responded with a resounding “hell yes, let’s go for it.”

Still weak from his ordeal, we proceeded to bike up to the summit of Casper Mountain. John was ‘on-tow’ (bike line towing another bike), behind me due to some lingering weakness. Despite my broken ribs, I was still the workhorse on the team and towed John up to the peak at a blistering 6-9kph. I was really going through the motions at this point. I went from crying to laughing, to shaking to sobbing to pure untapped bursts of excitable outputs. We were all ridging a super high which words cannot even begin to describe.

Long story short, we got back with half an hour to spare and completed the race as fully ranked, World Champ finishers. John made a full recovery, but his memory of the ordeal, a span of nearly 7hrs, is almost non-existent.

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File comment: The team, hanging out in the finishers tent
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 Post subject: Re: Death by hypothermia
PostPosted: July 10th, 2018, 11:14 am 
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Joined: April 30th, 2010, 4:11 pm
Posts: 37
Location: Georgetown, ON
The moral of Brad's story is how this is a situation that can quickly spiral out of control, especially if one is alone. All the primary symptoms motivate the individual to stop, slow down, or otherwise lose the ability to look after themselves.

Obviously I cannot top this, but will contribute anyway.

In early April the dragonboat ran aground on one of the breakwaters at Sunnyside Beach in Lake Ontario. Three members managed to climb out into the concrete while everyone else on the team ended up in the water and I was one of the last to be brought to shore. Uncontrollable shivering means sitting still on a bench inside the change room, tucked into the fetal position, hands in armpits and still not being able to warm up. It is a very helpless feeling.

At the 2011 Toronto Marathon where it rained, was windy, and maybe 11-12C. Another time at the Around the Bay Race where I underdressed. So this is more than an entire day's worth of calories expended in about 4 hours and then you stop. Your heart rate drops and you are already exhausted. I lay down on one of the cots in the massage tent unwilling to get up until they put me in front of a propane heater.

The real pain though comes from hockey. After taking the skates off and putting my feet under the dash to be warmed by the car heater, that feels like your toes are on fire.

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 Post subject: Re: Death by hypothermia
PostPosted: July 16th, 2018, 9:44 pm 
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Joined: September 7th, 2017, 4:57 am
Posts: 18
Allan Jacobs wrote:
Burchill: Thanks!
I have never had hypothermia.
But I too know from personal experience that recovery from severe frostbite is painful.


Frostbite is very painful for me either, can't imagine going through hypothermia.


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 Post subject: Re: Death by hypothermia
PostPosted: July 18th, 2018, 7:52 pm 
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Joined: January 22nd, 2005, 12:16 pm
Posts: 3931
Location: Toronto
My reading has it that no pain is associated with death from hypothermia.
I don't believe a particular claim to the contrary.
Regards, Allan

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