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Updated: Sun, 06 Apr 2014 15:21:28 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Christine Newman's medical miracle: Revived from near-death



John Willcox and Katy Chambers of Squamish Search and Rescue say everything came together perfectly in the rescue of Christine Newman this past week. CBC

John Willcox and Katy Chambers of Squamish Search and Rescue say everything came together perfectly in the rescue of Christine Newman this past week. CBC

A B.C. search and rescue team says an Alberta woman in her 20s who has been living in Metro Vancouver is extremely lucky to be recovering from hypothermia this week, after she was found in the snow by strangers and kept alive with CPR for hours.

Squamish Search and Rescue manager John Howe said Christine Newman's story of incredible survival is one of the rare cases in the world in which a person is revived after their heart stops, after undergoing CPR for hours, because of a low body temperature.

On Monday, Newman went snowshoeing in the Elfin Lakes area of Garibaldi Park, near Whistler, where she befriended a group from Squamish and made her way to the overnight cabin.

At around 2 a.m. she went outside and slipped into a tree well.

She was upright, but stuck, and stayed there for the next seven hours, until about 9:30 a.m., when a group of six to eight other day hikers found her.

She was extremely hypothermic, so much so that her heart had stopped beating. Members of the group pulled her out and began CPR.

Four hours, minute by minute

There was no cell reception, so someone left to find better reception. Squamish Search and Rescue got the call about half an hour later, Howe said.

The remaining members of the group kept her alive by performing CPR for two hours, switching over to a new person every two minutes or so, so as not to exhaust themselves. 

A search and rescue team then arrived, and performed CPR for another two hours until the rescue helicopter arrived.

A B.C. doctor who is a leading expert in hypothermia was in contact with search and rescue crews during that time. He made preparations to receive her at Vancouver General, and initiated special hypothermia recovery protocols when she arrived.

She is now reported to be in stable condition, and is expected to make a full recovery.

John Willcox, a member of Squamish Search and Rescue, said it's almost unbelievable how everything came together to save Newman. 

"The stars were aligned, as far as these people being able to find the young lady, the time they did. To be able to get that call out as quickly as they did, to have the knowledge and skill and training to do initial CPR, which is as we all know is very, very critical in lifesaving measures," Willcox said. "We're lucky to have the Vancouver hospitals so close that can do this kind of lifesaving treatment for severe hypothermia."

Katy Chambers, another member of Squamish Search and Rescue, commended the people who found Newman.

"It was just an incredible feat by the bystanders on scene, and most of them Squamish locals and they just happened to come across her while they were on a day hike, snowshoe [or] ski from Elfin shelter," she said. "A very incredible effort."

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