The Washington native was rescued with extreme hypothermia and faint pulse but he made a miraculous recovery after his heart stopped for 45 minutes
Michael Knapinski, 45, was unconscious, had extreme hypothermia, and his heart essentially stopped shortly after he was brought to the ER unit at Harborview Medical Centre in Seattle.
The Washington native was hiking in the national park last week when he got lost in below-freezing conditions.
He was rescued by the Navy crews, reports CNN.
When he was brought to the ER, he had no major injuries but had a faint pulse. So, the team of doctors decided to use the life support machine known as ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation), Dr Jenelle Badulak, an intensive care unit doctor at the hospital said.
The specialised heart-lung bypass machine works by removing blood from the body and running it through an oxygenator before pumping it back in. The treatment has only been around since 2013 and it does not guarantee recovery but can sometimes be lifesaving.
Badulak said the reason the team chose this particular machine is because Knapinski's organs were so cold from the freezing conditions that the organs were able to function with less oxygen, which essentially buys doctors more time to restart the heart.
After 45 minutes, the ECMO machine had successfully gotten Knapinski's blood flowing and then the team warmed his body back to a temperature that the heart could function at and shocked his heart one more time.
"The team was confident that the heart would start beating again," Badulak said. "The main concern was his brain and whether there had been any permanent damage while his heart was stopped."
However, Knapinski opened his eyes two days later.
"When I woke up, I just really didn't comprehend what had happened," said Knapinski, "And, I'm extremely grateful to everybody here at the hospital for not giving up on me," he added.
Knapinski was discharged after just eight days in the hospital, and Budak said he will make a full recovery.
"In the five years that we've had an ECMO programme at Harborview, we've only had a handful of people walk out of the hospital after hypothermic cardiac arrest. So, Michael's case is certainly uncommon," Badulak added.