In 1980 when 19-year-old Jean Hilliard was taken to the hospital, doctors assumed she was dead. Hilliard was frozen solid, having been caught in sub-zero winter weather after she tried to find shelter following a car accident. In fact doctors described her body as being “completely solid, just like a piece of meat out of a deep freeze.”
She had likely been in that state for several hours, at least.
With no hope of finding a heartbeat and no signs of life, all seemed lost. But then, against all of the odds and against all medical reason she took several shallow breathes.
Eventually her heart began to beat at a rate of about eight times a minute.
According to the Montreal Gazette, who originally reported on the story on December 30, 1980, Hilliard had crashed when her vehicle went into a skid on the icy road. The temperature around her was about 22 degrees below zero, but she tried to walk to a nearby farmhouse that she’d seen a short distance from the wreck.
Although her destination was only about two miles down the road, she never made it—instead collapsing in the frozen terrain.
She was discovered by Wally Nelson, the owner of the home, who said when he found her at the side of the road she was ghost-white and none of her joints would bend.
He rushed her to the hospital, where Dr. George Sather and his brother Dr. Edgar Sather thought she was dead.
“There was no evidence of a pulse or blood pressure,” said Dr. Edgar Sather. “Her body was too frozen to find a vein to get a pulse.”
Dr. George Sather called her survival, in a word, “miraculous.”
Hilliard was eventually successfully de-thawed, and she regained a normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees. Although doctors initially feared that she’d need to have limbs removed, she somehow managed to make a full recovery.
Although it sounds unbelievable, this incredible story is in fact true—and has even been verified by hoax-debunking site Snopes.
Get more information about this medical mystery in the video above.