Harborview team’s intense effort saves Rainier hiker

Michael Knapinski's heart stopped for 45 minutes, but extended CPR and use of a heart-lung bypass machine revived him.

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Michael Knapinski, 45, of Woodinville, Washington, expressed gratitude after his rescue from Mount Rainier National Park and lifesaving efforts from a team at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. 

"I'm already a pretty grateful person, but this is just life-changing," Knapinski said. 

He and a friend had started hiking on the mountain on Nov. 7, and intentionally separated to explore different areas, but then got caught in whiteout conditions. Search and rescue efforts found him on Nov. 8 and a Navy helicopter crew brought him to Harborview, which staffs the only Level I trauma center in Washington. 

Upon arrival, Knapinski's body was 70 degrees Fahrenheit. His heart subsequently stopped, but UW Medicine emergency and critical-care providers performed CPR for 45 minutes and then placed him on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine, which perfuses the heart and lungs with oxygenated blood while removing carbon dioxide. He awoke two days later.

Harborview physicians report that Knapinski's recovery will continue, but the patient is grateful to be alive. “I’ve got a million people to thank,” he told the Seattle Times. He has been discharged from Harborview. 

– Brian Donohue, 206.543.7856, bdonohue@uw.edu

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Tags:emergency medicineCPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)critical careECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation)

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