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Keyboard Hound
12-29-2008, 12:24 AM
I need to have a character freeze to death, but I want him to be found out in the cold and snow alive and then die after he's taken to a warm place, but with no medical attention available. (setting is back in older times).

How painful would such a death be if he's partly frozen and starts to thaw out? Would it be feasible that he'd regain consciousness to the point where he could communicate?

How would a person's eyes look if he is freezing to death?

I would think person finding him would try to warm him up slowly.

I'd appreciate any help so much.

Thanks.

Keyboard

smoothseas
12-29-2008, 12:34 AM
Can't answer right off hand. I'd google hypothermia - that should give you a start.

Sympthoms and treatment should be available.

HeronW
12-29-2008, 01:19 AM
Add frostbite and snow blindness.

vixey
12-29-2008, 01:21 AM
I've heard there's an intense euphoria right before the end.

ColoradoGuy
12-29-2008, 01:52 AM
Check out Jack London's famous short story "To Build a Fire." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Build_a_Fire) It's set during the Klondike gold rush a century ago and has an interesting description, written by somebody who knew the North Country well.

alleycat
12-29-2008, 01:57 AM
On of the best description I know of a person in this situation is the section of Wind, Sand and Star which describes the plight of a real-life pilot whose plane goes down in the Andes.

StephanieFox
12-29-2008, 07:53 AM
You could just come to Minnesota and try it out yourself.

Rabe
12-29-2008, 10:52 AM
When I think about what happens physiologically to a person who freezes to death - I imagine it would be quite painful as they are 'thawed' out and brought back to consciousness.

One of the deals is that the body will start sacrificing the outmost extremities in order to protect the vital core of the body. So those parts die first while the interior of the body can remain alive.

This, when a person comes back to consciousness and begins 'thawing', can be quite painful since much of the extremities will be, in effect, dead.

Sounds interesting though.

Rabe...

Keyboard Hound
12-29-2008, 07:14 PM
Thanks for the suggestions so far, but I don't think I made it clear what I'm needing to know in my first post.

I'm not going to be telling this part of the story from the point of view of the adult who is frozen, but from the perspective of the young child who finds him, already unconscious. The child will see the body taken back to the house and what happens as the family tries to revive him. I did Google, but my googling skills lack a bunch. Mostly all I found was symptoms of hypothermia, inner feelings of the victim as it happens, etc.

I found nothing at all about dealing with the after effects except for warnings of what not to do to try to help the person suffering hypothermia. I found nothing of how it would look to any bystander, especially a young person. The only description I found was a short statement that the skin on the limbs burn as they thaw.

Does anyone--parametic or medical worker--have any idea how this part of the rescue would affect a young child watching? I don't need technical jargon, but how it would look and be told by a child under ten. Incidentally, the child cares about the person.

Thanks.

Keyboard

Thanks.

Kitty Pryde
12-29-2008, 08:47 PM
If someone was found unconscious in the snow, and had fallen unconscious due to hypothermia, he might:

-be naked (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothermia#Paradoxical_undressing)! towards the end stages of hypothermia, a conscious victim can feel extremely overheated (I don't know why) and strip off clothing. So, seeing a naked guy in the snow is pretty scary.
-have large blisters on his nose, ears, fingers and toes that are pink/red and turning to purple
-If he's already unconscious, I would say he probably wouldn't wake up without modern medical intervention. His heart is probably beating very slowly. He would just look like a cold corpse. A more dramatic alternative i'll suggest would be to find and bring him in after he's stopped shivering, but before he loses consciousness. He would be extremely disoriented (say, thinking like a really sleepy 3 year old), sluggish and almost unable to move his muscles. Seeing adults acting disoriented and crazy is pretty scary for a kid. (my experience of this is I was taking a Wilderness EMT course and they had me jump in a 35 degree mountain stream near yosemite for practicing a simulated hypothermia rescue, and i actually got REAL hypothermia. and i was cold, and then i felt really hot, but i did not become so disoriented that i took my clothes off :) )

Rabe
12-29-2008, 10:09 PM
Does anyone--parametic or medical worker--have any idea how this part of the rescue would affect a young child watching? I don't need technical jargon, but how it would look and be told by a child under ten. Incidentally, the child cares about the person.

This is the part where you've taken what you learned and extrapolated it into what the child sees.

I'm not sure of any resource where someone would expose young children to these types of things so they could have the children write out what they felt and how it appeared to them. And if I did find a source, I would be more worried about the whys of such a resource rather than glad it was there.

Just by reading through this thread I already know how I'd write the scene you describe. But that's exactly what needs to be done now - taking the information and writing the scene.

Rabe...

Corpus Thomisticum
12-29-2008, 10:22 PM
I have some qualms about posting this, but in the end I'll let it be your decision. The truth is, ample data on the effects of hypothermia and freezing to death exists, and it was fairly recently made public. The problem is that it derives from Nazi experiments carried out on unwilling patients, mostly concentration camp inmates or Jews from the death camps, in what must be come of the most horrific tortures inflicted on humans by fellow humans. There was a long-standing debate in the medical profession on whether to use the data (given how it was derived), but in the end, the decision was made that it would better honor the memory of those who were tortured and killed to use this data to help modern people avoid similar fates.

The moral debate is presented here:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/naziexp.html

And a summary of the actual data (pertaining specifically to freezing experiments) here:

http://remember.org/educate/medexp.html

Tsu Dho Nimh
12-30-2008, 01:56 AM
I need to have a character freeze to death, but I want him to be found out in the cold and snow alive and then die after he's taken to a warm place, but with no medical attention available. (setting is back in older times).

Ski patrol experience: Often happens. Re-warming is tricky, and the heart often fails if they are roughly handled.

Many of the Titanic's dead were retrieved alive, and they died on rewarming or shortly after.


How painful would such a death be if he's partly frozen and starts to thaw out?
Excruciating, screamingly painful. Think of running hot water over cold hands and multiply that by a couple thousand.


Would it be feasible that he'd regain consciousness to the point where he could communicate?

Yes. He might not be too lucid and accurate, but it's feasible.


How would a person's eyes look if he is freezing to death?

Usually closed, but if they are open, they are usually unfocused and pupils dilated.

Their flesh is stiff, almost waxy feeling, can be pale because the capillaries contracted long ago. Dark-complected people can look "ashy" because you see the skin pigment without the underlying blood.

And it's personal experience, fishing frozen people out of snowdrifts. So far we've rewarmed them OK but the luck won't last.

jclarkdawe
12-30-2008, 02:50 AM
I'm not sure how much a child would actually see in this situation. But first let's separate out the two different conditions -- hypothermia and frost bite. It's completely possible for your person to not have both conditions. By the way, there was just a woman in Ontario pulled out of a snowbank after three days that's been in the news. You might want to look at coverage on that event. http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/americas/12/24/snow.rescue/index.html?iref=newssearch

Hypothermia is the cooling of the entire body, leading to disorientation, slower heart rates, and internal organs shutting down. Once you move beyond shivering, without modern medical intervention, probability of recovery are not high. External signs would be a paling of skin color, eyes unfocused or closed, and a child would probably describe the person as sleepy.

Frost bite occurs to the skin, usually in the hands, feet, ears, and nose. Skin initially goes pale, then dark red/purple eventually turning black. Treatment would probably have the effected areas covered. Black noses and ears would definitely be noticeable to a child. Once skin turns black it is probably going to be amputated in a modern medical situation.

If skin is salvageable, it is going to hurt like hell as it thaws. Screams of agony will be loud and long. Person with frost bite and heart problems could die from the pain. Frost bite will not effect the brain and person will be normal.

Recovery from hypothermia would consist of dry clothes and warm blankets. Person would start shivering as the person warms up. Time span would be over several hours and wouldn't be terribly interesting to watch.

Recovery from frost bite hurts, but other than that isn't terribly dramatic.

I don't think a child would be very effected by this. It's just a long, gradual process. Even if the person dies, I doubt it would be very dramatic. This is just a long process.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe