This Woman Was Frozen Solid For Six Hours And Survived!

This Woman Was Frozen Solid For Six Hours And Survived!

Imagine being so cold that your body turns into ice. This was the chilling reality of Jean Hilliard. One winter night in 1980, Jean faced a situation that tested the limits of her survival. Young Jean suffered a car accident that left her stranded in sub-zero temperatures. She then went to her friend’s house 2 miles away and got frozen solid! Astonishingly, Jean woke up in the hospital with no brain damage after being frozen for six hours. How is it possible to survive being turned into a human icicle? Let’s dive into Jean’s incredible story and the science behind her survival. 

The Night of the Incident

On a cold December night in 1980, Jean Hilliard’s life took an unexpected turn. The 19- 19-year-old Jean was on a night out with her friends and was driving back to her parents’ house in Lengby, Minnesota. Suddenly, Jean’s car skidded on an icy patch and ended up in a ditch. 

With a determination that only comes from the most threatening of situations, she decided to walk for help. Wearing just a winter coat, thin gloves, and cowboy boots, she braved the -30ºC temperatures. Her friend’s house was just 2 miles away and she took a walk. Unexpectedly, she collapsed a few feet away from her friend’s house, unconscious and alone in the freezing night.

Image source: Dailystar / Hub Pages

Found Frozen Solid

The next morning, Wally Nelson (a neighbor of Jean’s friend) found Jean right outside his home, frozen as solid as ice. “I thought she was dead,” he recalled, noting the few bubbles he saw coming out of her nose. Rushing her to the hospital, the medical staff faced a situation they’d never imagined. A young woman, frozen stiff! 

“I grabbed her by the collar and skidded her into the porch. I thought she was dead. Froze stiffer than a board, but I saw a few bubbles coming out of her nose.”

Wally Nelson (Minnesota Public Radio interview)

Doctors at the Fosston Hospital tried to administer needles to her skin but they couldn’t. Needles broke against her solid skin. The severity of her condition seemed to leave little hope, yet the doctors began the slow process of warming her. 

Woman Was Frozen Solid For Six Hours And survived
Image source: NDTV (Jean Hilliard with her parents soon after her recovery at the hospital)

The Medical Miracle

Against all odds, Jean began to thaw. Wrapped in electric blankets, her frozen state gave a unique challenge to the medical team. Dr. George Sather and his colleagues witnessed something they could hardly believe: Jean, once as “stiff as a board,” started to move. Her heart even slowed to a mere 12 beats per minute. 

Experts like David Plummer explain that in extreme cold, the human body can enter a state akin to hibernation. This drastically reduces the body’s need for oxygen and slows metabolism. With the careful warming process, Jean recovered.

“I can’t explain why she’s alive. She was frozen stiff, literally. It’s a miracle. The reaction didn’t appear until two or three hours after she started thawing out. The body was cold, completely solid, just like a piece of meat out of a deep freeze.”  

Dr George Sather (New York Times)

Recovery After 49 Days! 

After 49 days in the hospital, Jean’s recovery was nothing short of miraculous. She had survived temperatures that would have spelled the end for most. Surprisingly, she had her cognitive functions intact. Jean’s story isn’t just a tale of personal survival; it’s a chapter in the ongoing study of human endurance. Her case remains a beacon for researchers and medical professionals, illustrating the body’s remarkable adaptability and resilience.

Woman Was Frozen Solid For Six Hours And survived
Image source: LADbible / Hub Pages


Jean Hilliard’s story is a compelling reminder of the strength of the human spirit and the wonders of medical science. Her survival, aided by a combination of physiological miracles and medical intervention, offers a fascinating glimpse into the limits of human endurance. It invites us to explore other incredible survival stories, each teaching us more about our capacity to withstand and overcome the most daunting challenges.

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