Mount Rainer. (Elaine Thompson / AP file)

Mount Rainer. (Elaine Thompson / AP file)

Hiker whose heart stopped after Mt. Rainier rescue recovers

The Woodinville man has continued to have some trouble, but doctors said they believe he’ll be OK.

Associated Press

SEATTLE — A hiker who was rescued after being lost overnight in a whiteout in Mount Rainier National Park has been brought back to life after what his medical team is calling an amazing recovery.

The Seattle Times reports that 45-year-old Michael Knapinski, of Woodinville, died in the emergency room at Harborview Medical Center after being airlifted off the mountain last Sunday.

He had a pulse when he arrived at the hospital but soon his heart stopped, said Dr. Jenelle Badulak, one of the first people to start treating him.

“He died while he was in the ER, which gave us the unique opportunity to try and save his life by basically bypassing his heart and lungs, which is the most advanced form of artificial life support that we have in the world,” Badulak said.

The medical team repeatedly performed CPR and hooked him up to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which pumped blood out of his body into a heart-lung machine that removes carbon dioxide, and then back into the body.

His heart remained stopped for 45 minutes. After the doctors restarted it, the medical team spent the night beside him to make sure he continued to stabilize.

Two days later, Knapinski woke up. Trauma nurse Whitney Holen was there and said the first thing he wanted was to call his family.

“He was crying and they were crying and I’m fairly sure I cried a little bit,” Holen said. “It was just really special to see someone that we had worked so hard on from start to finish to then wake up that dramatically and that impressively.”

She added, “It reminded me of this is why we do this. This is why we are doing the long hours, this is why we’re away from our families, this is why we’re here.”

He continued to have some trouble with his heart, kidneys and frostbite, but doctors said they believe he’ll be OK.

Knapinski had left for a snowy hike with a friend on the morning of Nov. 7. His friend planned to ski down the mountain to Camp Muir, while Knapinski was going to snowshoe to Paradise.

“I was pretty close to the end (of the trail) … Then it turned to whiteout conditions, and I couldn’t see anything,” Knapinski told The Seattle Times in a phone interview Friday. The last thing he remembers is taking baby steps down the mountain, surrounded by white.

“I’m not sure what happened. I think I fell,” he said, noting bruises and scrapes all over his body.

His friend reported Knapinski missing when he failed to arrive at the Paradise parking lot that evening.

Three National Park Service teams searched for Knapinski until early Sunday, when winter conditions minimized visibility and temperatures dropped to 16 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8.9 Celsius), the park said. Later that morning, teams returned to their search.

A Navy helicopter team from Whidbey Island began searching in the afternoon when the weather cleared and spotted him in the Nisqually River drainage.

Knapinski said he’s still having some cognitive delays, but is generally in good spirits and making improvements. He said he spends a lot of time doing volunteer work at the Salvation Army Food Bank in Seattle and building houses for foster children through Overlake Christian Church in Redmond.

“And as soon as I get physically able, that’s going to be my calling in life,” he said. “Just helping people. … I’m still just shocked and amazed.”

He added that the hospital staff “just didn’t give up on me. … They did one heck of a job at keeping me alive.”

“I’ve got a million people to thank,” he said.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

Tonya Isabell, left, speaks Thursday, June 18, 2020, during a vigil for her cousin Charleena Lyles, pictured at right, on the third anniversary of her death, in Seattle. Lyles was shot and killed by Seattle police. Also in attendance at the vigil were family members of nearly two dozen people killed by police across the country who traveled to Seattle to urge police reform, an issue renewed by protests against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle to pay $3.5M to settle police wrongful-death suit

Police killed Charleena Lyles at her home in 2017, after she called 911 to report a burglary.

Keith Wagoner
Senator becomes first GOP candidate for secretary of state

Sen. Keith Wagoner will challenge Democrat Steve Hobbs, who was appointed to the statewide post in November

COVID vaccine verification digital record offered in Washington

WA Verify generates a QR code that can be scanned to show that a person is fully vaccinated.

Amazon workers in Alabama get a do-over in union election

The NRLB says Amazon may have created the false impression that the company was the one conducting the election process.

Reagan Dunn to take on U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier in 8th District

The Republican is challenging incumbent Democrat Kim Schrier in a district which could include a slice of Snohomish County.

FILE - In this March 9, 2021, file photo, House members meet in the Statehouse, in Boise, Idaho. An Idaho law banning nearly all abortions would take effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that declared a nationwide right to abortion. The court with a 6-3 conservative majority on Wednesday, Dec. 1 starts hearing arguments over a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. (AP Photo/Keith Ridler, File)
Most Idaho abortions banned if Roe v. Wade is overturned

That would leave the nearest providers for people from Idaho in Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Colorado.

Northwest residents urged to stay alert as storms roll in

The big question is how communities that saw heavy damage earlier from the previous storm will fare.

Feds: Dams helped prevent more severe Skagit River flooding

The Army Corps of Engineers says flooding in Skagit County would have been catastrophic if not for the Ross and Upper Baker dams holding back the rush of rainwater.

Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney, commander of Puget Sound-based Carrier Strike Group 11, in Bremerton on Nov. 23, 2021. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Justin McTaggart)
From Everett, this rear admiral commands a Navy strike group

Christopher Sweeney leads Carrier Strike Group 11, a force of aircraft and ships stretching from here to San Diego.

Most Read