Former Mayo physician survives 16-hour crawl through frozen field

After a near-death injury while hunting last December, a former Mayo Clinic physician learned just how important trust can be.

Richard Olsen, MD, a retired developmental pediatrician, broke his leg and crawled more than 16 hours to safety in a frozen field, according to Grand Forks Herald. He was taken to Trinity Health Hospital in Minot, N.D., where he was stabilized and underwent surgery on his leg. He was flown later to Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Mary's Campus in Rochester, Minn., to recover, according to the report.

Dr. Olsen decided Dec. 19 to try a new hunting spot on his cousin's land in a sparsely populated area of North Dakota and forgot to bring his cell phone, according to the report. After falling four feet into a drainage trench camouflaged by brush and snow, he snapped his femur, according to the report. He had to work himself out of the trench and across the field back to the road, using his shotgun to push himself along.

With temperatures far below freezing, Dr. Olsen made it back to the road the morning of Dec. 20. Yet six vehicles passed him waving wildly and shouting, according to the report.

"People get reluctant to stop for someone because of all the stuff you hear in the news," Dr. Olsen told Grand Forks Herald.

Luckily for Dr. Olsen, trucker Bryant Duncan noticed something was unusual about the way Dr. Olsen was standing and stopped for him, wrapping him in a sleeping bag and blankets until an ambulance arrived, according to the report.

"Honesty, I felt like it was God who told me that man was in a bind," Mr. Duncan said, according to the report. "I believe God put me in just the right position to realize the man was hurt."

Mr. Duncan told Grand Forks Herald it was normal for people from Montana to check on people standing on the side of the road, according to the report. No matter what made Mr. Duncan stop, Dr. Olsen believes it saved his life.

"I expect I have quite a long time before I'm going to be able to get up and move around. But the worst part is already behind me," Dr. Olsen said, according to the report. "In my view, it was a Christmas miracle — for my family and everyone else involved in this."

 

More articles on integration and physician issues:

Patient pressure leads half of primary care physicians to issue unnecessary referrals, survey finds
Physicians: Don't miss this memoir on mortality by Dr. Paul Kalanithi
Op-ed response: Why Montana shouldn't build a private medical school

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