In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

May 22, 2014

Frozen in our memories – Paulie Hynek’s story

By Hoyt Finnamore

HynekPaulie760Everyone loves a happy ending. And, we figure, a good follow-up. So we were happy to see a recent story on Paulie Hynek, produced as a special report for the Mayo Clinic 150th Anniversary Story Collection. On Feb. 27, 2001, at two years of age, young Paulie wandered outside during the night and was found frozen in a snowbank outside his Wisconsin home by his father, Mark Hynek. The elder Hynek, after checking on his son, not finding him, and searching the entire house, stumbled out into a bitter cold dawn to find Paulie curled up in the snow, one hand tucked against his heart, the other outstretched and as white as frost. The story only gets more dramatic from there.

Mark Hynek snatched up his frozen child and ran into the house to call 911. Within minutes of his heartbroken announcement to the dispatcher, "I've lost my boy," Gold Cross paramedics were on the scene and Mayo One was in the air, its crew preparing to do a "scoop and run" to Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, where trauma and cardiac teams stood at the ready while a pediatric intensive care team assembled to chopper in from Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Although it was hard to imagine, "whenever there's hypothermia involved and it's cold, even if there's a full arrest, especially with a kid, you know there's a chance of survival," says Mayo One Flight Nurse Brian Murley. Paulie's heart had been beating until he got so cold that it arrested, according to Robert Wiechmann, M.D., a cardiac surgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. That gave the medical team a chance. 

The team aboard Mayo One did "all the right stuff" en route to the hospital, and doctors in Eau Claire "went to the operating room to warm him up." They opened his chest and ran his blood through a heart-lung machine, and within seconds, his heart started to quiver. "To me, it was a sign of life. It was amazing," says Dr. Wiechmann. Paulie soon regained a normal heartbeat, doctors closed his chest, and another Mayo One crew transported him to Rochester for the remainder of his care.

"My expectation was that Paulie would have problems with his lungs or problems with his heart or problems with his kidneys, all the kinds of things that you expect when someone's heart stops, but those

things really were very, very minor in Paulie's case," says Randall Flick, M.D., Mayo Clinic Children's Center. That's a credit to the work of the entire team, according to Brad Grewe, M.D., a Mayo Clinic Health System surgeon. "It's no one person. It's no one decision. It's no one step. It's everything from the moment that the call went in."

Or, as Paulie puts it: "Everybody knew what they were doing, you know, and I don't think they really, like, freaked out about it, but they knew they had to fix me basically. So they just did their job and got it done, I guess you could say … They got it done right."

Paulie is now a high school freshman who plays football at Eleva-Strum High School, does farm chores and, according to reports, teases his younger sisters. Of course, he doesn't remember his ordeal, but he is grateful that "everything was at the right place at the right time."

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Tags: Patient Stories

I remember hearing about this in the news so many years ago – thank you so much for the update on this young man – how wonderful to read he is doing so well!


I remember that night very well. We were working in Arcadia and it was just an exceptionally cold night. We drove past their farm on the way home. I could not believe it when in the morning we heard that a child had been outside in that cold night and was next to frozen. I felt so bad to think that he was out there when we went past their farm. So glad that you have recovered Paulie

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