How did Jean Hilliard recover after being frozen solid?

Temperature: -25º

Nurses tried to save Jean


December 20, 1980. On bitterly cold morning in Lengby, Minnesota, a man opened his back door to find his 19-year-old neighbor, Jean Hilliard, laying in the snow. She was literally frozen solid.

Jean Hilliard

The night before, Jean’s car had ran off the road and gotten stuck.  Jean was trying desperately to reach her neighbor’s house.  The temperature was twenty-five degrees below zero.

At the small local hospital, Dorothy Killian of the nursing staff was stunned:

“She was so cold, it was like reaching into a freezer, like picking out a frozen stick of wood.  Her face was absolutely white. Just this ashen, death look. We did hook her up to the monitor, and we got this agonal rhythm– like one beat.  It was just like one and nothing. Then two. We knew that we had something, but that’s a death rhythm.”

Dr. Ryan Kelly was called in:

“She was severely frostbitten. None of her limbs would bend or move.  And, really, things looked very grim. When a person gets frostbite, what we’re basically talking about is freezing of the limbs. That actually means ice crystals forming in the cells, and in so doing, they destroy many of the cells of the body. After the hands and feet maybe start the initial stages of frostbite and the core temperature of the body drops,  the heart, the lungs, the internal organs of the abdomen, the brain, when those start to cool, it becomes more and more difficult for them to perform their functions, until finally they stop. At that point, the patient would more than likely die.”

The hospital staff was doing everything it could.  But Rosie Erickson, a hospital office worker, worried it wouldn’t be enough. She knew that Jean needed a miracle:

“I called the pastor of our church and I stated simply that Jean Hilliard from the Lengby area was brought into the hospital in a frozen condition, very critical, and that she needed prayer.”

With the blessing of the family, the word went out. A prayer chain started about 9:00 that morning.  Within 10 minutes, more than 30 people were praying for Jean.

The odds against Jean were enormous. But two hours later, Jean suddenly went into violent convulsions.  It was a good sign, but the danger was far from over.  Doctors worried that even if Jean regained consciousness she might have serious brain damage.  And the frostbite was so severe that amputating Jean’s legs seemed inevitable.  Then Jean regained consciousness:

“I woke up in the hospital about noon. Things were kind of hazy and people were asking me questions as to who I am and things like that.  And I couldn’t figure out why they were talking to me that way or why they were treating me that way. Of course, I knew these people. Of course I knew who I was. I mean, what’s the big deal?”

Sandra Klicker, Jean’s sister, was there:

“When Jeanie first came to and we knew that she was going to live, it was an extreme relief. But what was more miraculous to me was her legs recovering. Every time we lifted the sheet, we could see the white just moving down. The black was disappearing little by little, and to me, I still think that was just unbelievable.”

Jean spent 49 days in the hospital.  In defiance of everything her doctors knew about frostbite, she recovered completely.  Dr. Ryan Kelly was amazed:

“It was enough that she survived. That was a wonderful enough thing. But to have this added gain of not losing any fingers or toes, and in fact, just having what I guess would be minor scars, this is remarkable.”

Jean credits her survival and astonishing recovery not only to the doctors and nurses who cared for her, but also to the friends and neighbors who prayed for her:

“There are other people across the nation that same night that were found in the same condition I was in. And they died. I just think without all those people that I might not have survived.”

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eight with Robert Stack and in season one with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.



  1. Avatar

    Brittany Howard

    Her face was ashen and her eyes were solid with no response to light. Her pulse was slowed to approximately 12 beats per minute. It has been suggested that due to having alcohol in her system, her organs remained unfrozen, which prevented permanent damage.[3] I found this from her Wikipedia page


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    Yall god fearing cucks need to put more faith in your fellow man and the people who put their lives on the line to save you. They just happened to pray by coincidence. People pray all the time and people die. It’s the incredible doctors and the alcohol in her bloodstream that saved her life. Grow up and stop believing fairy tales


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      We’ll I’ll be sure not make any best on your recovery should you be frozen solid!! Amen to that.


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      Camilo curdunos

      I will pray for you. Your life must be very empty. With nothing to look forward and no hope. Yes I believe in science, but nothing moves without the hand of God. Maybe someday you will open up your eyes. May God have mercy on your soul.


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    She is real, i worked with her. Jean now lives in Cambridge,MN.


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    It wasn’t god lol it was science im wondering why the blood cells in her body didnt freeze and cause problems very strange and intriguing.


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    While cases like this are rare, they’re not unknown. As the body core temp drops everything slows. Breathing is all but suspended causing the heart to slow. The amount of oxygen needed for organ function drops dramatically. This is the same process thathas allowed children who have spent upwards of 30-40 minutes submerged in freezing water to survive.


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    I’m going to use her story for a project. I find it very interesting and I really want to share it.


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    Clearly she has Wolverine’s regenerative capabilities. Lets get some adamantium strapped to her, pronto!


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    Who writes for “Unsolved Mysteries”? Jean was lying(not laying) in the snow; her car had run(not ran) off the road. The lack of grammatical knowledge exhibited by many of those who submitted comments is understandable; however, ” Unsolved ” would do well to employ someone with greater journalistic ability.


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      “greater journalistic ability”??goodness….. lying = not telling the truth;
      laying = resting/placing something/positioning… and ran is the past tense of run… wew. hope you won’t breed….


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      Sorry, tube but anonymous is correct.
      The second meaning of lie has lay, lain, lying. I understand that this use denotes position whereas laying denotes action. e.g. the workman was laying the tile, and the tiles were lying on the floor. Since Jean wasn’t doing anything active she was passively lying in the snow.
      The past is divided into two sections with three tenses, the time before and action, the action, the time after the action continuing to the present; called past perfect, past, and perfect. ‘Run’ is past which is what happened here.
      ‘Had run’ is perfect which is incorrect because the car has finished running into the ditch.


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    I wonder if she had alcohol in her system… that may have helped her not freeze to death


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    Hello! I am Jean’s 2nd cousin and I can assure you, this story is 100% real. I know it is hard to believe, but this was just an extremely rare case in which Jean was very lucky. Whether or not you believe it was the prayers or the doctors, the story is real. Personally, I believe that the amazing people who prayed for her and the doctors and nurses who helped her both had an impact on her miraculous recovery.


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    God is in control and knows what He is doing. WE LOVE GOD!!!


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    Absolutely incredible and an amazing story. I’m so happy that she fully recovered and living her life with her three daughters. I wish her the best of luck wow she is truly blessed! The power of prayers 🙂


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    This is real! WOW


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    HMM maybe they should start and experimenting and see if it can be re done


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    its true ITS TOTALY TRUE


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    this is truly amazing. and i say everyone has got to do with helping jean. we love u jean!!!


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    Rev. Kevin

    Its so awesome how doctors and science was able to cure this woman. God had nothing to do with this, thank the doctors.


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    jesus rains!


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    Anyone who says it isn’t real needs to look up facts before they run their mouths. If you did that, you would know this is a true story. Duh.


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      It is kind of mean of God to freeze a woman almost to death and then bring her back. I suppose it is just his way and she should have preached the Gospel a little harder if she didn’t want to be frozen in the first place. Silly girl.


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    omg this is so tru


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    I’m at a loss of words


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    isaac sundquist

    NO JUST NO!!!!!


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    edson lazaro

    prayer changes things


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