CLEAR WATER, Wisconsin (WCCO) –A frantic dad made a haunting appeal to a dispatcher in western Wisconsin 20 years ago. Her 2 year old son froze to death.
WCCO documented Paulie Hynek’s incredible fight to come back to life at the time.
We returned to the family farm just south of Eau Claire where decades later a young man deeply appreciates every day.
“Probably a subconscious state of knowing you have a second chance. Whether things are good or bad, you will continue. Things went wrong that day, you know what I mean? And I continued. I guess that’s where it came from, ”Paulie Hynek told us at 22.
On a dairy farm in a town of just 700 people, moving forward is a matter of survival.
“This is how family farms work,” said Paulie Hynek.
It’s no different for the Hyneks, who care for 72 cows and produce around 500 gallons of milk per day.
“You can do whatever you want, but you get yelled at a lot,” Paulie says jokingly.
“We can talk to each other and continue to work side by side. We are a team, ”said Mark Hynek.
Only, during this winter and this week, this team cannot help but look back.
It was 2 a.m. on February 27, 2001 and below zero.
“He is lying in the snow with his eyes wide open. The coldest night of the year, ”said Mark Hynek in 2001.
“His hands when I took him, they were frozen from the wrist down,” he also said.
“Paulie. Paulie. Paulie, ”Mark said when he called 911 that morning as he tried to get him to wake up.
WATCH the original WCCO “Dimension” report on Paulie Hynek
The 2-year-old picked up his mother from the barn after falling asleep in the living room.
“They said I went to bed and froze to death,” Paulie said, pointing now to a snowbank on the sidewalk.
WCCO asked him why he thinks he’s still there.
“In the right place, at the right time, you know what I mean. It took a lot of people to get it right too, ”said Paulie.
Doctor Robert Wiechmann is a cardiovascular surgeon at Mayo’s Luther Campus in Eau Claire.
Where Paulie flew that February morning.
“He was disoriented and cold, lay down and fell asleep and eventually died of hypothermia,” Wiechmann said.
The boy’s body temperature reached 60 degrees. Wiechmann told WCCO that a heart stops beating at 72.
WCCO then asked Wiechmann if he had brought Paulie back to life.
“Well, we warmed it up,” he says.
The team performed cardiopulmonary bypass surgery. Surprisingly, he refers to it as a simple operation where they warmed Paulie’s blood to restart her heart.
“There is so much more to this than medicine. You could have this same scenario 10 more times and maybe never have an outcome like this, ”Wiechmann said.
“Have I seen this work again? No, ”he added.
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“This one was isolated under my chest, apparently, and this one was like that,” explained Paulie Hynek.
A smaller swollen left hand and a slightly shorter leg are Paulie’s only scars.
“My grip strength isn’t the best, but I think it’s probably better than most,” he added.
If he’s not on the farm, you’ll find Paulie at the gym alongside his older brother.
“It’s a pain reliever. You probably know the best part of my day, ”said Paulie.
As a high school graduate and athlete, he’s like many in his twenties who are still wondering what will come next.
“You have to tell yourself like why am I here?” You know what I mean, like your life was saved, so what are you going to do with it? And I guess in a way I’m still trying to figure that out, ”Paulie admitted.
What Paulie will eventually learn is that her life saved her parents that day.
“I don’t have to think about what ifs, a funeral, a cemetery, a gravestone. I got what I wanted. I got what I wanted. What I prayed for, ”said Mark Hynek.
“I got my boy back, I had a second chance,” he added.
The chance to see a son grow up and continue together.
“No matter how good or bad life is, it’s always a beautiful thing you know,” said Paulie.
Wiechmann still sees Paulie every now and then at the grocery store or at Fleet Farm. Her parents used to send the doctor a copy of Paulie’s newsletter every year as a token of appreciation for saving her life.