HUTCHINSON — The hourglass was ticking on Jason Friesen’s fleeting life when his two guardian angels arrived.
Wind chills reached 25 degrees below zero Monday morning when Larned State Hospital nurse Jason Friesen was stranded alongside the Stafford County roadway for more than four hours.
Friesen saw the life-saving headlights from a Pawnee Valley Community Hospital registered nurse and a Great Bend Regional Hospital employee, who stopped at the scene and provided assistance after 6:09 a.m. Monday.
“I was danger of dying when they saved my life,” Friesen said. “I could not have made it without their help. They could sense my panic. I was bleeding from my hands and one eye was swollen shut.”
Nickerson’s John Murphy, a surgical technologist at Great Bend Regional Hospital, trusted his instincts when he turned his vehicle around after he saw a vehicle off the road and debris near the roadside.
“It didn’t feel like something was right,” Murphy said. “I was hoping that everyone was OK.”
Murphy’s intuition proved accurate when Friesen stumbled out of a nearby ditch.
Murphy started dialing 911, but it required biblical patience and 10 minutes before his call wasn’t dropped and an accurate location was determined.
“I’m a guy who will definitely stop and help somebody,” he said. “Jason’s family has shown immense gratitude and painted me as a hero. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. It took a few minutes of my time.”
Cheri Chance works at Pawnee Valley as a registered nurse in a contract through Cascade Health Services.
“Jason had to have an angel on his shoulder because it was a blessing we were in the right place at the right time,” Chance said. “Thank God. I was so happy, we saw him. I was glad to help him.”
Chance of Hutchinson had slowed her vehicle when she saw the flashing headlights of Murphy’s oncoming vehicle. She invited Friesen to get into the vehicle to escape the frigid weather.
“It was a gut instinct that I stopped,” Chance said. “He was so disoriented. I don’t know how he survived because it was so cold.”
Friesen of Hutchinson was traveling to a nursing shift that started at 3 a.m. Monday at Larned State Hospital. He remembers leaving on time and using his cruise control when he fell asleep at the wheel.
“I did not touch the brakes and the vehicle was airborne for a ways and hit and rolled,” Friesen said.
The 2014 Chevy Impala that Friesen was driving left the roadway, struck a field drive, and rolled 1.5 times, coming to rest on its top sometime after 2 a.m. Monday.
Stafford County deputies and Stafford County EMS were eventually dispatched to a one-vehicle rollover injury accident in the 1300 block of NE 1406 Street, 13.5 miles east of U.S. 281 and K-19.
“I was knocked unconscious and I don’t remember the impact,” Friesen said. “I remember talking to myself. I would close my eyes for a spell and remember waking up. I was in severe pain with my car upside down.”
Friesen was able to get out of the vehicle, but was stranded in life-threatening wind chills, apparently going in-and-out of consciousness.
“That’s a miracle that he held out for four hours,” Murphy said. “He was in a survival mode.”
Hypothermia caused Friesen’s core temperature to drop to 90 degrees from a normal of 98.6 degrees.
“I could not understand why I was so confused, but it was more than 20 degrees below chill temperature,” Friesen said. “I was feeling hypothermia. But I had to lay there for four hours.”
Murphy believes Friesen’s guardian angels had actually arrived earlier.
“Those guardian angels were there when Jason was stuck in the cold for four hours,” he said. “It was just meant to be that I happened to be the guy who shined a flashlight on him.”
Every day brings a new ache or pain. Friesen’s toes are still numb. His hip and knee hurt and his wrists, arms and biceps sustained bruising. He will require some physical therapy for his hip injury.
“That vehicle’s safely features saved me. There is an airbag under the steering wheel and that saved me from the first impact,” he said.
Friesen appreciated the medical attention provided by Stafford County EMS.
“I remember receiving heated IV fluids because my core temperature was so low,” he said. “I was treated for level 2 trauma. I was treated at the hospital for quite a while.”