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Doctor in South Pole Rescue Dies at 57

Obituaries Dr. Jerri Nielsen Fitzgerald 2009

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#1 Nonny

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 06:13 PM

Doctor in South Pole Rescue Dies at 57

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BOSTON (AP) -- Dr. Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald, who diagnosed and treated her own breast cancer before a dramatic rescue from the South Pole, has died. She was 57. Her husband, Thomas FitzGerald, said she died Tuesday at their home in Southwick, Mass. Her cancer had been in remission until it returned in August 2005, he said Wednesday.

She was the only doctor among 41 staff at the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in winter 1999 when she discovered a lump in her breast. At first, she didn't tell anyone, but the burden became too much to bear.

''I got really sick,'' she told The Associated Press in a 2003 interview. ''I had great big lymph nodes under my arm. I thought I would die.''

Rescue was out of the question. Because of the extreme weather conditions, the station is closed to the outside world for the winter. She had no choice but to treat the disease herself, with help from colleagues she trained to care for her and U.S.-based doctors she stayed in touch with via satellite e-mail.

She performed a biopsy on herself with the help of staff.

A machinist helped her with her IV and test slides, and a welder helped with chemotherapy.

She treated herself with anti-cancer drugs delivered during a gripping mid-July airdrop by a U.S. Air Force plane in blackout, freezing conditions.

In a headline grabbing rescue, she was lifted by the Air National Guard in October, one of the earliest flights ever into the station when it became warm enough -- 58 degrees below zero -- to make the risky flight.

After multiple surgeries in the U.S., including a mastectomy, the cancer went into remission until 2005.

''More and more as I am here and see what life really is, I understand that it is not when or how you die but how and if you truly were ever alive,'' she wrote in an e-mail to her parents in June, 1999 from the South Pole.

Nielsen FitzGerald never lost her adventurous spirit and even returned to desolate Antarctica several more times....
:cry:   I was just thinking about her the other day, wondering how she was doing.  

Rest in peace, woman of courage.
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#2 Themis

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 08:55 PM

I remember watching a tv movie (I think it was a movie, not a documentary) about her and was astounded.  At least she had a time of remission and got back to her husband.  What a fighter she was.
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#3 Nonny

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 09:05 PM

View PostThemis, on Jun 24 2009, 06:55 PM, said:

I remember watching a tv movie (I think it was a movie, not a documentary) about her and was astounded.  At least she had a time of remission and got back to her husband.  What a fighter she was.
Susan Sarandon played her in the made for tv movie, Ice Bound, based on her best-selling book ''Ice Bound: A Doctor's Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole.''

She sure was.  I'm glad she got to enjoy a time of remission with him too.
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The once and future Nonny

"Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank, give a man a bank and he can rob the world." Can anyone tell me who I am quoting?  I found this with no attribution.

Fatal miscarriages are forever.

Stupid is stupid, this I believe. And ignorance is the worst kind of stupid, since ignorance is a choice.  Suzanne Brockmann

All things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception and without regard for anyone's feelings. Diderot

#4 Rhea

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 10:05 PM

She certainly had courage in abundance.

Rest in peace.
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