Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sister Newspapers' News

August 9, 2012

South Pole stroke victim 80 percent recovered

HAMPTON FALLS, N.H. - The South Pole engineer who riveted world interest a year ago when she couldn't get emergency evacuation from her remote Antartica research station for treatment of a stroke says she's 80 percent back to normal.

But Renee-Nicole Douceur, 59, Hampton Falls, N.H., considers herself lucky to be alive and still has concerns about why it took her employer, Raytheon Polar Services, six weeks to get her airlifted to a hospital.

"All I was asking for was for them to proposition a plane so it could come for me if a weather window opened," said Douceur. "They refused. I felt they were gambling with my life. I knew the longer I went without treatment, the more chance I had of permanent brain damage."

Douceur suffered a stroke at the Amundsen-Scott research station at the South Pole last Aug. 27, and had to wait until Oct. 17, 2011, to board the first cargo flight out.

Douceur's plight played out on the Internet through a website set up by her niece to lobby Raytheon and the National Science Foundation, which runs the Amundsen-Scott station, to move faster to rescue Douceur. Media throughout the world broadcast and published stories about the trapped engineer.

Raytheon officials said at the time they did not consider her condition life-threatening and that it would be too dangerous to send a rescue plane for her any earlier because of the total darkness, extremely cold temperatures and high winds at that time of year at the South Pole.

Douceur, in an interview Tuesday with the Newburyport, Mass., Daily News, said she suffered the stroke while working at her desktop computer, first noticing the effects when her vision faltered.

"I'd been up for 48 hours, I thought to myself, 'You're tired, you just need some sleep,'" she said.

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