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9780786866847

Ice Bound: A Doctor's Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole

Dr. Jerri Nielsen; Maryanne Vollers Author

9780786866847: Ice Bound: A Doctor's Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole

Jerri Nielsen was a forty-six-year-old doctor working in Ohio when she made the decision to take a year's sabbatical at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station on Antarctica, the most remote and perilous place on Earth. The "Polies," as they are known, live in almost total darkness for six months of the year, in winter temperatures as low as 100 degrees below zero--with no way in or out before the spring.

During the long winter of 1999, Dr. Nielsen, solely responsible for the mental and physical fitness of a team of researchers, construction workers, and support staff, discovered a lump in her breast. Consulting via email with doctors in the United States, she performed a biopsy on herself, and in July began chemotherapy treatments to ensure her survival until condition permitted her rescue in October. A daring rescue by the Air National Guard ensued, who landed, dropped off a replacement physician, and minutes later took off with Dr. Nielsen.

This is Dr. Nielsen's own account of her experience at the Pole, the sea change as she becomes "of the Ice," and her realization that as she would rather be on Antarctica than anywhere else on earth. It is also a thrilling adventure of researchers and scientists embattled by a hostile environment; a penetrating exploration of the dynamics of an isolated, intensely connected community faced with adversity; and, at its core, a powerfully moving drama of love and loss, of one woman's voyage of self-discovery through an extraordinary struggle for survival.

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Review:

Serving as doctor to the Americans "wintering over" at the South Pole in 1999, Jerri Nielsen made headlines when she discovered a lump in her breast that a self-administered biopsy revealed to be an aggressive, fast-growing cancer. No flights in or out of Antarctica are possible during the continent's long winter, and Nielsen's account of giving herself chemotherapy while she and her fellow "Polies" waited for the weather to break is even more gripping than the news reports at the time. She's candid about her pain and fear; the media battle waged by her embittered ex-husband makes her ordeal even more challenging. Interestingly enough, however, this high drama does not overshadow Nielsen's deeper narrative of a woman who came "to the Ice" seeking new meaning in a life shattered by divorce and estrangement from her children. In the back-to-basics world of Antarctic medicine, with outdated equipment, few supplies, and no assistants, she rediscovered her vocation as a doctor, free from the imperatives of corporate-directed medicine. More importantly, Nielsen found spiritual solace in the world's most extreme environment, where she was "introduced slowly to the notion of giving more than you have and using less than you need ... of knowing that all you really own are your own thoughts." She makes the glories of the Pole so palpable that, by the end, readers will not even be surprised when she signs an e-mail to her family, "from the wonderful Ice." --Wendy Smith

About the Author:

Dr. Jerri Nielsen lives in Ohio and is the mother of three children. She continues to practice medicine and intends to do a lot of traveling.

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