Neurosurgeon walks 6 miles in winter storm to perform life-saving surgery

Dr. Zenko Hrynkiw. Source: WBRC video
Dr. Zenko Hrynkiw. Source: WBRC video

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Neurosurgeon Dr. Zenko Hrynkiw saves lives for a living but Tuesday he needed more than his medical skills to keep a dying patient alive.

"There was a person in the emergency room at Trinity with a massive bleed in the brain, deteriorating," Dr. Hrynkiw explained.

He was at the Brookwood Medical Center wrapping up an early morning surgery when he got that call.

"I told Brookwood that I had to leave, and went to the parking lot, and it was snowing. And snow doesn't really scare me that much, but when I got out of the doctors' parking lot up the hill, unfortunately there were accidents to the right and accidents to the left," Hrynkiw added.

It didn't take long for him to realize driving to Trinity was not an option.

"I just walked down the hill and started walking towards Trinity," Hrynkiw said.

It was about 20 degrees outside and the snow was piling up. One step at a time, Hrynkiw trekked to reach the dying patient.

"Unfortunately I had my slip ons from the operating groom and my scrubs. So I was not really geared up for my adventure," he said.

Along the way he stopped for a few minutes of warmth inside of a parked ambulance and helped stranded strangers push their cars away from a ditch. Thankfully, another "snow angel" stopped to help Hrynkiw.

"Lucky for me a passerby, a sales rep actually, give me a lift the rest of the way," he said.

Nearly two hours passed before he finally reached Trinity Medical Center and within minutes, Hrynkiw was operating on his patient.

"Touch and go for a long time just to control the bleeding [on the brain]," he said.

Hrynkiw called it a miraculous event. The patient lived.

"He was dying and if he hadn't had surgery....It wasn't going to happen on my shift," he said.

Hrynkiw says the long walk wasn't a big deal. He walks regularly and enjoys it. As for the patient, he may have some deficits with speech and cognition, but he is expected to live.

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