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Brain Surgeon Walks 6 Miles Through Storm To Save Patient

As cities in the southern U.S. continue to recover from the ice and snow storm that brought life to a standstill in many places this week, stories are emerging about the incredible things some people did to help out others.

Let's start Friday with one of those tales.

From Alabama, The Birmgham News writes that:

"Dr. Zenko Hrynkiw wonders what all the fuss is about.

"The doctor who walked six miles in the snow to perform emergency life-saving brain surgery said any good doctor would do it.

" 'It really wasn't that big of a deal,' Hrynkiw said, addressing reporters today at Trinity Medical Center where he is a neurosurgeon."

As the storm rolled over Birmingham on Tuesday, Hrynkiw was at one hospital — Brookwood Medical Center — when he got word that a patient at Trinity Medical Center had taken a turn for the worse, needed surgery as soon as possible and that no other surgeon there could do it.

Driving wasn't an option because of the snow and ice. Emergency personnel were busy. So getting a lift didn't seem to be likely either. The patient had a "90 percent chance of dying" without the operation, Hrynkiw says.

The doctor put a coat over his hospital scrubs. His shoes were covered by operating room "slip-ons." Hrynkiw set out. Birmingham's WVTM-TV writes that:

"He fell and rolled down a hill. He got back up. He even helped some drivers who were stuck along the way. He continued on his journey from Brookwood Medical Center to Trinity Medical Center.

"To this 62-year-old doctor, nothing was more important than being in the operating room.

" 'He was dying, so if he didn't have surgery he would be dead, and it's not going to happen on my shift,' Dr. Hrynkiw said."

The News has posted video of Hrynkiw's conversation with reporters. It was only when he was about a mile from Trinity Medical Center that he was able to catch a ride for the remainder of his journey, Hrynkiw says.

The patient, by the way, is reportedly doing well after the surgery.

Hospital officials say Hrynkiw is being modest. The News adds that:

"Keith Granger, CEO of Trinity, said Hrynkiw is humble, but it was more of a feat than the doctor describes.

" 'It was not just a walk in the park,' Granger said.

"Given the conditions, the temperatures and the terrain, 'it's a remarkable physical feat and mental feat. And we have an individual alive today who wouldn't be here if not for his efforts.' "

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.