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Hypothermia Victim, 95, Doing Fine After Being Pronounced Dead

February 20, 1996

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) _ Police Sgt. Ben Hellard pulled back the sheet to take a picture of the dead woman _ and she started to move.

Helen Fincel, 95, was mistakenly declared dead Sunday after falling off her back porch and lying for several hours in near-freezing weather.

Hellard didn’t notice anything unusual at first when he went to photograph Fincel, who was put on a gurney at the hospital and covered with a sheet.

``I’ve seen dozens of bodies in my 15 years as a police officer,″ he said Monday. ``She looked as dead as any of them.″

Only she wasn’t.

First, Hellard saw one of Fincel’s eyes twitch. When he saw her head turn slightly and her chest slowly moving up and down, he notified a doctor, who confirmed Fincel was still alive.

Hellard planned to take the photo as a precaution: Fincel lived near a 79-year-old woman who was killed about two weeks ago.

Fincel’s minimal vital signs apparently were a result of severe hypothermia, said hospital officials, who promised to investigate the mistaken diagnosis. When she arrived at the hospital, her body temperature was 84 _ the lowest the hospital’s thermometer would record.

Hospital administrator Ron Tyrer said the doctor who pronounced Fincel dead was not a regular employee and the hospital would stop using his services.

Fincel, meanwhile, was moved out of the intensive care unit Monday and was in fair condition. She was expected to be released by the weekend.

Fincel’s cousin Frederick Dolt visited her and said she seemed ``very satisfactory.″

``She’s a tough old woman,″ he said.

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