The Dutch Prince Johan Friso has been in intensive care at an Innsbruck hospital after being buried alive in a avalanche on February 17th. The Prince was skiing with friends at the Lech Ski Area located in the Austrian Alps. The group was skiing out-of-bounds when an avalanche struck in the early afternoon, burying the Prince for over 15 minutes before being recovered by rescue crews.
After being airlifted to the hospital and undergoing intensive treatment and weeklong observation, doctors now confirm that the Dutch Prince has suffered massive brain damage due to oxygen depravation. He is currently in a coma, and may not ever regain consciousness.
Dr. Wolfgang Koller, head of the trauma unit at the hospital, explained “Because he was under the snow for such a long time, his brain was deprived of oxygen.”
Furthermore, upon being buried the Prince suffered cardiac arrest, and it took over 50 minutes for responders to revive him. Dr. Koller confirmed, “There was a cardiac arrest that lasted 50 minutes, during this time they were resuscitating the prince, which is a very long time — you could even say too long.”
Early last week, the prognosis detailed that the brain damage may have been alleviated thanks to lower body temperatures caused from being under the snow.
“We had hoped the hypothermia the patient had would protect the patient from brain damage, unfortunately this did not happen”, said Dr. Koller.
We can’t tell at the moment if Prince Friso will wake up from his unconscious state, but neurological treatment will definitely be needed for months, maybe even for years.
The Dutch Royal Family is currently searching for a private clinic to continue treatment for Prince Johan.
Another member of the ski party, Florian Moosbrugger, is the Prince’s childhood friend and owner of the hotel where the royal family stays when visiting the ski area. The same avalanche that buried the Prince engulfed Moosbrugger. However, Moosbrugger was equipped with an avalanche airbag pack that successfully inflated during the snow slide and allowed the skier to float to the surface of the mass before it settled. He was able to pull himself out of the snow, and even helped dig out the Prince with his own hands as well as call emergency services. While the Prince was not wearing a similar pack, he did have an avalanche transceiver located on his person.
Queen Beatrix and the prince’s wife, Mabel, have been visiting Prince Johan daily at Innsbruck’s University Hospital, as have his brothers, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Prince Constantijn. In response to the outcry of support and well wishes from the Netherlands and global community the Queen issued a statement in appreciation, saying that the family has been moved by the “countless” messages of condolence and encouragement they have received.