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Surviving Brother Of Sailboat Tragedy Fighting Hypothermia

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Sitting in the plaza garden outside Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, Eileen Skillingstad knows the mountain that hypothermic eight-year-old Isaiah Risland has to climb.

“There are no words. There are no words,” family spokeswoman Skillingstad said, fighting back tears.

Hypothermia took the lives of Isaiah’s younger brothers. Two-year-old Jacob and six-year-old Zech both died when their father’s new sailboat overturned Friday in the frigid waters of Clearwater Lake in Beltrami County.

All three children were wearing life preservers and were left near the boat when their father, Dan, swam to shore to summon help. By the time help arrived, the boys had been floating in the cold water for nearly an hour. Two were unconscious and later died, despite the heroic efforts of first responders who tried reviving the boys with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

“Every parent, every grandparent and every relative who’s lost someone knows what it’s like, and they’ve lost two-thirds of their family,” Skillingstad said.

Despite Minnesota’s unusually warm spring and early ice-out, the lakes tell a different story. Water temperatures of most lakes in the state are still a dangerous 40 to 50 degree Fahrenheit, and the farther north the lake, the colder the surface water temperature.

Severe hypothermia sets in when the body’s core temperature drops by just five to seven degrees, down to 91.4 Fahrenheit. That’s when the body’s heart and other organs begin shutting down.

Hypothermia is a big concern for the Department of Natural Resources boat and water safety personnel.

“The smaller the body, a lot of times, the quicker the heat loss, just because there isn’t as much fat to protect – or large body mass – to protect that area, so they cool off quicker than an adult,” said the DNR’s division director Kim Elverum.

As he comes off medicines to control blood pressure and insulin, Isaiah’s family remains cautiously guarded.

“Keep him in prayer and never forget that there’s a special little boy that needs our prayers,” said Skillingstad.

Medical staff at Children’s will begin the re-warming process using a blanket device that pumps liquids or air through it to gradually bring up Isaiah’s core temperature.

It will take between 12 and 18 hours to restore Isaiah’s core body temperature to the normal temp of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

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