Survival Medical Dictionary
Many of the survivors featured in I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE have tested their physical limits in unimaginable ways. Learn more about some of the extreme medical conditions that they endured during death-defying ordeals.
A to Z
Bacteremia: Bacterial infection of the blood. It is the principal means by which local infections spread to distant organs. Often results from simple cuts or scratches, and elicits a vigorous immune response to keep bacteria from spreading.
Blunt Force Trauma: Trauma caused by impact or force applied from a blunt object. Blunt force trauma is the most common type of injury sustained by humans, and is a broad term covering trauma like contusions, abrasions, lacerations, and bone fracture.
Decompression Sickness: Results from surfacing too quickly from a deep underwater dive, but can also occur when descending from high altitudes. Sometimes referred to as "the bends," symptoms include skin rashes, visual disturbances, balance disturbances, breathing difficulties, unconsciousness and death.
Dehydration: Causes a person's body to lose large amounts of water. A serious and potentially deadly situation when normal body functions are threatened.
Frostbite: Injury to tissues exposed to extreme cold. Often afflicts the nose, ears or other extremities of the body. Related to Hypothermia. In extreme cases gangrene or amputation may result.
Gangrene: The death of body tissue due to bacterial infection or the lack of blood circulation. Gangrene results from surgery or in extreme situations where an individual is pinned under a fallen object and blood flow is disrupted for long periods of time.
Hypoadrenia: Also adrenal exhaustion or adrenal fatigue. Responsible for the short-term stress response known as "fight or flight," the adrenal glands can function improperly when overstressed, leading to fatigue, mood disorders and depression.
Hyperthermia: Otherwise known as heat exhaustion, heatstroke or sunstroke, occurs when the body absorbs too much heat. Heat regulation within the body becomes compromised, leading to a rapid climb in body temperature requiring immediate medical attention.
Hypothermia: The condition of having an extremely low body temperature, often as a result of exposure to cold water or frigid atmospheric conditions. Normal body functions become impaired and the condition can eventually become fatal.
Malaria: Usually transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, malaria can cause fever, shivering, joint pain, vomiting, anemia, and convulsions, which can ultimately lead to coma and death if untreated — especially in young children. Occurs in wet, warm, marshy regions.