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Update: Doctor With Breast Cancer Rescued From South Pole (dateline October 18, 1999)

After two days of waiting for temperatures to rise to minus fifty-eight degrees Celsius (seventy-two degrees below zero Fahrenheit), a United States National Guard cargo plane rescued Dr. Jerri Nielsen from the South Pole. Through satellite consultation with U.S. doctors, Dr. Nielsen had recently diagnosed herself with breast cancer and was undergoing oral chemotherapy using medical supplies air-dropped by cargo planes last July.

On October 16, 1999, Dr. Nielsen was transported from the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole research station to the McMurdo Station on Antartica’s coast. The LC-130 Hercules from the 109th Airlift Wing of the U.S. National Guard, equipped with ski landing gear, kept its engines running while landing at the South Pole for twenty-two minutes. The flight crew (including a senior mission commander, two Medevac team members, and two maintenance personnel) quickly picked up Dr. Nielsen and dropped off a replacement doctor before returning to the McMurdo Station at around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday (10:30 p.m. Friday, Eastern Daylight Time).

Dr. Nielsen is expected to be flown to New Zealand and then to the United States this week to receive breast cancer treatment. Peter West, a spokesman for the National Science Foundation, expressed concerned for Dr. Nielsen but told the public that her medical condition was not immediately life-threatening. Dr. Nielsen has requested that details of her condition not be made public.

Dr. Nielsen, 47, is originally from Youngstown, Ohio. Her mother, Lorine Cahill, recently received an email photograph of her daughter, bald from chemotherapy, and described Dr. Nielsen as weak and weary from the disease. Dr. Nielsen, who graduated from Ohio University and then the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo in 1977, worked as a family practitioner in Toledo for twelve years with her husband, Dr. Jay Nielsen. After her divorce last year, she began working at the Youngstown hospital emergency room.

According to Mrs. Cahill, Dr. Nielsen jumped at the opportunity to join the National Science Foundation’s research station at the South Pole last November. After the one-year assignment, Dr. Nielsen was planning to visit Southeast Asia and then travel around the world, replacing sick or vacationing doctors at various U.S. stations.

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