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Death is called the great equalizer for a reason -- the rules are the same for everyone.

Well, almost everyone. As we've discussed before, some rare humans seem to be almost unkillable. Either via extreme luck, tenacity or some freak of their biology, these people survive almost absurdly lethal situations. Like ...

5
The Impossible Ice Woman

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While the human species has survived stuff like bubonic plague, it's still hard to believe how much damage an individual person can endure. Take Dr. Anna Bagenholm, for example. Seriously, take her and drop her through the ice of a frozen creek, Cliffhanger style. Because Anna Bagenholm will shrug that shit off like confetti.

Anniken Haarind via sueddeutsche.de
"And I KO'ed Apollo Creed in the first round."

In 2009, Bagenholm was on a skiing trip and on her way down a slope when she suddenly found herself sliding uncontrollably down a hidden ice gully. She tumbled headfirst into the only hole in the ice of a mostly frozen stream and got stuck there, with only her feet protruding from the 8-inch-thick ice. Rescue attempts by her friends were trumped by a torrent of icy water rushing around her. Bagenholm was stuck in the lethally frigid stream under the ice, breathing from a tiny air pocket between the water and the ice. Somehow, she lasted 40 freaking minutes in those unholy conditions.

Too bad getting her out took 80 minutes.

CNN
"Sorry, Steve dropped his iPhone in the snow and he doesn't have insurance on it."

When a rescue team finally lifted her lifeless body out of the stream, Bagenholm's temperature had plummeted to a hopeless 56.7 degrees Fahrenheit, and she had no pulse. The emergency team gave her CPR, to no avail. For all intents and purposes, she was a corpse.

Still, in an effort to do something, doctors at the University Hospital of North Norway hooked her into a heart-lung machine, if only to warm her enough to safely pronounce her dead. Three hours later, one doctor monitoring the video probe had the scare of his life when the patient's heart started beating again. Just like that.

Getty
Well, not like that.

Bagenholm immediately became the epicenter of a bustling circle of white jackets. Even though she was certainly going to be brain dead, just the survival of her bodily functions was deemed "impossible" and "miraculous." Presumably, these terms soon turned to cries of "witchcraft" and "Rule us, immortal lady" as it became apparent that Bagenholm's brain was also doing just fine. According to the kazillion scientific texts that have since been written about her, that 40-minute struggle gave her body time to go into hibernation mode, which in turn enabled her brain to survive with next to no oxygen for so long.

Today, not only has Bagenholm recovered completely, but she's actually working as a radiologist in the very hospital that saved her. She says that the whole "rising from the dead" thing hasn't really changed her life, thus verifying that she already was an invincible Viking superhero before the accident.

4
The Man Who Was Raised by Wolves

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Kids raised by wild animals are a common storytelling trope: Tarzan was raised by apes, Mowgli from The Jungle Book by wolves. Of course, real life is another matter entirely. The only way a child is likely to feature in the life of a wild animal is as a snack. Well, unless said child is Marcos Rodriguez Pantoja, who was actually raised by wolves.

We're not talking just some two-week period of fur-slumming, either -- the kid had no human contact whatsoever between ages 7 and 19.

Wanda Vision / TVE via ideal.es
Yeah, we'd have taken wolves over high school, too.

Pantoja's early life was a hybrid of a Dickens novel and one of the more depressing Disney movies. His family was broke, he was regularly beaten by his stepmother, and for his seventh birthday present, he got sold to a goat shepherd by his father. The shepherd was a half-crazed old coot who barely spoke and fed Pantoja raw rabbit. They lived up in the mountains with no companions save for a ferret and an owl (who presumably burst into song whenever Pantoja was feeling down) and the ever-present stench of goat.

Soon, the old man fell ill and died. Already estranged from mankind, Pantoja decided to leave the herder's hut and move into a nearby cave, where he obtained his food and clothing by beating animals to death, skinning them and eating them raw. At 7 years old, remember.

Getty
Like what you used to do to your sister's Barbie, only with things that can bite.

One day, as Pantoja was bludgeoning a deer, the wolves came. This could (and by all logic should) have been bad news to a small boy alone in the woods, but the wolf pack wasn't playing by stereotypes. The kid's feral ways and efficiency in hunting actually impressed them, so instead of pouncing on Pantoja, they were all "What's up, dude, wanna come play canasta at our crib?"

Just like that, Pantoja had found a family. For the next 12 years, life was good. Pantoja grew from a man-cub into a wolf-man in the company of his wolves, feeling like the king of the world ... that is, until he was captured by Spain's Civil Guard in 1965 and dragged back to stupid, stupid civilization.

farodevigo.es
"Pants? This is what you call progress?!"

Pantoja's story made him a hit among the scientific community, but Lord Greystoke he was not. Although he did relearn the basics of humanity, he adapted to civilization about as well as a bear to a toilet. These days, Pantoja lives a secluded life in a small Spanish village, remembering fondly his time with the wolves and presumably resisting the instinct to tear out some throats whenever the neighbors throw a noisy party.

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3
The Man Who Took an Industrial Drill Through the Head

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The below image is no Photoshop. It's a very real, giant, 18-inch construction drill bit going through a dude's head.

Sierra Sun
"The tests came back from the lab, and we think your migraines are being caused by stress."

In 2003, California construction worker Ron Hunt was working a spot that required him to balance on a ladder with a massive chip auger drill. Because the universe has a very peculiar sense of humor when it comes to people balancing on rickety things while holding dangerous objects, the ladder broke and Hunt went tumbling down, face first.

The good news was that his fall was cushioned. The bad news was that the thing doing the cushioning was his goddamn drill. The massive drill bit went straight into Hunt's eye socket, tore a highway through the moist insides of his head and exited via the back of his skull.

The Sun
What sadistic reporter staged this photo?

Amazingly, this Final Destination style coup de grace didn't kill Hunt. The stunned man didn't even quite realize what had happened until his wandering hand met the drill bit entering his eye ... then some more of said drill bit exiting the back of his head. As moments of enlightenment go, that must've been a pretty crappy one.

Poor, understandably freaked out Hunt was hurried to the hospital by his equally freaked out co-workers. At first, the doctors were at a loss: How the hell would they remove the thing? They decided to cut off the bits that were sticking out and remove the rest surgically, when one of them noticed in the middle of the operation that, hey, the drill was actually kind of loose. So they adapted a second strategy: They just unscrewed the thing, as if Hunt's head were a block of wood. Slowly. Unscrewed. The giant drill bit. Inside his head. Right ... through ... his ... face.

Colin Fisher via Sierra Sun
"I would have done it myself, but I was tired."

And it worked like a dream. Throughout the process, Hunt (who was kept conscious, but luckily aided by the magic of morphine) was talking and making jokes and very much not brain dead. Somehow, the drill bit had pushed his brain matter aside instead of ripping a pathway through it, so apart from the eye and the giant hole in the back of his head, he was more or less fine. There was, of course, some nerve damage and other minor problems, but all in all, Hunt was in remarkably good shape for a man who had just taken a giant power tool in the face.

Hunt was still in hot water, though: His medical insurance didn't cover this particular injury, which left him neck deep in the money swamp of hundreds of thousands in medical bills and lost wages. However, people sympathized with his plight and set up the Ron Hunt Medical Fund. We imagine donations are easy to come by -- all they have to do is tell people that they'll show them that fucking X-ray again if they don't donate.

2
The Drumming Man vs. the Kalahari Desert

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Imagine flying above the Kalahari Desert, a land of heat, hunger, thirst and dangerous wild animals trying like hell to avoid all these. Pilots flying over this geographical death warrant dread plane malfunctions, referring to them as "landing in hell." Now, imagine your plane malfunctions. And then the crash cripples you.

Wikipedia
And then the plane sleeps with your wife.

Such was the fate of Greg Rasmussen, a conservationist who ran into intense winds and crashed his plane, leaving him in the middle of the desert's Hwange National Park with his legs lifeless sacks of bone bits and gristle. Also, his radio was broken and he had no water. This is known as fate's way of saying "bye bye."

The disoriented Rasmussen crawled into the shadow of a tree to wait in the off chance that someone would find him. Something did. Multiple times. To start off, he was treated to the default desert greeting for injured strangers: two interested vultures perched nearby. When he didn't keel over and die peacefully, the birds took off, and Rasmussen crawled under the fuselage to seek shelter from the sun and inquiring beaks. This kept him alive for the remainder of the day. The trouble was the night.

Project Destiny
"Stupid nature, quit trying to eat me! I'M SAVING YOU!"

Almost immediately after sunset, the desert was bustling with activity, most of which was directed toward eating or maiming Greg Rasmussen. First, a bunch of nearby elephants decided that they didn't like his stupid face and started stampeding at him. He survived by the skin of his teeth, as his panicked banging on the aluminum hull of the plane managed to freak the animals out enough to stop the stampede. Next, lions started stalking him. He managed to avoid their attack by recognizing the sounds of a lioness and repeating his drumming trick. The same tactic worked when a prowling hyena attempted to help himself to a Greg steak.

After 24 hours of exposure, pain and frantic drum solos aimed at the tiniest movement, Rasmussen was spotted and rescued by another pilot. When he arrived in a hospital, doctors were astonished that he had lived for even an hour -- it took 100 freaking operations to restore even some use of his legs.

Jw2c
"And for some reason, the doctor insisted on using this oversized novelty syringe."

These days, Rasmussen's legs are three inches shorter and nearly useless. However, his experience hasn't left an ounce of animosity toward the animals that so enthusiastically attempted to murder him. Instead, he is running an anti-poacher organization. Either the man is a saint or he doesn't want any of the animals that tormented him killed until he has tied them to a chair and subjected them to the most vicious drum solo this side of Led Zeppelin.

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1
The 47-Day Raft Ride from Hell

Wikipedia

Louis Zamperini had a lifelong history of turning crap into gold: When he was a juvenile criminal who constantly had to run away from things, he just honed his running ability until he represented America in the 1936 Olympics. (He also stole an important Nazi flag from under the noses of Hitler's minions during the trip. He was that kind of guy.) In 1943, World War II was raging, and Zamperini was a pilot on the Pacific front. During a search and rescue mission, his plane crashed into a Japanese-controlled region of the ocean. Zamperini fought his way to the surface and was joined by two other survivors, Francis McNamara and Russell Phillips.

Fanny Schertzer
Do you see, Kate Winslet? This is how you do it.

A quick search of the still floating remains equipped them with two rafts, some paddles, a patch kit and a little food. All this amounted to little more than a prolonged exposure death at sea, but they decided to brave it.

On the very first day, the sharks came, big and bold enough that they touched the flimsy rafts while circling them. Zamperini actually felt their fins rubbing his back through the fabric, which isn't as sexy as it sounds when you're actually experiencing it. The following days weren't any better. Sharks floated alongside them like dogs waiting for a treat, poking at the raft and even occasionally attempting to jump in. Zamperini and the others solved the problem by beating them with paddles whenever they approached.


Just in case you were confused about the scale here.

Still, sharks were only a part of their problem. The trio was constantly on the brink of starvation. They got food however they could -- an unwary albatross that perched on the raft was immediately snatched and killed. Zamperini got into the habit of fashioning hooks out of leftover scraps and tying them in his hands for some Wolverine-style fishing. They even managed to beat a few sharks to death and eat their livers, because at that point they really hated sharks.

After 27 days at sea, they finally saw an aircraft. Yeah! Oh, wait, it was a Japanese bomber.

Wikipedia
"Dawwwwww."

The plane attacked them six times, firing and even dropping a freaking depth charge at them. Zamperini tried to create another target by jumping out of the raft, which proved to be a bad move, as the ocean was still full of the sharks he had been maiming for weeks. After some underwater shark fighting and a raft repair session, the trio was left exhausted. Still, they weren't without morale: When McNamara died on Day 33, the remaining two refused to resort to cannibalism and gave him an improvised funeral at sea, to the eternal joy of the beaten and battered sharks.

On Day 47, the two survivors finally found land. Too bad for them that said land happened to contain a Japanese POW camp. Having survived aquatic predators, crashes, exposure, gunfire and the death of a comrade, Zamperini's reward was two and a half years of near starvation and daily beatings at the hands of the Japanese. However, he not only persevered, but survived, and even forgave his abusers.

Sally Peterson / Wall Street Journal
"I forgive you ... for punching like a prepubescent cheerleader with muscular dystrophy."

Having depleted his stash of shitty karma, Louis Zamperini went on to live a pretty good life. He is 95 at the time of writing this article, and he has more buildings named after him than Donald Trump. Considering that this is a man who once spent a month and a half beating Jaws into submission, we feel that this is only fair.



Read Jacopo's other new article at the Huffington Post. Dustin Koski has awesome articles like this one at Toptenz!

For more tales that ought to put hair on your chest, check out 6 Soldiers Who Survived Shit That Would Kill a Terminator and The 5 Most Epic One Man Rampages In the History Of War.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 5 More Facebook Chain Letters That Will Keep You Safe.

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