South Pole station worker OK

01:36, Oct 20 2011
Renee Douceur
LONG WAIT OVER: Renee Douceur is expected to make a good recovery, but will have to make some lifestyle changes.

Initial tests show an American woman airlifted from the South Pole to Christchurch this week suffered a stroke in Antarctica seven weeks ago.

But the tests have ruled out Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station winter site manager Renee Douceur having a brain tumour.

Doctors at the station believed Douceur had a stroke on August 27 and had recommended urgent medical evacuation. However, the United States Antarctic Programme deemed a winter evacuation too dangerous.

They did not consider her condition urgent so she was forced to wait until scheduled flights started this week.

The 58-year-old nuclear engineer landed in Christchurch on Monday night after an arduous 12-hour journey from the South Pole via McMurdo Station.

After tests on Tuesday, Douceur saw a private Christchurch neurologist yesterday to discuss preliminary results and was relieved to be told she had had a minor stroke.


"As far as strokes go, it is minimal," she told The Press yesterday.

American medical specialists would review her case overnight and she would hear today when she could fly home to New Hampshire. She hoped to leave in a few days.

Once there, she would have further tests.

It was unclear whether delays in getting assessment and treatment had affected her condition, which included problems with speech, vision and memory.

"I think [the neurologist] basically said I had done remarkably well being in the South Pole nearly eight weeks."

Her neurologist expected she would have a "very good recovery though not 100 per cent" with minor lifestyle changes plus proper treatment and rehabilitation.

"I asked him if I could restart jumping out of airplanes again. He said, 'give it at least six months."'

The Press