When a Minnesota man was rescued from a blizzard that left him stuck in his car without food and supplies for two nights, he never imagined worse news would be awaiting him after his rescue.
William Mendoza was driving through a snowstorm near Fargo, North Dakota, on February 6, when conditions became so severe that he pulled off the interstate to look for a place to spend the night, he explained to KSTP. But the powerful blizzard made it difficult for Mendoza to find his way. In his confusion, Mendoza drove into a ditch and was left with no way to signal for help.
“It started to get bad and when I exited the freeway, I kind of became disoriented,” Mendoza told the news station. “It was hard to see and then I got stuck in a snowdrift and could not call for help because my cell phone was dead.”
For the next two nights, Mendoza, who has diabetes, remained in his freezing car without anything to eat or drink, hoping all the while that someone would find him in the below zero temperatures.
“It was so hard and it is like your whole heart sinks,” Mendoza’s wife, Vicki, recalled to KSTP. “I was up at night pacing and just was so worried and in a panic and felt helpless.”
She told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, “we thought he was a goner.”
Finally, on February 8, a phone company repair worker spotted Mendoza, whose body temperature had dropped down to 90 degrees and was experiencing hypothermia.
The father of two was rescued and treated at a local hospital, where he was only briefly able to celebrate his 59th birthday on February 10.
That’s because the family’s joy quickly faded when the hospital informed Mendoza that he had stage IV renal cell carcinoma, a rare cancer that forms in the tubules of the kidney, according to the National Cancer Institute. Not only that, doctors discovered the cancer had spread to other parts of his body, including his brain, which is what likely caused his disorientation on the interstate the night of his disappearance, the Grand Forks Herald reported.
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Mendoza’s family has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for his medical expenses, including brain surgery, and have raised more than $13,000 of their $15,000 goal.
“I am determined to do whatever I have to do to fight this,” Mendoza told KTSP. “It was something they found while treating me for the hypothermia and I guess it is better to know and get on with fighting it than to not know.”
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