Nightly News   |  October 17, 2011

Ailing woman flown out of South Pole

A 58-year-old New Hampshire woman who's been working at the South Pole on Monday flew out of the research station she'd been living in for a year. Renee-Nicole Douceur fell ill at the end of August and asked to be airlifted out. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

Share This:

This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now we turn to the drama that's been playing out at the South Pole , where an American woman had to wait seven weeks to get out to get medical care for an apparent stroke she suffered while on the job. Tonight she is out, and NBC 's Anne Thompson picks up the story.

ANNE THOMPSON reporting: The final taxi of this military plane ended Renee-Nicole Douceur 's seven-week struggle to get proper treatment for a suspected stroke.

Ms. RENEE-NICOLE DOUCEUR: I had lost half my vision, and that was with both eyes. And it's come back now, but I have difficulty reading. Talking, I tend to jumble words sometimes.

THOMPSON: The 58-year-old's calm demeanor after landing in New Zealand masked her fear during those weeks isolated at the South Pole . Douceur ran the South Pole base for Raytheon Polar Services and the National Science Foundation . She fell ill at the end of August and asked to be airlifted out, but Raytheon and the Science Foundation refused, claiming her condition wasn't life-threatening after consulting with doctors and that the extreme cold posed too great a risk to the rescue crew. Instead, Douceur had to wait for the first regularly scheduled cargo flight of the warming season to drop off supplies and take her out in an unpressurized plane.

Ms. DOUCEUR: They kept the plane at very low altitudes, so the air crew knew what to do if there's something that had happened to me. But luckily, nothing. It was a fantastic flight.

THOMPSON: Her journey from the bottom of the earth started at 4:16 Sunday afternoon New York time , taking off for the four-hour flight to the McMurdo Station . There she switched planes and in less than an hour was on to Christchurch , a seven-hour-plus trip, landing at 4:55 this morning. Now in New Zealand , an MRI will help determine if Douceur had a stroke or if her symptoms were the result of something else such as a tumor or multiple sclerosis. But one doctor Douceur consulted in the US is optimistic... Dr. PAUL NYQUIST ( Associate Professor of Neurology , Johns Hopkins University ): I think the fact that her symptoms haven't progressed steadily over the last six weeks is the best sign for her.

THOMPSON: ...hoping her adventure at the South Pole leaves Douceur with memories and nothing else. Anne Thompson , NBC News, New York.