Researcher stranded for weeks is back in the U.S. for treatment

Story highlights

  • Renee-Nicole Douceur arrived in Washington D.C. on Monday evening
  • The stranded American researcher says it's "great to be back in America"
  • Douceur became ill on August 27 while working at a research station in the South Pole
  • For weeks, harsh weather conditions prevented planes from landing to rescue Douceur
The American researcher, who was stranded in the South Pole for weeks after suffering a stroke, is finally back on American soil.
Renee-Nicole Douceur, 58, landed at Washington's Dulles International Airport Monday evening.
In an exclusive interview with CNN affiliate WJLA, Douceur said "I am so glad to be home. It's great to be here. It's great to be back in America."
Tuesday Douceur will be at Johns Hopkins Hospital to undergo additional testing and determine a plan for rehabilitation. Monday she told WJLA her condition is improving but she still struggles with speech, vision and memory problems.
Douceur also said she was "extremely frustrating" that her initial requests to be airlifted out of the South Pole were denied.
The researcher's experience began on August 27 when she became ill while working at the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott research station in Antarctica.
Antarctic stroke victim waits to leave
Antarctic stroke victim waits to leave

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Antarctic stroke victim waits to leave 07:35
South Pole stroke victim asks for help
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She was unable to leave the station to receive treatment because weather and storms prevent planes from landing during the region's winter period.
"While I was devastated that I had a stroke, it was like, oh, my God, it just stymied me ... and I cried," Douceur said. "I just didn't know what to do and the doctors basically told me, just go back to my room," she said in a recent interview.
Raytheon Polar Services, the company that runs the station for the NSF, told CNN that Douceur's station has a well-trained medical staff that can provide all levels of treatment for employees.
Elizabeth Cohen, the senior medical correspondent for CNN, said it wasn't the lack of doctors that was the issue. It was the lack of equipment and a stroke expert.
"In the United States, or New Zealand ... they would have stroke experts who would be able to do imaging and see where that stroke was and do rehab specifically designed for that particular location of the brain where the stroke occurred. But they don't have that there," Cohen said.
Cohen said Douceur did some basic rehab while at the station, which includes relearning math.
"This is a nuclear engineer who is having trouble with sixth-grade math," Cohen said.
After several weeks of waiting, a U.S. Air Force C-17 plane was able to evacuate Douceur, who was taken to Christchurch, New Zealand for testing before being able to come home to the U.S.
Douceur's case is reminiscent of another that occurred in 1999 when a woman diagnosed with breast cancer spent months at a South Pole research center until she could be airlifted.
Jerri Nielsen Fitzgerald -- a doctor -- diagnosed and treated herself for breast cancer with chemotherapy agents that the U.S. Air Force parachuted to her station.
Fitzgerald died 10 years later after the cancer returned.