In the face of disaster, some people are said to have summoned up incredible physical power to lift a car off of an accident victim, move giant rocks, or single-handedly hold up a collapsing beam to let the other miners escape.
A temporary boost of physical power would be called hysterical strength. The stories are almost always in the form of one person lifting a car off of another. In one case in Colorado in 1995, a police officer arrived at a single-car accident where a Chevy Chevette ended up on top of a baby girl and sank into the mud.
The officer lifted the car and the mother pulled the girl out. In 2009, a man in Kansas lifted a Mercury sedan off of a six-year-old girl who had been trapped underneath when it backed out on top of her. In 1960, a Florida mom lifted a Chevy Impala so that a neighbor could pull out her son, who had become trapped when he was working on the car and his jack collapsed.
There's even the case where the MD 500D helicopter from Magnum, P.I.crashed in 1988, pinning the pilot under shallow water; and his burly friend (nicknamed Tiny) ran over and lifted the one-ton helicopter enough for the pilot to be pulled out.
The typical explanation given centers on adrenalin. Adrenalin, also called epinephrine, figures prominently in what's popularly called the "fight or flight" response. Sudden stress, such as an impending fight or other dangerous situation, triggers the sympathetic nervous system to induce the fight or flight response, sometimes called hyperarousal or the acute stress response. It's a way that your body readies itself to deal with physical harm.
The adrenal gland releases adrenalin into your bloodstream, and as it spreads throughout your body, it does different things to different types of tissue. Your airways relax to maximize breathing capacity, and metabolism increases.
Your muscles go into glycolysis, which produces energy-rich molecules fueling them for extraordinary action. While blood flow to the muscles is increased, blood flow to vulnerable extremities is decreased. Dopamine is produced in the brain as a natural pain killer. Peripheral vision turns into tunnel vision to minimize distractions. Reflexes and reaction times improve. Non-critical functions like digestion slow or even stop.
LEBANON, OR (KPTV) -
Two teens may have saved their father's life when they lifted a 3,000-pound tractor off his chest.
"We just did it. We both did it. I don't see how I did it, I think she did all the work."
Jeff Smith was working on the tractor at his home in Lebanon last week when it flipped over and pinned him underneath.
He screamed for help and his two girls, 14 and 16 years old, came running. Within minutes, they lifted the tractor off of him.
Looking at Smith today, with only a cast on his wrist and some abrasions, you might not believe what happened to him.
He said he was trying to pull a stump out of the ground when his foot slipped on the clutch and the whole thing flipped over.
"The steering wheel and the steering column is what had me pinned on my chest," he said.
His daughters quickly arrived at the scene and started digging. Then they called 911.
"I can't dig fast enough and I'm freaking out," said Haylee Smith, 14. "I just cannot dig fast enough."
Deciding they couldn't wait for emergency crews, Haylee and her older sister, Hannah Smith, each grabbed a side and started lifting.
With adrenalin pumping, they tried six or seven times and finally got some movement.
"We just kind of braced ourselves on the tire and just lifted it up," said Hannah Smith, 16.
Jeff Smith said they lifted it up just enough for him to shimmy his way out. His arm remained pinned, however, until a neighbor rushed over with another tractor to finish the rescue operation.
"I don't know how I lifted it, it was just so heavy," Hannah Smith said. "And I could feel it, I could just feel all the weight. But we just did it. We both did."
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