BEAVER CREEK — It wasn’t that long ago that Wally Posner left Beaver Creek in the back of an ambulance with his unconscious daughter, Danielle. On Friday, he returned to the ski resort on a bike and his daughter was there waiting for him.
Posner completed a 1,350 mile ride from his home in Bannockburn, Illinois, to Beaver Creek to raise awareness and research funds for spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), a newly recognized disease that nearly killed his daughter last ski season.
The family was vacationing at Beaver Creek at the time, and Wally Posner and Danielle, were taking a snowboarding lesson when she began to feel chest, shoulder pain and nausea. It didn’t take long before she went into cardiac arrest and collapsed on the slopes. Ski patrol brought her back to life with an AED, performing CPR on her all the way down the mountain and straight into the ambulance. His wife and two sons were located on the mountain and joined them at the hospital, where doctors told them that Danielle had a SCAD event, a mysterious occurrence where the layers of the artery wall suddenly tear. They learned that SCAD often happens to young, otherwise healthy women with no history of heart problems, and that the survival rate was 14 percent.
“(When my wife called me), I can’t begin to tell you the conversation. This was a parent’s worse nightmare. When were we going to wake up and realize that this was all a bad dream?” said Wally Posner.
Danielle was airlifted to Denver, where after a harrowing few days, doctors said she was lucky and would recover. They learned even more about the strange disease that had changed their lives — it might not be so “rare” after all. Many doctors haven’t seen or heard of it, but research is beginning to show that it is often misdiagnosed or reported as coronary blockage.
A ride for awareness
The Posners said they wanted to thank the Beaver Creek staff, doctors, nurses and other responders along the way. Wally Posner, an avid cyclist, also wanted to find out what had happened to his daughter and raise awareness about SCAD. His ride, which started on July 25, not only recruited donations but rallied those affected by SCAD from around the world. To date, he has personally raised almost $60,000 through his Mountain Miracle ride and aims to exceed $100,000 by the end of his effort. The money will go toward SCAD research.
“We want to find out if there’s a way to prevent this,” he said. “We’ve spoken to all these survivors and made a push to raise awareness. It’s not about me or the ride at all — it’s about telling people about this. Sooner or later, it will affect you or someone you know.”
The ride is also a bit of a celebration and thank you to all those who helped Danielle. Dr. Jerry Greenberg, the cardiologist who treated Danielle in Denver, joined Wally Posner, along with a few Beaver Creek ski patrollers, Vail Valley Medical Center employees and SCAD survivors and family members who met them for various parts of the ride.
Life after SCAD
Danielle is now recovered and back attending college, where she made the honor roll and the dean’s list. While the incident is largely behind her, her father said returning to Beaver Creek brought up unexpected emotions.
Greenberg, who since treating Danielle has moved to the Vail Valley Medical Center, said many SCAD survivors, depending on the extent of their initial injury, can return to normal life.
“There’s a small incidence of a possible re-occurrence, but most folks go back to full functional activities, with medical therapy,” said Greenberg. “It’s always good to say hello to (a patient) who does so well. But the real credit goes to those Beaver Creek boys who got on the scene. Without them, it would have been a different scenario.”
Another SCAD survivor from Bailey, Dana Carr, rode from Frisco with the group. She went into cardiac arrest from a SCAD event on Jan. 8 — a complete surprise for a very athletic, healthy 44-year-old woman. She’s back in the saddle, but said the psychological consequences of the event have been difficult to digest.
“I have to talk myself through things quite a bit. I’m grateful that everyday is a new day, but I also go to sleep and wonder if I’ll wake up. That can be difficult,” she said.
Wally Posner echoed the sentiments. He had been hoping the ride would bring closure for him.
“It was a lofty goal, but I haven’t found it,” he said as he neared Beaver Creek. “I’m trying to think tomorrow and the next day ... maybe when the ride is done and I have time to process it all.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.