Vail Daily column: Forever grateful for Ski Patrol heroes
Ryan Summerlin April 24, 2014
I always thought of myself as a courageous and brave person. I guess I never fully understood what that truly meant. People deal with crises every day in their lives, but until you have lived through one, you can never fully appreciate the true agony that those people endure. Crises are ruthless and know no compassion.
I have three grown children. Jeremy and Justin are great older brothers to their baby sister Danielle, who is a sophomore at Indiana University majoring in pre-med and communications.
My family decided on a late vacation this year. Trying to plan a one with all that is happening can be quite an arduous task. In early December, the kids were finally able to agree on a date. Let’s go skiing at Beaver Creek.
My wife, Lisa, and I started surfing the Internet for a complete package. It didn’t take long to find it. Eight days of fun, sun and snow in Beaver Creek. We had been there before, and no vacation ski trip can compare with its beauty, the amenities and its quaintness. It’s heaven.
Our second day on vacation everyone awakes early and can’t wait to hit the slopes. My son Jeremy is on his way from Chicago to meet us. Justin and my wife, Lisa, leave to hit the slopes early. Dani and I decided to take the Centennial lift. Up and down we go, falling left, falling right and falling forwards and falling backwards. I think you get the point. Every fall ended with a smile and determination. After a couple of hours and numerous bumps and bruises, we decided to take a lesson.
Mark, 28, from Maryland, was our snowboard instructor. We headed over to the Buckaroo Gondola and when we exited the gondola, Dani said she was not feeling well. Her back and chest were aching, and she was feeling a little nauseous. For precautionary reasons, we decided to call Ski Patrol and have them take a look at her. Ski Patroller “Blitz” arrived within five minutes. After a couple of questions and checking the mobility of her shoulder, he told her that she had three options. First, he could take her down the gondola and we could see the doctor. Second, take her down the gondola and call it a day. Or, third, just relax and when she felt better, resume her day. Dani opted to relax for a few minutes.
The bunny hill that we were on was no longer than 30 yards. I went first, and Dani decided to sit and relax. Then Dani said, “I might as well enjoy myself with a little pain, rather than just sit here,” so off she went with Mark. Halfway down, I could see that Dani was uncomfortable. We decided to call Ski Patrol back. It was at this point that I knew something wasn’t right.
Ski Patrol showed up quickly, but it seemed like forever. The patroller took off his skis and walked over to ask Dani how she was doing. Dani responded that she needed to go down to see a doctor. The ski patroller then walked back to get the toboggan to take her down. It was precisely at this moment that Dani’s eyes starting rolling back in her head and that she turned blue.
Within seconds, the ski patroller had evaluated the situation and was calling on the radio for assistance. I can’t possibly describe the horror and helplessness that I felt. Why couldn’t this just be me?
Within minutes, additional help arrived. They start administering CPR and inserted a breathing tube. Seconds later, they are cutting off her clothes and connecting her to the defibrillator. These people are stoic; they are courageous, and they are my heroes. They are literally saving my daughter’s life.
Five or 10 minutes have now passed; I really do not recall much more than that. I think our brain tries to minimize traumatic situations, and this was one I am certainly glad that I cannot remember everything.
They are now ready to move her down the hill, side by side in two toboggans. Dani is in one and two or three Ski Patrol paramedics are in the other. I believe that they were still administering CPR and oxygen through the resuscitator. Two other ski patrol personnel were guiding them down the mountain.
I took the gondola down with two other people. My mind was all over the place; I couldn’t think. When we got to the bottom, we ran to the ambulance. Dani was already in the ambulance when we arrived and they were trying to stabilize here. All the while, the police and paramedics are trying to comfort me. I kept asking what was taking so long. They were saving her life.
Dani spent four days in the hospital after the doctors inserted a stent to open the left artery in her heart, which was 100 percent blocked. Through all of this we were showered with love, hope and comfort by everyone we came into contact with.
My family and I will forever be grateful to everyone who assisted in saving my daughter’s life.
It was made abundantly clear by all of the doctors who assisted in saving Danielle’s life that the only reason she survived was because of the heroics of the Beaver Creek Ski Patrol.
I was fortunate enough to have spoken with all of Ski Patrol the day after the event. They will never be able to fully appreciate the genuine respect and admiration that I have for each and every one of them. We will forever be indebted to them. You have given my family the greatest gift, the life of my daughter.
Wally Posner plans a bicycle ride from Chicago, where he lives, to Beaver Creek this summer to raise funds to fight SCADs. For more information, see the website www.themountainmiracle.com.
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