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Best of mountain town medicine

Elizabeth Chicoine

It was a sunny champagne powder day on the slopes of Arrowhead. My brother-in-law was gliding down Cresta with the joyful grin reminiscent of childhood days when one has not a care in the world. Abruptly, that all stopped when he hit an unmarked dip on the trail, which careened him headfirst into a traumatic fall. Tonight, he lies in a hospital bed in Vail Valley Medical Center.I am thanking God for our local hospital. How many times have we valley residents and tourists needed and depended on our hospital?In my experience, I have needed VVMC for the birth of children, emergency pediatric care and referral to Children’s Hospital, orthopedic care, CAT scans, ENT surgeries. The list goes on and on.Try a mental exercise. How often does your family use our hospital, and how often does it give you comfort to know its doors are always open, its staff ready to help your family at a moment’s notice?Good gosh, I appreciate this hospital, our doctors, nurses, staff and volunteer corp that keep VVMC functioning in such a fine manner.But let me back up a bit. My nephew (in my stories a lot lately) was with his dad at the time of the accident. Calm, collected, he skied down to the lift operators to call for Ski Patrol. He instructed where to find his dad on the trail. Four Ski Patrol people arrived at the scene and with steadfast skill tobogganed my brother-in-law down the slope.An ambulance was waiting to transport him to the hospital. Teamwork on behalf of the patrol, ambulance and hospital was in motion.Immediately at the ER, doctors assessed his condition and a surgeon repaired my brother-in-law’s punctured lung. He also sustained two broken ribs. The pain from such injury is excruciating. But why tell this personal tale? Cautiously, I open my family’s stories to readers to give meaning to the people and facilities that are at our disposal in the Vail Valley. Most mountain ski towns do not have such immediate and talented care at hand as we do here.By great mercy and solid management, we have physicians, nurses, receptionists, lab technicians and such who give relief to us in times of medical crisis. And the smalltown thing about this care is that oftentimes, if you are a local, your care may include a familiar face. Those personal connections can be especially comforting, if even just a phone call of support. You matter to someone at VVMC. I tell you what, if you have to suffer the unfortunate trauma of an injury in a mountain town, my opinion is hope your injury occurs nearby to VVMC. Of the few other mountain hospitals in Colorado, seldom is offered the services and excellence of physicians that VVMC does. Remember Monica Seles, Dan Marino, the U.S. Ski Team? Elite athletes travel to our hospital for elective surgeries. Many of the VVMC departments are leaders in the care offered.When this ordeal is finished, it will be interesting to talk with my brother-in-law about his care. Perhaps my way of coping with the uncertainty of his outcome is writing this piece tonight. My keyboard becomes an escape for me at times. Click, click, click. It distracts me from staring at the phone, hoping for good news from my sister. I drove my nephew to the Eagle County Regional Airport a few hours ago. He has school on Monday. He and his dad were in town for the weekend after visiting University of Colorado for a-day-in-the life-of-a-CU-student-perspective visit. What was to be a great father-son weekend turned into an even deeper experience and bond between father and son. Oh, the unexpected twists of fate. I’ll be back at the airport tomorrow night to pick up my sister. Thank the Lord I don’t have to drive to Denver International Airport during this whole ordeal. One additional comment as to why the Vail Valley is my favorite mountain community is the fact that we have an airport. My sister has a direct flight to Eagle. American Airlines gave her an amazing fare; she just needed to give her husband’s hospital information. Gosh, an airport, major airlines with direct flights, a hospital with outstanding physicians … we really do have it all here. And this is why I am thankful to call this mountain valley home tonight. Are you?Addendum: After reading this column, my brother-in-law added the following remarks after being discharged from VVMC:1. “It is the best hospital I’ve ever experienced (including NYC, LA, Scottsdale)! The doctors, staff, administration, all were simply outstanding!”2. On a lighter note, “If you’re looking for a good meal while dining out in Vail, I highly recommend the VVMC cafeteria, and my compliments to the chef!”Elizabeth H. Chicoine of Eagle writes a weekly column for the Daily. She can be reached at echicoine@centurytel.netVail, Colorado


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