CPR saves lives: Ohio man returns to Vail Mountain with one of his local rescuers
'I just can’t thank them enough for not turning their heads and going the other way'
In January 2019, Michael Laush, of Ohio, was skiing Vail Mountain on an 11-inch powder day with a friend, both celebrating their birthdays. A “fluke” accident left Laush buried in snow, suffocating. A group of locals skiing by stopped to help and ultimately saved his life by performing CPR.
On Saturday, Feb. 1, Laush was back on Vail Mountain at the scene of the accident for a reunion with one of his rescuers, Karen Nern.
(Can’t watch the video? Click here.)
“It’s almost like a bucket list item to come back and ski with you,” Laush told Nern while they looked at the scene of the accident near Marmot Valley in China Bowl. “I feel like there’s some closure to this story.”
Laush was in town with some friends last weekend filming for a Red Cross award being presented to his rescuers later in February. Among his rescuers were Nern and her husband, Tom; Beth McCrann, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist; and Karen Colton, among others.
Since the accident, Laush has kept in touch with some of his rescuers. He attended a Broncos game with the Nerns this year in Denver.
“I’m happy to have a new family member for life,” Karen Nern said from the chairlift on Saturday. “I’m glad I met you. I’m not exactly glad about the way we met, but I love having you as my brother.”
“I’m very happy to be a part of that family,” Laush replied. “I don’t have the words to describe how amazing Tom [Nern, Karen [Nern], Karen [Colton] and Beth [McCrann] are — it’s just unbelievable. It’s like we’ve known each other forever. It is like family. I feel like I know them better than people I’ve known my whole life”
Get CPR certified
“Oh, so much” Karen Nern says she remembers from that day in January of 2019. “I got called over after they’d already found him. A bunch of us helped dig him out of the snow and then three guys pulled him out. We got him up on the snow and he wasn’t breathing, so we started CPR — me and another retired doctor out here, Dr. Beth McCrann. Three rounds [of CPR] later, his heart started beating and he started breathing — and here we are. It’s quite a miracle.”
Ahead of the accident, Karen Nern was recently certified in CPR, thanks to one of her coworkers at Vail Dermatology.
“My husband and the other guys that pulled him out are big guys,” she said. “There’s no way that I could have done it. So it took exactly that team.”
Laush stands at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, and weighs 270 pounds.
“I think with CPR, you just never know when and if you’ll need it,” Karen Nern said. “It’s so easy to get certified. Everybody is afraid of it I think, but it’s really easy to do and can save a life, so do it.”
Laush’s life is one that was saved thanks to CPR, and fast action by some Vail locals.
“For me, it’s the importance of people sticking together and watching out for each other,” he said. “I just can’t thank them enough for not turning their heads and going the other way. They saw trouble and they jumped in. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here telling this story.”
Laush captured a group photo at the scene of the accident on Saturday. He was standing next to Karen Nern in the photo, somewhat inseparable.
“So now you have this memory of it,” Karen Nern said. “I like it. It’s nice to be skiing with you.”
Laush thanked Karen Nern again as they embraced in a big hug on the side of the run.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” she told him. “Just don’t make me do it again.”
Locally, Starting Hearts is a leader in raising awareness and providing the educational tools to handle sudden cardiac arrest — even on the side of a mountain. For more information about the nonprofit, or to get yourself or your office CPR certified, visit http://www.startinghearts.org.
“The last thing I remember was seeing that sign that says Dragon’s Teeth and then I looked down, put my poles in and pushed off. I have a dark memory, I guess, it’s just not vivid.”
Karen Nern is still CPR-certified to this day.
“That fall was just such a crazy fluke,” she told Laush. “It’s emotional for me.”
“Me, too,” Laush said. “Believe me.”
We all know Eagle County is short on workforce housing. But a recent report shows there are still barriers to building.