Wounded trooper thanks Valley View workers for saving his life
It takes a village to save a life.
In the case of Colorado State Trooper Eugene Hofacker, it started with fellow Trooper Shane Gosnell, who returned fire when convicted felon Thomas Ornelas shot Hofacker on the side of Interstate 70 on May 8, 2014. Then Sgt. Coby Smart was first to the scene and put pressure on the wound to Hofacker’s leg. Paramedics sped him to Valley View Hospital, where a host of nurses and doctors helped to stabilize him and begin repairing the damage to his femoral artery — to say nothing of the lab and radiology techs who made it all possible.
On Wednesday morning, Hofacker and his fellow troopers stopped by Valley View to thank a few of the medically skilled villagers.
“When I was brought in it was hard for me to recognize faces and say thank you to you all,” Hofacker told the assembly. “You guys mean a lot to me. I wouldn’t be here without you. I feel indebted to each and everyone here.”
Hofacker, who suffered three gunshot wounds, continues to recover, although he suffers from chronic pain. He’s been on desk duty since the incident, but is itching to get back on patrol.
“If they would have let me leave the hospital and get right back in a car, I would have done it,” he said.
Maj. Barry Bratt spoke to the value of that sort of dedication as he prepared to present certificates of recognition to the assembled doctors and nurses.
“We’ve heard a lot of talk in the media and amongst politicians about the warrior mindset — that perhaps a cop shouldn’t be a warrior,” he said. “I’ll suggest to you that being a warrior is an honorable thing. It doesn’t mean that you’re overly aggressive. It means that you have a will to do the best, and you have a purpose.”
By that definition, doctors may be warriors, as well. Valley View sees more penetrating trauma than any other hospital its size in the state — perhaps because it’s so far from a larger hospital.
When Hofacker came into the operating room, Dr. Randall Ross set to work controlling the bleeding until Dr. Brad Nichol arrived to repair the artery.
“We still see a few of these every year,” explained Nichol. “I trained in Detroit, so this is nothing foreign to me.”
Nichol isn’t taking all — or even most — of the credit.
“It’s all a team effort,” he said. “He’s lucky. Not all of them turn out like this. Everyone did a great job.”
The hospital later reviewed the case and didn’t find anything to improve on in future cases, Nichol added.
“That doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels,” he said. “We have to keep on being vigilant and trying to improve.”
Eugene Hofacker is just another reminder of why the medical workers do what they do.
“It’s a definite reward to work in a small community because you get to see the results,” Nichol said.
More than a decade and a half ago, Kobe Bryant came to the Vail Valley quietly. Fourteen months later, he left the same way. In the middle was … well … a media circus.