Ski Patrol heroes | VailDaily.com

Ski Patrol heroes

I am a survivor of a sudden cardiac arrest that occurred on Vail Mountain on Jan. 14, 2000. Blue Sky Basin had opened a week earlier and I was anxious to explore a new 500-acre ski area. My wife, Melodee, myself and another couple rode the new lifts to the top of Belle’s Camp, where the majestic views were breath-taking.

Unfortunately for me, that is what was happening as I began what was to become a full cardiac arrest 150 feet from the Ski Patrol hut. My friends went to the patrol hut and brought Kevin Latchford to my side. After counseling and questioning me, I began to have classic symptoms of a cardiac arrest. The classic response is and was denial. When I eventually did arrest, Kevin brought out a brand new AED (defibrillator) and applied the pads to my chest. His boss, Julie Rust, at patrol headquarters, had been in communication with Kevin sending a host of patrollers to my aid along with a helicopter arriving from Frisco. When Kevin told her the AED suggested “shock advised,” he pushed the button and brought me back partially.

At that time the helicopter that Kevin pushed for arrived with helicopter pilot Rod Ballack at the controls. Rod had flown helicopters in Vietnam. On board was nurse Karen Steur who along with Jeff Jones, a paramedic, who was skiing on his own that day, prepared me for a flight to the ER. Karen and Jeff stabilized me and intubated me for a quick flight to the Vail ER, where cardiologist Dr. Larry Gaul was waiting. Unable to unplug the left anterior descending (LAD) artery, Dr. Gaul decided to send me to Denver, where an angiojet was used to remove a blood clot. A stent was then placed in the LAD on a Friday night and on the following Thursday, I was headed back to Wisconsin.

The above is a long story about what happened to me but the real emphasis should be put on the patrollers who coordinated this effort to save a life. They not only had the right equipment for this emergency but they also knew how to use it. They rallied a dozen people, called for a helicopter, and controlled the area. They are the “red jackets” who should be thanked every day for the jobs they do.

This year will be my 15th year of rebirth on Vail mountain. I have been on the mountain on Jan. 14 a dozen times to thank my God and my “guardian angels” — Kevin Latchford, Mark Patterson, Julie Rust, Tom Pollack, Rob Laroy, Rod Ballack, Karen Steur, Jeff Jones, Dr. Larry Gaul and the Vail ER staff. This is my 15th “plus” year on earth and I feel blessed to be able to come back to say thank you to the Vail Ski Patrol. See you at Belle’s Camp, Kevin. Jan. 14 1:30 p.m. Be there!

Lee Curtes

Hartford, Wis.