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Vote Yes for 6A! All Access Rec

Photo taken by Nate Peterson for Vail Daily
Photo taken by Nate Peterson for Vail Daily

It’s crystal clear that our valley has become a world renowned destination; prized as a pinnacle of health and wellness. In this year’s local election, Yes for 6A gives voters the opportunity to double down and invest in the health, wellness, and happiness of locals. Yes for 6A means year-round access to new community spaces, behavioral health programs and social activities for everyone who calls the Eagle River Valley home. 

As one of the valley’s longest-standing providers of health and wellness activities, primarily for locals, Mountain Rec now looks to expand its facilities through a capital improvement project called All Access Rec. Currently over capacity everyday and with our community asking for more space and more activities – it’s time to invest now. 

What a Yes Vote Means in November 
If approved in November, the ballot measure will allow Mountain Recreation to turn its aging facilities into vibrant multi-generational community centers and allow the district to enhance programs for kids, families, adults, and seniors. Supporting this initiative will cost the average homeowner just $18 a month in increased taxes thanks to the diligent fundraising efforts of Mountain Rec staff who have already raised $6 million to date and counting. This is the first property-tax increase request from the District in 20 years. 

Photo taken by Nate Peterson for Vail Daily
Photo taken by Nate Peterson for Vail Daily

Local Leaders Voice their Support 
So far, the ballot initiative has garnered support across the valley, including from many organizations, businesses, and individuals. See what local leaders have said about the initiative on Yesfor6a.org including some below: 

– “A yes vote is an investment in the overall health of this valley, both physically and mentally, and that investment is one we’re inclined to say voters won’t regret.”- Vail Daily Editorial Board, October 7, 2021 

– “Vail Health and Eagle Valley Behavioral Health support Mountain Rec’s goal of expanding and improving community recreation center facilities and programs,” offers Chris Lindley of EVBH. “Mountain Rec’s facilities have the power to increase year-round opportunities for physical exercise and create a stronger, more resilient community by creating social hubs for residents of all ages along with increased access to behavioral health programs and social activities.” 

– “Our board believes that voting YES on 6A signifies support for investment in our community that reaches across age, cultural, and economic divides. It’s a vote to preserve and enhance quality of life for our year-round residents.” – Chris Romer, Vail Valley Partnership 

– “Mountain Recreation is proposing an upstream solution to the physical and mental health struggles our community members experience every day. Community members of all income levels and abilities will have the opportunity to improve their health before they find themselves in the doctor’s office.” – Faviola Alderete 

– “Providing mountain kids with the opportunity to be their best in athletic arenas is crucial to self-confidence, team awareness, and the joy of sport. This starts with access to the activities, and Mountain Recreation has been there for so many of us, providing local kids the opportunities they might not get from higher-priced sport clubs.” – Geoff Grimmer

Photo taken by Nate Peterson for Vail Daily
Photo taken by Nate Peterson for Vail Daily

To date, Mountain Rec’s staff, volunteers, and our community have maximized every square inch of its facilities. In the pursuit of healthy and active lives over the past 20 years and across hundreds of programs; our community has become stronger and more connected at Mountain Rec. With your support we can build strategic foundations, giving way to improve local health, boost our economy, and provide a place where we all belong. 

This ad paid for by yes for 6a 

Specific Additions to Facilities

Edwards Field House 
– Fitness center with strength training and cardio equipment
– Fitness studios
– Locker rooms
– Community rooms and open gathering spaces
– Double indoor gymnasium with hardwood floors for basketball, volleyball, and pickleball
– Demonstration Kitchen

Eagle Pool and Ice Rink 
– Larger outdoor pool and support building
– Trailhead improvements
– Fitness center with strength training and cardio equipment
– Fitness studios
– Locker rooms
– Community rooms and open gathering spaces
– Double hardwood gymnasium for basketball, volleyball and pickleball

Gypsum Rec Center 
– Bumped out two-story fitness center
– New gymnasium for basketball, volleyball and pickleball
– Outdoor splash pad
– Major mechanical upgrades

¡Vote Sí por el 6A! All Access Rec

Edwards Community Center (Autor de la foto Mountain Recreation)
Representación del Centro Comunitario de Edwards” (Cortesía de Mountain Recreation)

Está claro que nuestro valle se ha convertido en un destino de renombre mundial; considerado como el pináculo de la salud y el bienestar. En las elecciones locales de este año, votar Sí por el 6A ofrece a los votantes la oportunidad de apostar por invertir en la salud, el bienestar y la felicidad de los ciudadanos. Sí a al 6A significa acceso durante todo el año a nuevos espacios comunitarios, programas de salud conductual y actividades sociales para todos los que llaman hogar al valle de Eagle River.

Como uno de los proveedores de actividades de salud y bienestar más antiguos del valle, principalmente para los ciudadanos, Mountain Rec busca expandir sus instalaciones a través de un proyecto de mejora capital denominado All Access Rec. Actualmente su capacidad diaria se encuentra saturada y con nuestra comunidad pidiendo más espacio y más actividades, ya es hora de invertir.

LO QUE SIGNIFICA VOTAR POR EL SÍ EN NOVIEMBRE
Si se aprueba en noviembre, esta medida de votación permitirá aMountain Recreation convertir sus antiguas instalaciones en vibrantes centros comunitarios multigeneracionales y permitirá al distrito mejorar los programas para niños, familias, adultos y personas mayores. Apoyar esta iniciativa le costará al ciudadano promedio $18 al mes en el aumento de sus impuestos gracias a los diligentes esfuerzos de recaudación de fondos del personal de Mountain Rec, que hasta la fecha ya ha recaudado $6 millones. Esta es la primera solicitud por parte del Distrito de aumento del impuesto a la propiedad en 20 años.

Eagle Community Center (Autor de la foto Mountain Recreation)
Representación del Centro Comunitario de Eagle (Cortesía de Mountain Recreation)

Hasta ahora, la iniciativa electoral ha obtenido apoyo en todo el valle, entre ellos, el de muchas organizaciones, empresas y particulares. Vea lo que los líderes locales han dicho sobre la iniciativa en Yesfor6a. org, incluidos algunos de los que aparecen a continuación:

“Un voto a favor es una inversión en la salud general de este valle, tanto física como mental, y nos inclinamos a decir que los votantes no se arrepentirán”. – Junta Editorial de Vail Daily, 7 de octubre de 2021

“Vail Health y Eagle Valley Behavioral Health apoyan el objetivo deMountain Rec de expandir y mejorar las instalaciones y programas de los centros de recreación comunitarios”, dice Chris Lindley de EVBH.

“Las instalaciones deMountain Rec tienen el poder de incrementar las oportunidades de ejercicio físico durante todo el año y crear una comunidad más fuerte y resiliente al crear centros sociales para residentes de todas las edades junto con un mayor acceso a programas de salud conductual y actividades sociales”.

“Nuestra junta directiva cree que votar por el SÍ en el 6A significa apoyar a la inversión en nuestra comunidad sin distinciones por diferencias de edad, culturales o económicas. Es un voto para preservar y mejorar la calidad de vida de nuestros residentes durante todo el año”. – Chris Romer, Vail Valley Partnership

GypsumRecreation Center (Autor de la foto Mountain Recreation)
Representación del Centro de Recreación de Gypsum” (Cortesía de Mountain Recreation)

“Mountain Recreation propone una solución preliminar a los problemas de salud física y mental que experimentan a diario los miembros de nuestra comunidad.Miembros de todos los niveles de ingresos y capacidades tendrán la oportunidad de mejorar su salud antes de encontrarse en el consultorio del médico”. – Faviola Alderete

“Ofrecer a los niños de la montaña la oportunidad de dar lo mejor de sí mismos en los escenarios deportivos es crucial para la confianza en sí mismos, la conciencia de equipo y la alegría del deporte. Esto comienza con el acceso a las actividades, y Mountain Recreation ha estado ahí para muchos de nosotros, proporcionando a los niños locales las oportunidades que tal vez no podrían obtener de los clubes deportivos más caros”. – Geoff Grimmer

Hasta la fecha, el personal deMountain Rec, los voluntarios y nuestra comunidad, han aprovechado al máximo cada centímetro cuadrado de sus instalaciones. En la búsqueda de vidas activas y saludables durante los últimos 20 años y a través de cientos de programas; nuestra comunidad se ha fortalecido y está más conectada en Mountain Rec. Con su apoyo podemos construir bases estratégicas, dando paso a la mejora de la salud local, impulsar nuestra economía y proporcionar un lugar donde todos pertenecemos.

Esto es pagado por la campaña Sí para el 6A

Specific Additions to Facilities

Edwards Field House 
– Fitness center with strength training and cardio equipment
– Fitness studios
– Locker rooms
– Community rooms and open gathering spaces
– Double indoor gymnasium with hardwood floors for basketball, volleyball, and pickleball
– Demonstration Kitchen

Eagle Pool and Ice Rink 
– Larger outdoor pool and support building
– Trailhead improvements
– Fitness center with strength training and cardio equipment
– Fitness studios
– Locker rooms
– Community rooms and open gathering spaces
– Double hardwood gymnasium for basketball, volleyball and pickleball

Gypsum Rec Center 
– Bumped out two-story fitness center
– New gymnasium for basketball, volleyball and pickleball
– Outdoor splash pad
– Major mechanical upgrades

The Vail Mind Center’s multidisciplinary approach provides localized care for kids

Early intervention can be a key success factor in treating childhood behavioral issues (Sensory Gym photo, courtesy of The Vail Mind Center)
Early intervention can be a key success factor in treating childhood behavioral issues (Sensory Gym photo, courtesy of The Vail Mind Center)
Art Therapy Room best

In addition to the challenges presented by the pandemic, parents and their families also dealt with limited access to daycare, preschools and even primary care. The result has been a lot more hands-on time with their kids and more opportunities to notice behaviors that might be the early signs of developmental issues. 

Paul Graf, Founder and CEO of the Vail Mind Center, a comprehensive therapy provider based in Edwards – offering Speech, Occupational, Behavior, Art Therapy, Diagnosing and Counseling – said that recognizing those issues and taking steps for early intervention can be critical in helping to prevent behavioral problems in the teen years and beyond.

“Parents often see lots of frustration and challenging behaviors in their young kids, which frequently indicates that the kids have needs which should be addressed,” he said. “And the sooner a child with a special need can be helped, the better the long-term outcomes.”

The collaborative care model means kids can receive more than just a single mode of therapy during their visits, either in the center, at home or via telehealth sessions (Art Therapy Room photo, courtesy of The Vail Mind Center)
The collaborative care model means kids can receive more than just a single mode of therapy during their visits, either in the center, at home or via telehealth sessions (Art Therapy Room photo, courtesy of The Vail Mind Center)

A personal mission
Graf launched the Vail Mind Center in 2019 after his own family found it impossible to get the care they needed here in Eagle County. Knowing his family was not alone in their needs for pediatric behavioral and mental health services, he decided to take on the mission of bringing them to the community.

“Getting a diagnosis was hard enough in itself. After being on a waitlist for many months, or even a year if you have Medicaid, most families have to drive down to the Front Range to get their children tested,” he said. “Once they receive a diagnosis, getting the services needed is still practically impossible.”

Now, with 17 therapists on staff including four Psychologists, wait times for a testing appointment at the Vail Mind Center are approximately six weeks.

“We have three kids, and the oldest suffered a range of issues, but after finally getting a diagnosis and seeking services, our eyes were opened to the state of pediatric services in Eagle County and beyond,” Graf said.

That led the Internet and technology startups entrepreneur to acquire a large space in Edwards and build a sensory gym with climbing wall, swings, individual treatment rooms, plus a large Art Therapy and social groups space. That created a fun environment for kids ages 0-21 to come to for therapy, all within a collaborative care model.

For other mountain town parents coping with limited access to care, Vail Mind Center has become an important resource, with over 70 children currently taking part in more than 100 sessions per week. Graf even has clients who come all the way from Fairplay to take part in local services.

The collaborative care model means kids can receive more than just a single mode of therapy during their visits, either in the center, at home or via telehealth sessions (Art Therapy Room photo, courtesy of The Vail Mind Center)
The collaborative care model means kids can receive more than just a single mode of therapy during their visits, either in the center, at home or via telehealth sessions (Art Therapy Room photo, courtesy of The Vail Mind Center)

Addressing needs early and collaborating
With teen depression and psychiatric issues an ever more pressing problem, especially with the disruption and social isolation of the pandemic, Graf said the Vail Mind Center can play an important role in spotting needs and offering early treatment to help kids have a more happy and healthy early childhood.

“When issues go untreated, they can have compounding effects. Too many of the teens and young adults currently struggling with anxiety, depression and substance abuse might have been able to avoid the extremes they are experiencing had their early childhood issues been appropriately addressed.”

The center often receives referrals from pediatricians, after wellness checks identify kids who are not reaching developmental milestones – the ability to talk, walk or other basic skills. Preschool screenings also can identify a child that may need services. Graf said many parents also contact the center directly and arrange an evaluation with staff, who are able to offer a diagnosis and start on therapeutic work.

The Vail Mind Center’s collaborative care model means kids can receive more than just a single mode of therapy during their visits, either in the center, at home or via telehealth sessions.

“We do a lot of in-home sessions, where we do applied behavioral analysis – a lot of behavior happens at home, and we can help mitigate that with a therapist there in person. Kids are able to have multiple services during the same visit, allowing therapists to co-treat or share the best evidence-based treatments from their respective disciplines.” 

Adaptable service model
As COVID led to restrictions on in-person services for all but the most severe cases, Graf said the Vail Mind Center discovered that telehealth sessions can often be just as effective for most kids.

“We came out of the whole experience last spring recognizing the powers of telehealth, which sort of went against conventional wisdom,” he said. “But we found we were able to work as or more effectively with many kids via telehealth sessions – most kids flourished. We also got more parental engagement, as parents actively participated and learned techniques they could deliver at home. Parental training is still key, either in the clinic or on Zoom.” Those telehealth sessions have been so successful that Graf has just launched Healthy Young Minds, an entirely online therapeutic service which provides similar therapy to kids across the country, using a mixture of local and national therapists.

VSON expands to Gunnison, Crested Butte, Telluride

VSON medical group is dedicated to caring for Colorado’s mountain communities. With the focus being on people, space, and technology VSON is here to best serve your needs. (photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)
VSON medical group is dedicated to caring for Colorado’s mountain communities. With the focus being on people, space, and technology VSON is here to best serve your needs. (photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)

On Sept. 1, Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery (VSON) acquired Alpine Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, with locations in Gunnison and San Miguel Counties; the clinic is now called VSON Alpine. VSON has also become the majority owner of Alpine Surgery Center in Gunnison.

While Alpine Orthopaedics already delivered exceptional care to its patients, the new partnership expands services to Colorado mountain towns, while retaining Dr. Gloria Beim and her team’s quality care.

“To meet future needs of orthopaedic and spinal care — and influenced by local and national trends in health care — the medical groups are partnering to share invaluable resources, including people, space and technology, to produce cost-effective, convenient and complete care for our communities,” said Rachel Follender, VSON’s Director of Marketing and Communications. 

The partnership allows VSON to expand its services, research and outreach to mountain towns on Colorado’s Western Slope, including the active ski towns of Crested Butte and Telluride. It also provides previously unavailable expertise in subspeciality areas, such as hip, joint replacement, foot, and ankle conditions. In the past, residents and visitors in Gunnison and San Miguel counties had to seek care in Vail, Denver or Grand Junction for complex total joint, hip, or other subspecialty conditions.

Dr. Beim: VSON’s first female orthopaedic surgeon
As a renowned orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, Beim has worked with professional teams and elite athletes for over 25 years. Since 2004, she has served as Team Physician and Chief Medical Officer at Olympic and Paralympic events worldwide. This summer, she was Head Team Physician for Team USA at the 2021 Paralympics in Toyko.

Dr. Gloria Beim (photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)
Dr. Gloria Beim (photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)

“She is exceptional at what she does,” said Bonnie McDonald, Business Director at VSON Alpine. “Every doctor may say that he or she is a brilliant surgeon, but with Dr. Beim, it is actually true. She is conservative in her approach to care and is always studying the latest products and research, using only evidence-based medicine. Her dedication to her profession and bedside manner are second to none. Patients love her, and physician colleagues and professional sports organizations consistently turn to her for her expertise.”

Beim first attended college at age 14. She earned her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and completed her residency at Columbia/New York Orthopaedic Hospital. Afterwards, she was the first woman accepted into renowned sports medicine pioneer Dr. Freddie Fu’s fellowship training program at University of Pittsburg.

She established Alpine Orthopaedics in 1999 and founded Alpine Surgery Center in 2006. She and her physician assistants, Amy Sandusky and Julia Stock, will continue to provide care at VSON Alpine locations, along with new provider Dr. Adam Lindsay.

“A former Division 1 Water Polo player and USA Men’s National Team athlete, Dr. Lindsay has first-hand knowledge of how important getting back to your activity is following injury. He will a be a tremendous asset in ensuring Crested Butte-, Gunnison- and Telluride-based visitors and patients receive top-notch care in their hometown or vacation destination,” McDonald said.

Dr. Cafferky extends total joint services to Gunnison
Beim has invited Dr. Nathan Cafferky and his team to launch total joint services at Alpine Surgery Center. Beginning Sept. 30, Cafferky and his team will start treating hip and knee patients in Gunnison. By expanding his total joint program to the area, Dr. Cafferky and VSON Alpine can now provide accessible, cost-effective total hip and knee replacements to the Gunnison community and its surrounding regions.

Dr. Adam Lindsay (photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)
Dr. Adam Lindsay (photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)

“The physicians at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery are some of the best sports medicine docs in the country – many of whom I have worked and consulted with over the years,” Beim said. “I am thrilled to be joining such a talented and reputable team.”

“As more and more total joint replacements are done in the more cost-effective outpatient surgery center setting, it is hugely beneficial that VSON has a surgeon with fellowship-training in total joint replacements to work with Drs. Beim and Lindsay. This extra, in-depth training provides the added level of insight, experience and expertise that many patients find comforting when getting their joints replaced,” McDonald said. “VSON brings a team of physicians and surgeons that match Dr. Beim’s caliber. They also bring sub-specialists for Dr. Beim to collaborate with and refer to, such as a neurosurgeon, foot and ankle specialist, expert in hip arthroscopy and a doctor who has advanced training in total join replacement.”

Sharing resources
VSON’s partnership with the former Alpine Orthopaedics and Alpine Surgery Center is a seamless fit: the groups share similar values in terms of exceptional care, an emphasis on workplace balance and a culture of working together to provide excellent service to the community, Follender said. The merger also allows the clinics to share valuable resources, such as human resources and IT systems, as well as medical technology.

“VSON was able to extend to the VSON Alpine locations their more comprehensive electronic medical records, phone, medical records and x-ray systems, among others. Both groups are benefitting tremendously with the most valuable resource of all: sharing the skills and experience of their trained, professional staffs,” McDonald said.

Now, the partnership employs some of the best orthopaedic surgeons available.

“Dr. Beim is one of the best sports medicine physicians in the country,” Cafferky said. “It’s an honor to work with her as we expand and grow our total joints services. Together, we can create a positive impact on Colorado’s active community.”

Overall, with VSON’s added surgeons, Alpine Surgery Center will be able to meet more patients’ surgical needs.

“It will enable more patients to benefit from safer, more effective, and less expensive surgical procedures when they are needed,” McDonald said.

VSON is the longest-standing orthopaedic practice in the Vail Valley, with clinics in Edwards, Vail, Frisco and Granby.

“With its acquisition of Alpine Orthopaedics and further expansion to the Western Slope, VSON has become the premier orthopaedic group dedicated to serving mountain communities,” Follender said.

New advances in cervical artificial disc replacement can lead to revolutionary improvements in motion and mobility

After his neck pain became unmanageable with basic treatment, Teddy Errico explored surgical options and learned about cervical artificial disc replacement with Dr. Ernest Braxton. (Photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)
After his neck pain became unmanageable with basic treatment, Teddy Errico explored surgical options and learned about cervical artificial disc replacement with Dr. Ernest Braxton. (Photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)

The active lifestyle of folks in the High Country certainly produces its share of neck and spinal injuries and lots of accelerated wear and tear. But the good news is that a local specialist can offer an up-to-date, truly world-class solution for many patients, allowing them to return to their busy lives with less pain and without a neck fusion.

Dr. Ernest Braxton, a noted neurosurgeon with offices at Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery in both Eagle and Summit counties, is a leading expert at treatments involving cervical artificial disc replacements. Unlike the old days, where disc fusion surgeries were often the primary solution to disc damage, Braxton said that the newest generation of artificial disc implants can lead to much faster recovery times and marked improvement in both mobility and reduction of pain and discomfort.

“We provide a service for motion preservation, and a big alternative to fusion,” Braxton said. “Disc replacement maintains motion, and reduces and prevents adjacent segment disease. And we’ve had a 90% satisfaction rate –revision surgeries are less common on a disc replacement procedure.”

Dr. Ernest Braxton, a noted neurosurgeon with offices at Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery in both Eagle and Summit counties, is a leading expert at treatments involving cervical artificial disc replacements. (Photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)
Dr. Ernest Braxton, a noted neurosurgeon with offices at Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery in both Eagle and Summit counties, is a leading expert at treatments involving cervical artificial disc replacements. (Photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)VSO Dr Braxton 2 DT 8-27-19 Dominique Taylor/Dominique Taylor Photography

All of that, right here at the Vail Valley Surgery Center, in an outpatient setting that often allows patients to be back to their active lives.

Some real-life experience with artificial disc replacement
Like many Colorado residents, 53-year-old Telluride Realtor Teddy Errico has always played a little too hard – whether that be skiing, hockey, golf, softball or surfing.

“I had a little too much fun over all the years, especially all those fun things we do on the mountain,” Errico said.

Fifteen years ago, trouble began with a herniated C4-5 disc in his neck. Errico said he initially managed with PT visits and a stretching regimen. But by 2019, he had developed severe neck and arm pain that would go away with conservative care.

“I thought I could just grind through the pain, as you do in mountain life, but after getting some relief from a chiropractor visit, it never got better, and my doctor suggested I might need surgery,” he explained. 

COVID-19 complicated Errico’s options, but after talking to a half dozen specialists across the state, Errico got in touch with Braxton and said he was immediately impressed by his approach, and his suggestion of cervical artificial disc replacement.

Errico added “I knew his resume and I was impressed by how unbelievably well you get treated by his staff,”

Braxton said the technology involved in artificial disc replacement has been in existence in the United States since 2007, but the device he now uses was approved by the FDA in April 2021 for two levels. Made of PEEK (Polyether-ether-ketone) and ceramic, the discs are an artificial ceramic and biopolymer mix that makes them more compatible with MRI scans.

Braxton said cervical artificial disc replacement is not for everyone, but for otherwise healthy patients aged 18 to 65, it can be an ideal solution and an excellent alternative to fusion surgery. (Photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)
Braxton said cervical artificial disc replacement is not for everyone, but for otherwise healthy patients aged 18 to 65, it can be an ideal solution and an excellent alternative to fusion surgery. (Photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)

After an initial, more traditional surgery in late January 2021, Errico said much of his hip pain had dissipated, and he was even able to snowboard a bit during closing week at his local hill. But the neck pain was still a big issue, and Braxton arranged to provide Errico the disc replacement surgery on April 23.

“I was literally out by 1:30 p.m. that day, and I spent some time afterward in a neck brace that was more awkward than painful. Dr. Braxton gave me great advice to walk as comfortably as I could to get the blood moving, and I was able to leave town the next day.”

A fast and full recovery is the goal
Errico said the results were fantastic, and immediate. “It could not have gone better,” he said. “I do five sessions of PT a week and am walking two to four miles a week, and the range of motion in my neck is just about normal. My goal was always 100% to get back to what I was doing, and they’ve said I don’t have to change anything when I am completely healed. That’s been very exciting for me.”

Realtor Teddy Errico is looking forward to returning to his active mountain lifestyle skiing, golfing and wake boarding after recovery from a cervical artificial disc replacement performed by Dr. Ernest Braxton at Vail Valley Surgery Center. (Photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)

Braxton said the procedure is not for everyone, but for otherwise healthy patients aged 18 to 65, it can be an ideal solution and an excellent alternative to fusion surgery.

“The primary advantages are faster recovery, as there are no screws or plates involved, and fewer incidents of reoperations being necessary,” he said. “Also, there’s less incidence of pseudoarthrosis, which occurs when fusion fails to heal.”

For more about cervical artificial disc replacement and Dr. Ernest Braxton, visit vsortho.com or braxtonmd.com.

Regenerative Medicine provides new hope and healing

Regenerative medicine using orthobiologics can provide significant results for patients suffering from conditions like osteoarthritis, helping them to get back to the activities they love. (Getty Images)
Regenerative medicine using orthobiologics can provide significant results for patients suffering from conditions like osteoarthritis, helping them to get back to the activities they love. (Getty Images)

In the last decade, interventions involving orthobiologics, like platelet rich plasma (PRP), have been providing relief and new hope for tissue and joint damage. Many patients with conditions like osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease and tendinosis are finding significant, long-term improvement from orthobiologics — the use of natural substances like platelets and stem cells to help musculoskeletal injuries heal. 

Dr. Matthew Gnirke, a physiatrist at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery, specializes in orthobiologics. He employs PRP and bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC) to get people back to the sports and activities they love.

What is it?

PRP and BMAC both use platelets from the patient’s own body. 

PRP interventions involve a simple blood draw — about 60cc, which is anticoagulated (to prevent blood clotting) and spun to separate different cell types. Physicians then collect the platelets, which are the least dense cells, and inject them into a joint or other damaged site. 

BMAC interventions also use platelets, along with a small amount of stem cells; these mesenchymal stem cells have the ability to differentiate (or turn into) cells that produce cartilage, tendons, ligaments and muscles. They are sourced from bone marrow through a needle. The procedure can be done in office, or, if a patient prefers sedation, in a surgical setting.

“BMAC is not a surgical procedure, but it can cause pain,” he said. “The response is highly variable. Many patients describe it as a deep Charlie horse in the buttock. Some feel it less, some more, but the vast majority of patients do tolerate it in the office and sedation is not necessary.” 

BMAC is often used for more advanced osteoarthritis and disc diseases, whereas PRP is used for early stage osteoarthritis, joint issues and tendon disorders like tendinosis (the latter of which is caused by degeneration of a tendon’s collagen from chronic overuse, such as “tennis elbow”).

Platelets act like microscopic, natural “surgeons,” Gnirke said. They attach to damaged collagen fibers, which are the fundamental building blocks of tendons, ligaments and muscles. One platelet contains over 1,200 growth factors within it, he said. PRP treatment typically releases at least 1 million platelets into an injured area, releasing growth factors involved in collagen repair and synthesis. 

“They are truly wound-healing cells,” Gnirke said.

What can it help?

Orthobiologics are referred to as regenerative medicine because they actually help heal rather than simply masking symptoms like steroid shots do. They are used to treat damaged tendons, ligaments, muscles, joints and discs. 

Gnirke has seen patients with early stage osteoarthritis of the knee and other joints, as well as conditions like tennis elbow, improve significantly. These conditions result from slow degradation over time, as collagen fibers lose strength and density and tend to get microtears.

“The earlier you catch it, the more likely you’re able to see long term trajectory changing improvement,” he said. 

Dr. Matthew Gnirke (photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)
Dr. Matthew Gnirke (photo courtesy of Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery)

He recommends people come in for an evaluation as soon as symptoms affect them regularly or impact function. Even if you can still ski, bike, hike and do what you love, if you’re modifying movements or aware of discomfort, it often indicates mild to moderate disease, he said. Grinning and bearing pain or stiffness could lead to further breakdown of tissues and joints, which can progress to more severe osteoarthritis (like bone on bone knee damage) or severe disc degeneration and associated pain.

Gnirke finds orthobiologics “quite effective for lower back pain related to degenerative disc disease,” he said. “Studies show an improvement in back pain in two out of three patients over the long term.”

In the past, physical therapy and/or anti-inflammatories, then surgery was used to treat degenerative disc disease — there weren’t many options in-between. Orthobiologics bridge that gap.

Originally used in sports medicine for professional athletes, PRP and BMAC are now available to the general public. Though most insurances still view them as experimental treatments, workman’s compensation insurance and Kaiser Permanente are paving the way for other companies to cover the procedures. No one knows when (or if) that will happen, but it’s still probably years away. Until then, patients can pay out of pocket (usually under $1,000 for PRP).

Studies show that 65% to 75% of patients respond positively to PRP and BMAC.

“Over 2/3 of patients see significant, long-term improvement for greater than one to two years,” Gnirke said.

How the procedure works

Once platelets (and stem cells, in the case of BMAC) are collected, Gnirke delivers injections into the site of injury, using ultrasound or x-ray to ensure the exact site of injection.

Patients often temporarily feel worse before they get better: Pain flare ups range from mild to severe and can last anywhere from one day to up to two weeks. The longer, more severe reactions usually occur with spinal injections, he said. Within a month, patients usually feel they’re at baseline: not better, not worse.

Typically, it takes about six to eight weeks to start feeling improvement; it can take four to six months, and even up for a year if it’s a spinal injection, for improvements to fully take effect. Of course, regenerative medicine is just one of the procedures Gnirke employs. His practice focuses on proper diagnosis, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders. He avoids overtreating and doesn’t believe in preemptive orthobiologics where they’re not needed. His main interest: getting people back to doing what they love.

Learn More

To find out more about regenerative medicine and Dr. Matthew Gnirke, visit vsortho.com

Challenge America stands united with veterans for September golf fundraiser

Challenge America’s programs include an entire initiative devoted to the design and manufacture of aids to daily living. (Photo Courtesy of Challenge America)
Challenge America’s programs include an entire initiative devoted to the design and manufacture of aids to daily living. (Photo Courtesy of Challenge America)

As the 20th anniversary of the catastrophic 9/11 attacks approaches, a local charity with a national mission hopes that valley residents will come together to help honor and support the sacrifices of veterans.

Challenge America, a broad-reaching veterans’ nonprofit, will host its inaugural Remembering 9/11 Memorial Weekend with a dinner, live auction and concert on Sept. 10th and a golf tournament Sept. 11, both at the Aspen Glen Club.  

It’s designed as a significant fundraiser for the innovative, Basalt-based organization, which has helped thousands of veterans in the U.S. with specialized resources and solutions that complement and enhance the lives of former service members.

Dallas Blaney, PhD, serves as executive director of the 501(3)c nonprofit. Blaney, himself a Navy veteran, came to the Roaring Fork Valley after a career in higher education, and said that September’s weekend of events – and its theme, Standing United – reflects Challenge America’s larger mission to give back to the veterans’ community.

“If there was ever a moment for Americans to show their resilience, that was it,” he said. “We all stood shoulder to shoulder on that terrible day twenty years ago, coming together to stand united as a people. Our event offers an opportunity to revive this feeling of unity and celebrate the brave men and women whose service and sacrifice keep us safe.” 

Unique programs provide support and help veterans heal

Challenge America’s programming takes a slightly different tack than the more than 40,000 other veterans’ organizations that have emerged in the U.S. in recent years. That itself is a remarkable number, Blaney notes, considering the lack of support and resources Vietnam-era veterans often experienced when they returned home from combat. 

The post-9/11 era, he said, has instead seen a flourishing of veteran service organizations. Founded in 2009, Challenge America has earned national recognition for its innovative efforts to address the unmet needs of Veterans and their families. For example, Challenge America partnered with the VA to develop products and programs to address the many challenges faced by injured veterans. That includes an entire initiative devoted to the design and manufacture of aids to daily living, as well as a one-of-a-kind art program created to offer a new avenue of expression and community connection for vets.  

“Our organization leverages technology and the creative arts to improve the lives of veterans and their families,” he said. “What we’re doing – well, no one else is doing that. And the feedback we’ve received is nothing but praise. Veterans tell us that we’ve totally transformed their lives, or that they’ve finally been able to sit down with someone who cares, listens and really incorporates them into their programs. It’s been a great way for vets to connect with one another and overcome the trauma of their military experience.”

To that end, Challenge America’s trademark programs include the Military Sisterhood Initiative, the largest peer-support network for female veterans in the country, serving more than 5,000 women in the U.S and 19 countries. 

The MSI is complemented by Challenge America’s Makers for Veterans, which has teamed injured veterans with entrepreneurs and inventors to come up with dozens of specialized tools and technological aids, ranging from more stabilized support canes to a virtual service dog app. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Blaney said the organization also received a special request from the VA to create 50 products designed for first responders and essential workers, which produced new tools including a UV light decontamination system. 

Three valley locals and a veteran from Wisconsin have been training to summit Mt. Elbert on September 16 in support of Challenge America. (Photo Courtesy of Challenge America)
Three valley locals and a veteran from Wisconsin have been training to summit Mt. Elbert on September 16 in support of Challenge America. (Photo Courtesy of Challenge America)
Support Challenge America

Tickets and sponsorship opportunities for the Remembering 9/11 Memorial Weekend are still available and include dinner and a concert by New York’s Alan Harris Quintet, featuring the acclaimed jazz-soul vocalist and guitarist who has been called “the heir apparent to Nat King Cole.”

For more information on the fundraiser or to purchase tickets, visit the event webpage at 911golf.org or call 970-279-1323.  

Making an impact through art

But it is Challenge America’s Veteran Arts Community that might be having the longest-lasting impact, Blaney said. The organization has sponsored various artistic endeavors designed to provide an inclusive outlet for veterans, ranging from music therapy programs to this summer’s national veterans’ 9/11-themed art competition.

“The winner will have their art reproduced on postcards sent to 50,000 first responders, veterans and active-duty service members,” Blaney said. “Winners will also have their work displayed at the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago.”

And if that’s not enough, Challenge America is also sponsoring four severely injured veterans to take part in its Mount Elbert Challenge on Sept. 15. Three valley locals and a veteran from Wisconsin have been training to tackle the Fourteener; an online Strava Club has been set up with a goal of having supporters climb 4,500 flights of stairs by the event date.   

First Western Trust’s new Avon office welcomes independent-minded entrepreneurs for personalized banking and wealth management services

First Western Trust believes that every client’s situation and needs are as unique as they are – each client deserves solutions and an attention to detail that meets their needs and helps them succeed. (Getty Images)
First Western Trust believes that every client’s situation and needs are as unique as they are – each client deserves solutions and an attention to detail that meets their needs and helps them succeed. (Getty Images)

A new generation of entrepreneurs and coastal transplants, who are often focused on creating the next big thing, want highly-personalized banking, planning, and investment services – and a local private bank has recently opened a new location to meet their needs.

First Western Trust recently moved to a new location in Avon’s Seasons Building, which offers an intimate and attractive atmosphere to welcome new clients and provides a personalized approach to private and commercial banking, wealth planning, trust and investment management services.

Michael Glass, Market President at First Western’s Vail Valley office, said First Western’s new office comes at an important juncture in Eagle County’s post-Covid business climate.

“We offer a unique combination of sophisticated services and a team of local experts, and that allows us to help entrepreneurs and business owners, who generate significant value and wealth within our community through their work,” Glass said.

Glass, a banking veteran and valley native since 1999, said that First Western occupies an interesting niche in the financial services sector – serving as a private bank built on a trust platform that offers tailored solutions to meet each client’s unique goals.

Tailored services for innovative-thinkers
First Western believes that every client’s situation and needs are as unique as they are – each client deserves solutions and an attention to detail that meets their needs and helps them succeed. The bank’s solutions include a suite of lending, depository, and other services designed for private banking and commercial needs. Their insurance and mortgage services, as an example, have provided a valuable resource for their clients during the valley’s unprecedented real estate boom. In addition, First Western’s solutions and team of experts in wealth planning, investment management, trust and estate services.

Commercial banking services also include treasury management and retirement planning services for the businesses they serve.

Michael Glass, market president at First Western Trust’s Vail Valley office in Avon. (Photo Courtesy of First Western Trust)
Michael Glass, market president at First Western Trust’s Vail Valley office in Avon. (Photo Courtesy of First Western Trust)

“We offer services for clients who are seeking to grow and expand their businesses, as well as solutions and planning help for clients seeking to transition their business or move towards retirement,” Glass explained.

First Western incorporates a holistic view into their approach to wealth management – which they refer to as ConnectView – a view which considers all aspects of their clients’ financial, relational, experiential, and legacy wealth, and which enables clients to develop a complete plan to grow and manage their wealth for generations to come. Considering the many moving parts of wealth, which often evolve over time, the ConnectView approach provides a valuable perspective and framework to help develop a wealth plan that provides clients with peace of mind.

Wealth Management for Westerners
First Western Trust began in 2002, when Chairman and CEO Scott Wylie, an entrepreneur and banker, led a group of Western business leaders to create an organization that provides individuals with high levels of sophistication and personalized boutique service. Based in Colorado, First Western operates 10 branches in Colorado, along with locations in Arizona, Wyoming and California.

Relationships are key, Glass said, and First Western strives to cultivate thoughtful and personal connections with each client. That means a more personalized approach, creating enduring relationships with clients on a first-name basis, always delivering a high level of service and care.

“Offering boutique-style financial services to Western-based clients enables them to connect their goals, dreams, and aspirations for their families and business over the long term,” Glass said.

For First Western, community relationships are fundamental. Since its inception, First Western has invested nearly $20 million into local community projects, including charitable donations, development loans and assistance to affordable housing developments. Partnering with and supporting local communities is more than an obligation for First Western, it is part of who they are as an organization.    

Bank locally

Visit the new First Western Trust location in Avon at 137 Benchmark Road, Suite D.

First Western’s Vail Valley team is available by appointment to meet with new clients to understand their needs and to tailor-fit solutions to help them achieve their goals. For more information, visit myfw.com.

Dr. Braxton: a national leader in neurosurgery

Dr. Ernest Braxton, a neurosurgeon with Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery, was the first surgeon in Colorado — and one of the first in the U.S. — to successfully perform an awake surgery.
Dr. Ernest Braxton, a neurosurgeon with Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery, was the first surgeon in Colorado — and one of the first in the U.S. — to successfully perform an awake surgery.

The term “renowned leader” gets thrown around a lot, but neurosurgeon Ernest Braxton has an abundance of experience, expertise and proven innovation to solidly back that claim. Braxton, a neurosurgeon at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery, was the first surgeon in the nation to perform minimally invasive spinal surgery; in 2018, he inserted an artificial disc into a patient’s spine through the belly button.

In 2016, he was the first surgeon in Colorado — and one of the first in the U.S. — to successfully perform an awake surgery. Traditional neurosurgery knowledge maintained that spinal fusions were too long, painful or complex to undertake awake, but Braxton proved that idea fictitious.

Minimally invasive surgery

Braxton’s experience as a neurosurgeon in the military helped shape his commitment to performing the most minimally invasive surgeries possible, in order to promptly return soldiers back to duty. He served as a neurosurgeon during the war in Afghanistan, as well as the chief of neurosurgery at San Antonio Military Medical Center — the Department of Defense’s largest medical treatment facility with the highest acuity and volume of any military hospital. While the war raged in Afghanistan, he contributed to a 96% survivability rate for incoming wounded, including severe traumatic brain injuries and complex spinal fractures from explosions.

“I’m passionate about minimally invasive spine surgery because patients return to performance faster,” Braxton said.

He transferred his surgical experiences within the military to serving civilians in the Vail Valley and beyond, so they can return to the sports and activities they love.

He views minimally invasive surgery not as a procedure, but rather, a philosophy. He customizes his surgical approach to each patient, isolating the problem that prevents the patient from fully enjoying life and finding a surgical intervention that returns the person to an active life, whether that’s through inserting an artificial disc, thinning away a bone or a disc to free up a nerve or fusing a painful spine.

He often utilizes computer assisted systems, which he likens to GPS navigation or x-ray vision. The computerized systems allow him to make smaller incisions; they employ microscopes to show areas he needs to trim, like bone or discs, or possibly fuse. While some surgeons face a barrier in transitioning to performing surgery with these computerized systems and microscopes, Braxton’s training stems from working on the brain — arguably the most complicated and intricate organ in the body.

“I’ve had many years working under a microscope and being comfortable working in a very small area rather than just (opening up) and exposing things,” he said.

In routine spinal fusion surgeries, Braxton prevents core muscle from dying and the associated higher risk of infection by cutting small incisions on the side of the spine and spreading the muscles, rather than completely slicing through muscles. Other, more invasive, surgeons cut closer to the spine and strip the muscles off the bones to fuse vertebrae. This traditional, invasive method stops blood flow to the muscles, which causes muscles to die, making them impossible to rehabilitate and prone to infection, Braxton said.

Braxton is committed to performing minimally invasive spinal surgeries, which allow patients to recover more quickly.
Braxton is committed to performing minimally invasive spinal surgeries, which allow patients to recover more quickly.

Awake surgeries

Braxton advocates awake surgery, without the use of heavy anesthetics, for three main reasons. First, it results in faster recovery and avoids risks; patients older than 60 and those in high elevations like Vail have a higher percentage of anesthesia-related post-operative cognitive dysfunction, including memory and executive function problems, which can last weeks and up to a year. While traditional spine fusion surgeries require patients to remain hospitalized for three to four days, awake patients leave the hospital the same or next day.

Second, awake surgeries allow doctors to talk to patients, who literally feel the relief while still on the table, after the problem is surgically repaired. Surgeons can test a motion, such as a leg movement that previously caused pain, and ensure the pain is gone. Braxton likens such tests to a mechanic fixing engine problems; starting up the car confirms it works.

Finally, awake surgeries promote a patient-centered environment, right down to the type of music played during surgery.

“It allows me to be more delicate with neurological structures and creates a more professional atmosphere that is centered on patient care, and patients seem to recover better because of more gentle handling of the tissue,” he says. “If it doesn’t hurt during surgery, usually it doesn’t hurt after surgery.”

Though an awake spinal fusion may sound painful, Vail Valley residents like Tom Kleinhardt, who underwent a fusion June 20, 2019, don’t experience pain.

“Your body feels some motion, and you feel pressure and a little jerking, but nothing to be concerned about,” Kleinhardt said. “I highly recommend it.”

With former Lt. Col. Braxton’s military experience — and as the current team physician for the US Ski and Snowboard teams and the USA Nordic Team — he’s a trusted leader in minimally invasive spinal surgeries; he specializes in returning people to the activities they love.

Brought to you by Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery

For more about minimally invasive spine surgery and Dr. Ernest Braxton, visit https://www.vsortho.com or https://braxtonmd.com.

New direct Atlanta, Chicago flights expand Eagle County airport’s reputation

This summer, the Eagle County Regional Airport is adding two new direct flights to Atlanta and Chicago, doubling the summertime direct-flight options. (Photo Courtesy of Eagle County Regional Airport)
This summer, the Eagle County Regional Airport is adding two new direct flights to Atlanta and Chicago, doubling the summertime direct-flight options. (Photo Courtesy of Eagle County Regional Airport)

While wintertime air travel in and out of the Eagle County Regional Airport has become an absolute must-do for travelers both locally and across the nation, summer has usually been a little slower, by comparison.

That will all change this June as the EGE airport is adding two new direct flights to Atlanta and Chicago, doubling the summertime direct-flight options. David Reid, director of aviation for the local airport, said it’s a positive development for the community – and if flight volumes remain steady, it could lead to more year-round options for flyers.

The Atlanta route, Reid said, is an even bigger opportunity as it’s the first Delta summer service operated for the Eagle County airport.

Eagle County Regional Airport

Daily nonstop flights from Eagle County Regional Airport to Chicago O’Hare on American Airlines begin June 3. Daily direct flights to Atlanta on Delta Air Lines will begin June 5. To see a complete schedule of flights available, visit www.flyvail.com

“Starting on June 5th, we’ll have direct flights to Atlanta five times a week, moving to daily flights through Labor Day, using a Boeing 757 aircraft,” he explained. “The schedule will see late evening arrivals at 7:30 p.m., then the plane will stay overnight for 7:30 a.m. departures – which will be a great time for connections in Atlanta.”

Atlanta remains the world’s busiest airport, and has become an important hub for international flights – especially as COVID restrictions loosen and European travel will be an option for Americans once again this summer. Reid said the Delta business is a very big development for the airport.

On June 3, the airport will also add new direct American Airlines flights to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, another major hub for connections to destinations across the world. Reid said those flights will use an Airbus 319 aircraft and will be scheduled daily through Labor Day.

“As long as they both do well in terms of volume, they will remain as daily departures here, through the Labor Day Weekend,” he added. “That’s subject to change and based on volume, but it’s good news.”

The new flights supplement EGE’s existing direct flight schedule, which includes three daily departures to Dallas-Fort Worth on American Airlines, as well as three daily flights to Denver International Airport on United. 

With eight flights a day, Reid said summer will be a little more like EGE’s busy winter days, but everything is currently in place to handle the additional volume. It will also serve as a test case to see if the airport can shift into a new and expanded regional role.

“We still remain busy in the summer, with a full complement of air traffic control and firefighters, so this will see a slight uptick in that sense,” he said. “But we still have all the systems and personnel in place. We’re really only a seasonal market right now, so the biggest impact will be the opportunity for us to grow into a real year-round airport, and that’s very exciting.”

Eagle County Regional Airport officials expect traffic volume to increase with the new flight option. (Vail Daily file photo)
Eagle County Regional Airport officials expect traffic volume to increase with the new flight option. (Vail Daily file photo)

Unlike other national airports, which saw as much as a 60% drop in traffic during the height of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Reid said Eagle’s traffic was only off by 23%, and expectations are that volumes will only increase with the new flight options.

“American and Delta both realize our market is strong and that people want to come up to the valley, and that these types of destinations rebounded faster and earlier than other markets,” he said. “We did a lot of work with air service recruitment and retention, and have been meeting constantly to build those relationships.”

Reid said that his anecdotal knowledge of pricing suggests that the new flights will be quite reasonable, comparable to DIA departures. And in an effort to help promote the new direct flights, the Eagle County Airport and the EGE Air Alliance have teamed up to create the Locals Flight Rebate Program (www.flyeaglecounty.com). Eagle County residents will be eligible to receive a $100 rebate on flights from the airport between June 3 and Sept. 5 of this year. It’s a first-come, first-serve program, but it’s good for as many as two rebates per person during the duration of the promotion.

Ultimately, Reid said he believes that the new connections will help the Eagle County airport’s reputation expand, as well as continuing to show the value of more local flight options.

“If these flights succeed, we can continue to build that year-round presence. We have lots of local people who travel year-round but are driving to Denver or Grand Junction – this gets lots of vehicles off of I-70,” he said.