Steamboat Springs John Bevelhimer nearly died at the Steamboat Ski Area last month. Now expected to make a full recovery from his heart attack, the 59-year-old Indianapolis man can't wait to hit the slopes in Steamboat again.
Bevelhimer went into cardiac arrest while skiing at Steamboat the morning of Feb. 25. Thanks to quick work by bystanders and the ski patrol, Bevelhimer was revived at the site and rushed to the hospital. He was later flown to Poudre Valley Hospital, where he underwent surgery and had a defibrillator put inside his chest.
Bevelhimer credits his second chance at life to the people who helped him in Steamboat.
"I have been told so many times that if it had happened on the gondola or on the slopes, I wouldn't be here," Bevelhimer said. "It wasn't my time."
For the past seven years, Bevelhimer and a group of friends have been traveling out west to ski. He took up the sport about 15 years ago.
The group of five has been to ski resorts in Utah, Wyoming and in Summit County numerous times. Bevelhimer, who works for a pharmaceuticals company, had been to Steamboat only once, but it was just for one day.
When the group arrived on Feb. 23, Bevelhimer was looking forward to skiing a full week at the Steamboat Ski Area.
"I had been to Breckenridge earlier in the year, and Steamboat had better snow," he said. "The conditions were just wonderful."
On Feb. 24, Bevelhimer did his best to ski through some fresh powder and took a lesson that afternoon.
The next day, the group returned to the slopes and made a stop right before noon at the Thunderhead building, which also houses the top of the gondola.
"I didn't feel bad Monday morning," he said. "It hit me all of a sudden. I was surprised as much as anyone."
Bevelhimer had trouble climbing up the stairs to a third-floor restaurant. Once in the restaurant, he collapsed.
An anesthesiologist from San Antonio, Texas, and a paramedic, both of whom were on vacation, immediately attended to Bevelhimer, whose heart had stopped.
Ski instructor Mark Gabrielson was in the restaurant and notified a ski patrol unit, which is based in the Thunderhead building, of the man's collapse.
By the time the ski patrol members arrived, Bevelhimer was unconscious and not breathing. He had no pulse that the paramedic could detect.
With the ski patrol unit were Gary Baggenstoss, a retired doctor, and Joe Packard, who also works for Steamboat Springs Ambulance as an emergency medical technician.
Armed with a mobile defibrillator, Packard applied a single shock to Bevelhimer's chest, which revived the man. Bevelhimer was then transported down the mountain by the gondola where an ambulance was waiting.
"I remember looking up at the ceiling of the ambulance," he said.
Once at Yampa Valley Medical Center, Bevelhimer was monitored and then flown to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins via Mountain Flight Services.
"I was really impressed with the care I got in Steamboat," Bevelhimer said. "For a small town, the level of care is not what I expected."
Once in Fort Collins, doctors found Bevelhimer had a blocked artery, which was addressed. Two days later, Bevelhimer's chest was implanted with a defibrillator that will monitor his heart.
"I was told the blockage should not have caused the cardiac arrest," he said. "They did not find any heart disease or any other problems with my heart. We still don't know what caused it."
Bevelhimer stayed in the hospital until March 1. By his side the entire time was his wife, Faye.
The couple flew back to Indianapolis March 2. Since then, Bevelhimer has slowly been putting together the pieces of that February day.
His friends, who stayed in Steamboat Springs for the week and brought back his luggage, have helped fill in the details about the measures that were taken by the bystanders and the ski patrol.
As he recovers at his home, Bevelhimer has been active writing cards and attempting to get in touch with every person who had a hand in saving his life.
He has also been spending time with his family, which includes a son, a daughter and two grandsons.
"I certainly gave them a scare," he said.
Bevelhimer said the near-death experience would not change his outlook on life.
"I like my life," he said. "I am happy. I am doing what I want to do. I think I might show emotion a little more."
Bevelhimer is hopeful he will return to work on a part-time basis on Monday.
"I really want things to get back to normal," he said. "Every day I get a little bit stronger."
One thing he does want to change is his experience in Steamboat Springs.
"I was looking forward to the restaurants and other activities there," he said. "My friends went to the hot springs.
"The good part is I still have another shot at it."