Steamboat Springs Steamboat Ski Patrol members used a portable device to restart the heart of a 39-year-old Minnesota woman on Thursday, saving her life at the top of the South Peak chairlift.
The woman’s husband, Dion Buhman, said Sunday that he is extremely thankful for the actions by Ski Patrol and other responders at Steamboat Ski Area, in addition to the doctors and staff at Yampa Valley Medical Center. He said Sunday afternoon that his wife, Tanya Buhman, was resting and making good progress in her recovery at the hospital. He said when she’s stable, likely today, she will be transported to a Denver hospital, where she will get a heart implant to prevent future cases of the potentially lethal arrhythmia that struck Thursday afternoon.
Dion Buhman said the family arrived Wednesday from Minneapolis and was “having a great day skiing” Thursday, including lunch at Rendezvous Saddle. Shortly after 1 p.m., the parents and two children came down a run — Tomahawk, Dion thought — and got on the South Peak lift. Dion Buhman and their 11-year-old daughter rode one chair ahead of Tanya Buhman and their 15-year-old son.
On the way up, Dion Buhman said Tanya “basically fainted.”
“It was a pretty frightening scene. …My son yelled at me (and) he held onto her,” Dion Buhman said. “The South Peak lift doesn’t have a bar you put down.”
Dion Buhman began signaling to the lift operator, who called Ski Patrol and stopped the lift when Tanya’s chair was at the top.
Dion Buhman said he took Tanya’s skis off and laid her down on the chair.
“I could see she wasn’t breathing. She was just out,” he said.
He started CPR. Within five minutes, Dion Buhman said, “all kinds of guys from the Ski Patrol were there.”
Patrollers used an automated external defibrillator while Tanya Buhman still was on the chair. They regained her pulse and brought her down the mountain to an ambulance at the base of the Thunderhead Express lift.
“Every doctor said she wouldn’t have made it off the mountain without that … without their fast response and the defibrillator,” Dion Buhman said Sunday. “I owe my wife’s life to them and what they did and how they responded. And everybody here at the hospital, too, has been just fantastic.”
Steamboat has 14 AEDs across the ski area, at locations including Thunderhead building, Rendezvous Saddle, the Four Points Hut and the ski base. The top of the South Peak chairlift is near the Rendezvous Saddle building.
Dion Buhman said it might seem strange, but the location of his wife’s arrhythmia was lucky.
“If it would have happened in an airplane or driving down the road, she wouldn’t have had a chance,” he said. “It really happened in the best spot possible.”
He said the family had no forewarning of Tanya Buhman’s heart condition, which doctors are speculating could be hereditary or congenital.
Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. spokesman Mike Lane called Thursday’s response “a huge team effort” by Ski Patrol and others.
“The first two responders were patrollers Chad Gruben and Jon Feiges, with Hunter Moore, Chris Welch, Mike Hodder, paramedic Mike Hirshman, Greg Wiener, Ross Johnson, Nick Brookshire and a host of others involved in the incident,” Lane said in a Saturday news release.
Gruben, Feiges and Ski Patrol Director John Kohnke could not be reached Sunday.
Dion Buhman praised all of them.
“We’re just happy to have a chance to go home,” he said.