R.B. Rick Fisher: Debt of gratitude
April 3, 2016
Although I have lived in Steamboat since 1973, this is my first letter to the Steamboat Pilot & Today, but necessary for the debt of gratitude I feel to Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.'s Ski Patrol and Yampa Valley Medical Center's emergency department.
Last Friday, March 25, just before noon, I was skiing down Vagabond to the base of Thunderhead lift with Pat Cunningham, a friend visiting from Kona, Hawaii. Pat "Cooney" Cunningham was a longtime elementary school teacher in Steamboat, who was raising two sons Josh and Matt in Steamboat until they moved to Kona in 1986.
After only a couple of hours skiing, with no indications of problems, Pat collapsed in the snow at the bottom of Thunderhead lift. Pat's last comment to me, halfway down Vagabond was that the altitude was kicking his butt. Not seeing him actually collapse I was alerted by other skiers of a "a guy in the snow not moving" — it was Pat.
First on the scene was a woman skier who identified herself as a nurse, who helped me turn Pat over. He was not conscious or breathing, and his color was terrible. After what seemed like only seconds the first Ski Patrol arrived on the scene. Through radio contact other ski patrollers also arrived, and they started working on Pat.
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In the blur of activity, judging time is difficult, but in what seemed a very few minutes, another skier arrived on the scene and identified himself as an emergency room doctor. The Ski Patrol, now numbering eight to nine members, was conducting CPR and taking directions from the doctor right there on the snow where Pat collapsed.
Having spent 2005 to 2011 embedded with our U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have seen my share of combat lifesaving, but I have to say the actions of that crew on the snow in front of Thunderhead lift line was the most professional and impressive I have ever seen.
With the doctor giving direction, every question he asked was answered to his satisfaction, CPR was conducted non-stop, everything he asked for Ski Patrol produced from packs, and with what must have been some divine intervention after incredible efforts by the team onsite, Pat's heart was re-started.
Taken off the snow by the Patrol on a toboggan and a quick ambulance ride to the Yampa Valley Medical Center emergency room, Pat's care was continued there by the incredible team we have in our hospital that includes a fantastic support team of non-medical personnel for family and logistic support as well as Ski Corp. personnel that followed us to assist in anyway necessary — which was extensive and very much appreciated.
Making a long story only a little longer, after all the fantastic care in Steamboat, Pat was transported by air ambulance to Denver where his care is continuing and he is scheduled for cardiac bypass surgery with his son at his side and a very optimistic outlook for a full recovery. The stories of the efforts of Steamboat Ski Patrol and Yampa Valley Medical personnel preceded us to Denver but were embellished by me to everyone that inquired of how proud and fortunate Steamboat can and should be for saving Pat's life.
My intention was to try and determine names to identify and thank through this letter, but understanding completely the need for privacy after such an event, it will have to suffice that all who were involved know who they are, but the sincere thanks expressed and recognition they deserve hopefully is delivered.
Anyone who has not recognized and given thanks for what fantastic people and services we enjoy living in Steamboat, as well as how all our blessings are shared with our visiting guests — please do so next chance you get.
R.B. Rick Fisher
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