Where am I? A fairly fortunate case of cardiac arrest

By Bob Buckley

Editor’s Note: This nice vignette from Bob Buckley somehow got lost in the mail and didn’t make it into this edition of The Understories print version. We’ve posted it here for now, and are hoping to get around to another edition so we can get Bob’s stories into print!

I started on the Vail Ski Patrol in 1970 and my last year was 1984. The thing that really stands out in my mind is the miracle that I made it through the first year! I am forever grateful to Paul Testwuide, Joe Macy, and Bill Brown for hiring me in the first place and keeping me on after some pretty stupid mistakes that first year! I was very fortunate to survive and learn from my mistakes and from the older master patrolmen’s nightly training sessions in Donovans’ Copper Bar. There were supervisor ER’s and there were Buffalo, Sandy, Chupa, Jake, and JC’s ER’s, all of which were humbling, but I listened and learned and eventually I myself became a competent master patrolman. The learned skills awarded me with some of the most fulfilling moments of my life.

One of the moments was when the patrol team that consisted of myself, appointed the accident site commander by dispatch, Walt Olson, Janet Testwuide, Bobby Morris, Bill Bird, JC Clark and the Trail Crew plus a very competent cardiologist who asked if he could help resuscitated a 41-year-old New Jersey husband and father of three young children who fell over with a cardiac arrest in the chair 17 lift maze on St. Patrick’s Day 1983.

The luck of the Irish, he had his heart attack in front of two physicians. Bobby Morris was managing the heart kit (suitcase), Janet was doing the chest compressions, Walt was doing the airway management, JC was recording all the drugs, Bill Bird brought us a second heart kit from Eagles Nest as we were just blowing through the drugs.

The Trail Crew broke down and rebuilt the maze because skiers had been stepping over and on us, and Paul Testwuide was personally helping Claude Wood, the haul cat driver who was at the top chair 14, hook up the cat with a roller. Janet became winded doing the non-stop chest compressions so I relieved her and Walt was managing the airway and compressing the bag. Bobby got the defibrillator up and running and handed the defibrillator paddles to the cardiologist who administered the shock and was looking at the heart monitor which Bobby set up and I was looking at the newly awakened patient at my knees.

I was excitedly trying to get the attention of the doctor who was still looking at the monitor. It was so damn exciting seeing a live patient after so many that didn’t make it. The cardiologist saw the heart beating again on the monitor and wanted to give a lighter shock to bring about a better heart rhythm.

After the second shock the heart returned to a normal rhythm and the man asked:  “Where am I?”

It was truly a classic moment and while we were awaiting the haul cat, the Cardiologist asked “Who are you guys? You have more equipment and drugs than I have at home in my ER!”

I was looking up lower Avanti praying for the haul cat to transport this patient to the hospital when I saw what looked like a white cloud racing down the slope at us. It was a powder day and Claude Wood put the pedal to the metal on the haul cat and was preceded by red coated ski patrolmen leading the charge down Avanti. It was the prettiest sight I ever saw!

This was truly a proud moment for the Vail Ski Patrol, Vail Associates, Inc., Bill Brown who supported his patrol, Paul Testwuide,  Dr. Jack Eck who put our heart kit together, and Jake the Snake who put us all on this path, and St. Patrick! We also beat the ski school for the first time in the history of the St. Patrick ski patrol/ski school softball game on skis. A lot of green beer was consumed that night!

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