Vail Valley couple married in hospital after man suffers serious injury
January 16, 2017
VAIL — Tammy Jacques and Damon Ornowski got married Saturday for two outstanding reasons:
1. They love each other.
2. They wanted to.
And so they did.
They were going to wait until next summer, but decided they don't want to wait.
And so they didn't.
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"If you love each other it doesn't matter when or where you do it," Tammy said. "He knows I'm there for him."
That's more than a statement of the heart.
Damon is in Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Englewood, where he's recovering from a spinal injury.
How they got there
Tammy's kids go to school at the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy. So on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 11, Tammy and Damon were Nordic skiing in Maloit Park. It had been snowing and there was lots of fresh powder.
Damon cut the corner too close, caught his ski tip in a snow bank and went end over end, sort of the same way you'd fly over the handlebars of your bicycle — a sensation Tammy knows all too well. He flipped through the air and landed on his back and neck.
Tammy was skiing in front, when she heard this commotion. She turned around to see Damon sprawled over the snow.
She skied back to him and asked if he was OK. In less than a second it became apparent he was not.
"He whispered he could not breathe," Tammy said.
He wasn't moving, so she started touching his arms and legs, asking if he could feel it. He could not.
She covered him with a coat and skied to the car to call 911, not knowing if he'd still be alive when she returned. He was.
About a half hour later, feeling started returning to his arms and legs, but he still couldn't move them.
After what seemed like forever, the ambulance crew showed up. That meant Tammy would have to leave him again to lead them to Damon.
The same thoughts poured into her head: Would he be alive when she returned? Again, he was.
By the time they got him loaded into the ambulance, his core body temperature had dropped to 50 degrees, and his heart rate was 25 beats per minute, she said.
An ambulance crew rushed Damon to Denver Health, or rushed as much as they could with Sunday evening skier traffic, in snowy and windy wind conditions.
He didn't know it yet, but Damon had fractures at C4 and C5, a cervical spinal cord contusion and spinal cord syndrome. He spent 12 days in the ICU and had two surgeries, a Laminoplasty on Dec. 14 and an Anterior Cervial Discectomy and Fusion on Dec 21. He was transferred to Craig Rehabilitation Hospital, so that's where he and Tammy were married.
Doctors say they're confident Damon will regain mobility, but it'll take time.
He's also looking at Tammy, who smiles when she talks about him.
Damon became the 28th member of the Court of Master Sommeliers in 1996. He's an accomplished endurance athlete.
Tammy used to race both mountain bikes and road professionally.
"He's just so loved in that community. Everybody loves Damon," she said.
She bought a couple rings from a local jeweler, searching for ones with some blue in them.
For Saturday's wedding she bought new shoes, and borrowed a stunning dress from her daughter that they both love.
So, yeah, she covered the "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue."
That was that
It was December 2014 and Tammy was celebrating her birthday at a local restaurant and Damon was there with a mutual friend. Tammy was just getting off crutches after breaking her leg in a bike wreck that threw her into a guardrail. She was on crutches for months.
Along with being a professional bike racer, she's also a CPA and used to be a Nordic coach with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. She was wearing her big puffy Steamboat jacket that a buddy recognized, and ran into the parking lot to say hello.
"You have to come back inside. There's someone I want you to meet," the buddy said.
So, back inside she went, met Damon and that was that. They've been together for two years.
Damon works with Southern Glacier Wine and Spirits, headquartered in Denver.
He worked in Italy, went to school in Napa and earned his a college degree in biology. He wanted to be a teacher. It turns out he is. Wine and Tammy are his favorite subjects, and not necessarily in that order.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.