Hey, Spike! tells Flight For Life coin story | SummitDaily.com

Hey, Spike! tells Flight For Life coin story

Miles F. Porter IV
Hey, Spike!

Inspiration happens — it just does.

Reasons to be inspired come from all points for all people. Many of these arise in personalized near-death experiences or those of others.

For two longtime locals — Frisco's Rob Philippe and Dillon's Eddie O'Brien — their inspirations to help St. Anthony Flight For Life operations came from experiences with airborne fast track flights to Denver.

"Fast" Eddie's relationship began with the loss of his daughter's ski coach (Tom Stewart) on Buffalo Mountain. He agreed to lead the charge to build the FFL Hangar because of the life-saving work of the FFL crews and helicopters.

Eddie is now a grandfather to daughter Heather Green's son Ollie, 2, who provides more inspiration.

He's returned the favor many times over the years with fundraising efforts associated with the Colorado Grand exotic automobile tour.

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Most recently, Eddie was a member of the volunteer committee that developed the Flight For Life Mahany Heroes Park at the hilltop of St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, honoring all Flight For Life crews, all airborne rescuers, and pilot Patrick Mahany, who perished in a fiery crash just after lift-off on July 3, 2015, and the crew.

Also honored are flight EMT Matthew Bowe and Flight Nurse Dave Repsher, who continues his inspiring, heroic battle to this day.

Rob Philippe, also in real estate development, with numerous holdings in Frisco, has his own story to tell of Flight For Life.

Rob was flown out of Frisco, Labor Day 2016, with a near-death hemoglobin count. Hey, Spike! had visited his longtime friend at his house that weekend and heard him say: "I haven't felt this bad in 32 years."

Rob didn't get out of his chair; he looked ashen. Early Monday morning Rob's partner, Valerie Weber, had to call 911. A short time later, Rob was being choppered out of his hometown, heading for Lakewood.

"The cause was hard to trace back, but I was undergoing some intensive infusion therapy due to an infected total knee replacement when the internal bleeding started," he remembers.

He credits quick work in St. Anthony's Frisco emergency room, middle of the night Flight For Life delivery to St. Anthony North, fast work there and three surgeries, with his survival.

Rob's Vail-based doctors gave some credit to his high altitude lifestyle and good physical condition, with a heavy dose of self-guided 10-15-20-plus days on bicycle rides in France, Majorca, Hungary, Croatia, Italy, Czech Republic and Austria.

Following his last knee replacement surgery at the talented hands of Dr. Jason Jennings at the Colorado Joint Replacement Center of Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver, Rob and Valerie rode their bikes along the Loire River, an adventure suggested by Frisco's Philippe Menu, a native of France.

"…after four knee surgeries in five months, wouldn't you rather hop on your bicycle and ride 15 days on the Loire a Velo than go to physical therapy three days a week?" Rob asks.

The Loire a Velo is the route that follows France's longest river, Orleans to the Atlantic Ocean.

Once back home, Rob continued planning his newest real estate development, a commercial-residential project in front of his 101 W. Main Professional building.

He also found time to design a silver dollar-sized commemorative coin honoring Flight For Life accompanied, on one side by a poem he wrote during his nine days at St. Anthony North.

Rob is also known locally for his artistic skills as a watercolorist, cranking out works in rather speedy fashion, then giving them to connected subjects.

His depiction shows a Flight For Life helicopter, the Tenmile Range and Peak 1 in the background.

The prayer poem reads:

"Bless the brave that leave the ground, in search of souls lost or found. / Bring them back from on high, guide them safe through the sky. / Be it day or be it night, peace to those who make this flight."

Rob contracted with a San Francisco foundry to cast and mint 100 coins in pewter. He quickly ran through those and ordered a second run.

The first coin Rob presented was to Eddie.

"Wow, when Rob showed me the medal, it blew me away and the prayer brought me to tears. I knew we would find many uses for this," recalls Eddie.

Rob's poem prayer is another interesting story. He had been talking to his Frisco neighbor, Mike McAfoos, when the Flight For Life helicopter flew over and McAfoos mentioned that he always wanted to say a little prayer when that happened.

After nine days in intensive care Rob was packing up to move to another room when he found that he had written a prayer for the Flight For Life on his hospital room service menu.

"I carry one of these coins all the time and when I meet another person whose life was saved, or someone associated with air rescue, past or present, I give it to them," notes Rob. "There are medals floating around everywhere including Vietnam era air-evac medics and other Flight For Life operators in neighboring states.

"We are so fortunate to have this service here and should appreciate those brave folks who risk their lives every day," he adds.

Naturally, local St. Anthony officials are happy with Rob and Eddie's efforts.

"We are excited to incorporate your beautiful (coin) design into some of our donor recognition, and I'll be in touch with details about how we want to use it," said Shelley Thompson, chief development officer at St. Anthony Health Foundation. "I very much appreciate your generous offer to underwrite some of that expense."

Thompson adds:

"And thank you for making time to come in and share a little more about your story with CEO Paul Chodkowski and, especially, Maureen Maledon (flight nurse on Rob's rescue). As we discussed, our caregivers with flights hardly ever get to see their patients walking, talking and looking great, and I'm sure it was a real shot in the arm for her."

Rob will provide the commemorative coins to those who have experienced Flight For Life. Write to him at Rob Philippe, Box 67, Frisco, CO 80443.

Miles F. Porter IV, nicknamed "Spike," a Coloradan since 1949, is an Army veteran, former hardrock miner, graduate of Adams State College, and a local since 1982. An award-winning investigative reporter, he and wife Mary E. Staby owned newspapers here for 20 years. Email your social info to milesfporteriv@aol.com.