A close call with sudden cardiac arrest at Copper Mountain | SummitDaily.com
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A close call with sudden cardiac arrest at Copper Mountain

Eric Lindberg
Special to the Daily

As Todd Brown, George Gipson and their fellow Copper Mountain Ski Patrol team members arrived at the resort on Feb. 12, they were mentally prepared for a crowded start to Presidents Day weekend but thrilled to be working on the slopes in the Colorado sunshine.

Little did they know that the day would be a defining moment for a family they had never before met.

Jack, my energetic 8-year-old, cruised down Windsong, an intermediate run beneath Timberline Express lift, with a blaze of confidence earned after six days of skiing that week. But the tone of the run changed quickly as he errantly veered into the moguls of Little Burn.

It was a rough crash — a yard sale with bumps and bruises galore. Skiers riding up the Timberline lift found junior patroller Ethan Davis, who quickly alerted ski patrol to assess the situation. Patroller Brown arrived soon after, and as he calmed and inspected Jack, I returned with the scattered equipment, feeling the altitude with each step back uphill.

That’s when it happened — nothing, silence, blackness.

SCA on Windsong

Brown and the team quickly identified that sudden cardiac arrest was the cause of my collapse. They began CPR immediately while other members of ski patrol were alerted and deployed to the scene, like fighter planes on high alert.

Back at the Timberline duty station, Gipson heard that CPR had started and grabbed an automated external defibrillator, better known as an AED. He and others rushed to the scene with the AED in tow.

The persistence that Gipson and others demonstrated was rewarded: on the second shock, my eyes opened gradually. I swatted away the breathing device and asked for my children.

Hours later, after Flight For Life quickly responded and transported me to the trauma center at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Lakewood, I was relatively coherent and surrounded by family and friends. The skilled team at St. Anthony’s had a mountain of issues to address and did so over the days that followed with focus, teamwork and compassion. There was a symbiosis between my contagious love of life and their passion to keep this miraculous recovery alive.

One in a thousand

According to a 2011 study by the SCA Foundation, the survival rate with good neurologic function for SCA that occurs outside of a hospital is 8.3 percent. When CPR can begin immediately with the quick action of witnesses, that survival rate more than triples. It is a true testament to the extensive training, teamwork and faith of these special first responders that I am alive today.

If this story inspires you, there are several things you can do to make a difference:

First, learn CPR. Many emergency services, the Red Cross and others teach courses. While rare, you can find stories of people who have endured over 90 minutes of CPR, were revived and eventually led normal lives.

Second, virtually every first responder organization receives support from one or more nonprofit organization. Consider a donation to your local search and rescue team (the Summit County Search and Rescue), fire station or ambulance district.

Finally, and most simply, next time you see any first responder, please inspire them to continue their service with a simple thank you.


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