Life saved on the snow

Mt Hotham Falls Creek - - FRONT PAGE - ByVANESSA BURGESS

THE quick re­sponse time of Mt Hotham Ski Pa­trol per­son­nel saved the life of a skier who suf­fered a ma­jor car­diac ar­rest on the moun­tain in mid-Au­gust.

Mt Hotham Ski Pa­trol di­rec­tor Bill Barker said the 54-year-old male was skiing on Hotham’s Sun Run when he told his friend he wasn’t feel­ing well.

“He in­formed his friend he wasn’t feel­ing the best and was go­ing to head back to the lodge and when he got to the bot­tom of the run he told his friend he re­ally wasn’t feel­ing well and col­lapsed,” Mr Barker said. “He’d ac­tu­ally gone into car­diac ar­rest.” Mr Barker said the man’s friend alerted ski pa­troller Ian Craw­ford who im­me­di­ately went to the man’s aid and dis­cov­ered he was un­con­scious but breath­ing.

“Mr Craw­ford rolled the man into the res­cue po­si­tion with the help of another nearby pa­troller Eric Fode and he re­gained con­scious­ness for a mo­ment, but then be­came un­con­scious again and stopped breath­ing,” he said.

“Mr Craw­ford im­me­di­ately made a ra­dio call that the pa­tient had stopped breath­ing and he and Eric had be­gun CPR.

“Two pa­trollers Ross Alexan­der and Kylie Petras along with trail crew mem­ber Richard Gui­ness were im­me­di­ately dis­patched from the ski pa­trol base 800 me­tres away with a de­fib­ril­la­tor and re­sus­ci­ta­tion equip­ment, and ar­rived on scene in less than a minute.

“Two vol­un­teer ski pa­trollers Tim Amos and Holly Ban­non-Mur­phy (who are also doc­tors) also ar­rived on the scene within two min­utes of the man col­laps­ing.

“The pa­trollers at­tached the de­fib­ril- la­tor and de­liv­ered one shock to the man how­ever it didn’t bring him back.

“They con­tin­ued CPR for another two min­utes un­til the de­fib­ril­la­tor recharged dur­ing which time my­self, two doc­tors and a nurse from the Mt Hotham Med­i­cal Cen­tre ar­rived.”

Mr Barker said the man was given a sec­ond shock soon af­ter and be­came semi-con­scious.

“He was sta­bilised and then taken to the Med­i­cal Cen­tre in a Käss­bohrer (snow groom­ing ma­chine) which has been spe­cially fit­ted to trans­port se­ri­ously in­jured peo­ple.

“He was taken to the Hotham Med­i­cal Cen­tre and then air­lifted to the Al­fred Hos­pi­tal.”

De­spite keep­ing up-to-date with res­cue and first aid train­ing, Mr Barker said at­tend­ing a car­diac ar­rest call-out wasn’t a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence and ev­ery­one that helped saved the pa­tient should be com­mended for their ac­tions.

“It’s part of our job to help peo­ple and we do treat peo­ple who have sus­tained very se­ri­ous in­juries, how­ever, they’re nor­mally head or spinal,” he said.

“At­tend­ing to some­one who’s had a car­diac ar­rest on the slope is a very rare event so it was a real credit to ev­ery­one who as­sisted the pa­tient – they all just clicked into gear and did ev­ery­thing they could to save him.

“The fact that it only took one minute for the de­fib­ril­la­tor to get to the pa­tient and the fact it was a minute af­ter that that he re­ceived the first shock helped save him, as did the highly ef­fec­tive CPR that was de­liv­ered from the mo­ment he stopped breath­ing.

“If you don’t have ef­fec­tive CPR more of the heart mus­cle tis­sue can die and the CPR that was per­formed pre­vented this from hap­pen­ing.”

In the last five weeks, the Mt Hotham Ski Pa­trol team has re­sponded to 500 call-outs rang­ing from small lac­er­a­tions to life threat­en­ing in­juries, and Mr Barker said de­spite the seem­ingly high num­ber, the ac­ci­dent rate on the moun­tain is still well be­low the in­ter­na­tional av­er­age all re­sorts work to­wards.

Mr Barker said he had spo­ken to the skier in the last week.

“The man had an un­der­ly­ing heart con­di­tion that caused the ar­rest but he seemed to be in good spir­its and amaz­ingly good health while await­ing by­pass surgery,” he said.

“The car­di­ol­o­gists were amazed that he sur­vived the ar­rest but he is ex­pected to make a full re­cov­ery and is look­ing for­ward to skiing Hotham again next win­ter.

“He’s lucky it hap­pened where it did, be­cause if it was at home he might not have been so for­tu­nate.”

“I take my hat off to all of the ski pa­trol, med­i­cal cen­tre and other moun­tain de­part­ments we work closely with for de­liv­er­ing such a great ser­vice to our guests. I am very proud to be part of such a pro­fes­sional team”.

PHOTO: Graeme Bot­tom­ley

Switzer­land’s Valerio Lec­ca­rdi (left) claimed his third Kan­ga­roo Hop­pet ti­tle, while Swe­den’s Maria Graefn­ings won her sec­ond ti­tle, dur­ing the 25th an­nual stag­ing of the World­lop­pet event at Falls Creek on Au­gust 22. See page 7 for more photos and story.

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