Life saved on the snow
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”.
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.