Page 60 - WCM 2023 Winter Flip
P. 60

 not much of a trail, not groomed or lit. I swallow hard and take a deep breath. I make sure my radio is in my right pocket. Check. My Field Guide is in my left. Check. I’ve memorized a lot of the guide, but I always feel better knowing it’s there.
There is only one person, and nothing looks dangerous. I quickly unlock my skis, stand over her and ask, “Can you hear me?” Nothing. I’ve got to turn her over to get her face out of the powder and do the primary assessment. I do what I’ve been taught
to protect a potential spine injury by vise-locking
her spine by holding her head and jaw, a move I’ve practiced a million times. I see scrapes on her face, but they’re superficial. I hear her breathing. I reach under her collar for a pulse. Fast but present. Next
is checking for severe bleeding so I unzip her coat
but see none. Thank God. She probably hit one of these trees. There’s a large one to her left. Her poles lay in an X beside it as neatly as if someone had put them there. I repeat more loudly, “Can you hear me?” She’s still unresponsive, not a good sign. I pinch the skin of her neck to create some pain. Still nothing. A glance at her season pass tells me her name is Darlene. “Darlene, can you hear me?” Silence.
I pull out my radio, picturing the page in my manual that describes the protocol. This is Paul on the left side of the crossover between Jewel and Lower Pennesseewassee with an unresponsive teenage girl who may have hit a tree on that small side trail. She’s breathing and her pulse is fast but strong. No sign of severe bleeding. I’ve turned her onto her back. Some superficial scratches on her face. Request the toboggan.
The next two minutes feel like two hours. Darlene looks like she’s sleeping. Peaceful and calm, and for that I am grateful. I also wish she’d suddenly open her eyes and answer me. It’s eerily quiet. A crow caws. Some clumps of snow fall from the branches above.
I pinch her unscratched cheek. Still no response. I picture Ryan and Kelly scrambling to get the sled
in place and tearing downhill. Finally, I see Ryan’s headlamp with Kelly and the sled close behind. I breathe a sigh of relief. I never like being alone with a patient. It makes me feel too responsible.
We position the sled beside her without saying much except, “Face up, head uphill,” and then, “Ready to lift. Lift.” She’s small, so it’s an easy maneuver with three of us. Ryan straps her in. Kelly makes sure the head pads are secure. Ryan has already called for the ambulance. I double check that all the straps are cinched tight, including the one across her forehead. The whole process takes less than three minutes. We’re good.
“Let’s go,” Ryan says. I lock into my skis. Ryan takes
the sled. Kelly skis beside it. I follow behind. I say a silent prayer that Darlene will regain consciousness soon and that I will feel like I did my job well. She’s young and strong and she must have been a good skier, I tell myself, or she wouldn’t have ventured onto that wooded trail.
As we approach the base lodge, the red lights of the ambulance in the parking lot bounce off the white snow. People move away when they see us coming. It’s almost dark as we reach the bottom. Ryan comments as he always does, “No matter how fast we move,
the EMTs always beat us.” I can hear the relief in his voice, too, that we’ve done our job and will hand her over to professionals who will do theirs.
Part III
4:32 pm
Kyle, 44, computer technician and father
There’s a work email that I don’t even want to respond to, and I’m texting someone else, too. I got here early and Darlene is supposed to meet me at 4:30. I don’t like having to pick her up here, but when I see her on the mountain she’s always so happy that it does turn my day around. She loves skiing. And there’s wifi here so I can do what I do. But it’s past time, and Darlene isn’t one of the kids who is late. She’s always early, in fact, so I do find it curious, but I’m not worried.
I’m texting and checking my email when I see the flashing lights coming down the road to the mountain, the red lights of an ambulance headed to the parking lot. Waaaahhhh waaaahhhh. Everyone swirling around. Lots of people. Lots of noise. Lots of action.
I look up the mountain and spot the orange sled coming down with a person strapped into it. Is that pink camouflage? No, my eyes are tricking me. I
turn off my phone and pay complete attention to the toboggan. Oh please don’t let it be her, please don’t
let it be, knowing that if it’s not, there is someone else sitting in this parking lot saying the same prayer. It’s her, I fear as they get closer. It’s her. Oh no. It’s Darlene.
I flash on a time when Darlene was about three. I was alone with her at a playground on a summer Saturday afternoon. Even at that age, Darlene was fearless,
and we had to watch that she didn’t do things she wasn’t old enough to do. I got into a conversation with another dad when she climbed up to the “big kids’ slide.” When I looked for her, there she was fifteen feet above me, grinning, her red hair a halo around her tiny face, and there were kids behind her waiting to go down the slide. I swallowed hard and ran to the bottom of the slide to catch her. She flew down in seconds, laughing. When she hit the ground hard, she landed on her back, the wind knocked out
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