Ski Patrol

The Blood Soaked Screams At Starbucks

At 6:20am in a coffee shop you fully expect to hear things like, “Hi sir, what can I get for you today.” Instead I heard a loud car crash followed by a blood-soaked woman screaming at the top of her lungs…

“Help! Help! My boyfriend’s been shot. Help!”

All heads in the coffee shop turn towards the windows…

I got out of the Starbucks line and walked over to the glass door. Sure enough, there was a car up in smoke with a women franticly screaming for help. The bystanders all seemed confused and shell shocked. After all, who is getting shot at 6:20am on a Tuesday morning in the middle of San Francisco? I guess the tenderloin isn’t a great place after all.

I walked outside and checked the scene for safety.

“Where is the shooter?” I thought.

It was dark and hard to tell what was really happening, who was involved and who was not involved. You could see other people slowly approaching the car but people couldn’t comprehend what was really going on. After about 20 seconds of surveying the scene, I felt it was safe to approach the vehicle.

I walked over to the driver side of the car and sure enough, there he was. The boyfriend, completely soaked in blood, head to toe, slouched over his seatbelt with the airbag deployed a few inches from his face.

“Help. Get me out of here,” he said, in a soft voice. It probably had to do with the fact that he was shot at least 3 times in the chest which makes it difficult to breath.

I had one person call 911, another person take out their phone to give me some light with their flashlight, and another person go get napkins from the Starbucks. They all do their jobs and at least we get the ball rolling to help this guy.

The person with the napkins comes back. I take them from him and apply compression to his chest wounds. I try not to get blood on my hands, arms or clothes, but it’s somewhat unavoidable.

He was talking, which meant he had an airway open and he was breathing. He also had a shallow pulse which is not a great sign and he was quickly beginning to lose consciousness.

“Stay with me!” I said. “Help is on the way.”

I couldn’t move him and even if I could, I probably wouldn’t have. After all, he was reasonably stable and if I moved him, who knows if he would have turned for the worse. Not to mention, this guy was just in a major car crash and the car was totaled with the front left wheel and hood of the car destroyed. This means there could also be serious neck and back injuries too.

He loses consciousness twice and both times I think he is dead. Both times I yell at him to wake up and he does. And now given the massive amounts of blood loss, I’m expecting this guy to go into shock.

After a few minutes of this, more help arrives.


The police show up first.

I ask for gloves and a knife and the officer hands them to me.

“Black latex gloves?” I thought. I’m used to white ones when I’m patrolling. I guess it goes with the police uniform.

I glove up to make sure blood doesn’t get all over my hands. I take the knife and begin to cut off his shirt. I still can’t really see the bullet wounds but I know they are there. I cut off his seatbelt to give me some more maneuverability around his body to treat the injuries.

A few minutes later the firefighters show up.

They help me rip off the driver’s side door and then things begin to move much quicker. At any incident I’ve ever been in, especially at Mount Snow, the best feeling in the world is when things are going really, really bad and you see more red coats coming to help, or in this case, more red fire trucks coming to the scene. It’s times like these when I’m thankful and grateful for my ski patrol training after all these years. But this one feels different. It is different.

With the door off and more hands and help, we were able to take the victim out of the car and lay him on the ground. We cut the rest of his shirt off and do a full body assessment to see what other injuries or bullet woulds, if any, there may be.

We flip him over to check his back.

No bullet holes…

Not good.

He begins to lose consciousness once again and once again I yell, “wake up, stay with us!”

The paramedics and ambulance arrives.

We tell them to hurry and get the stretcher, backboard and oxygen over as fast as possible. We load the victim up on the backboard, strap him in, get him on the stretcher and then finally into the ambulance. By the time we got him fully loaded into the ambulance, he was still alive which is the best I could have hoped for.

The ambulance doors shut and the truck drives away.

My mind starts to race..

“Did I miss anything? Was there more I could have done? Is he still alive? Where is the shooter?”

I ask the firefighters for antiseptics and hydrogen peroxide to clean some blood of my arms and shoes. I wondered if this is how medics feel when they are in a battlefield.

I wonder if the blood will come off my shoes.

Yellow crime scene tape goes up.

The police take interviews.

I go back upstairs to take another shower. Those were certainly some of the stranger ‘shower thoughts’ I’ve ever had. I get out to dry off and get dressed for my day once again. I put on a clean version of my Troops t-shirt and head back downstairs to meet my team so we can head off to the Slack Frontiers conference.

The time is now about 7:00am.

I get back in line at the Starbucks….

“Hi sir, what can I get for you today.”

The news report of the story here

How To Prepare for Disasters. Emergency Healthcare and Rescue Tips.

I just finished up my National Ski Patrol refresher over the weekend. This is the 12th year I’ll be volunteering as a patroller at Mount Snow Vermont. For those of you that don’t know what ski patrol is or what we do, you can think of it as an EMT on skis or in my case a snowboard that is primarily responsible for the immediate response, rescue, stabilization, and transport of a patient off of the mountain and to a primary care resource such as a doctor or hospital.

Hurricane Sandy has made everyone aware of the importance of good preparedness and immediate rescue in emergency situations. With that in mind, I wanted to share a few tips that you could use in times of an emergency.

Hands-Only CPR. In times of an emergency or a disaster, it is likely that people around you may go into shock. This could happen for a number of reasons but the result is that a person may experience low blood pressure, a rapid heartbeat, or poor diffusion which means organ’s aren’t getting the appropriate blood and oxygen levels. These issues can lead to death. One serious cause of shock might be due to hypothermia. With many people still out of heat, coupled with another storm coming, it’s entirely possible that you come across someone in need of CPR.

We watched this video (below) at our refresher and it is a great lesson on hands-only CPR. You can do this without being certified in emergency healthcare and it could make all the difference in a life or death situation. As for the video itself, please disregard the emergency number in the video as this was created for the British Heart Association.


Have a Plan: In Ski Patrol, we train and plan for a variety of scenarios that are both likely and unlikely to occur. The likely scenarios are things like broken legs or head injuries. The unlikely scenarios are things like an entire chairlift collapsing. In either case, we have a plan and set of tools we can use to handle any situation.

In times of an emergency, it is important to stay organized and have a plan. Hurricane Sandy caught everyone off guard and many were ill-prepared. In 2001 my family was also caught off guard when an F2 tornado hit our house in New Jersey.

Just like the fire-escape route in your office building, your family should have a defined plan of action in the event of an emergency.

Have the Tools: I think we all now understand the importance of preparation so some things to consider include: food and water supplies, clothing for extreme weather conditions, medical supplies like bandages and medicine, tools like knives and shovels, and gas and fuel.

Below is an actual list of items that a Sandy victim is in need of. Might you need these things too in case of another emergency?

  • – work gloves to pick up your sewage soaked stuff
  • – black garbage bags to put them in….
  • – swiss army/leatherman type multi tools
  • – hand sanitizer
  • – plastic grocery bags for use over spackle bucket as toilet. baby wipes and diapers also
  • – paper towels / toilet paper/ zip lock bags all sizes
  • – plastic tarps to lay your good stuff on so it stays off of the wet porch and street while you pack it in your car…
  • – rope to tie down your roof and your hatch back so you can fit more stuff per trip.
  • – rubber boots for cleanup volunteers and the older people wandering the street in their slippers because they will not leave their homes….
  • – propane as people are using their gas grills to keep warm…
  • – flashlights/batteries/head lamps
  • – metal water/paint buckets to boil water on the grill to make cup of soup/canned ready to eat meals (think chef boyardee) especially with pull tops!/tea/hot cocoa/instant coffee also flip top canned fruit!
  • – certified red plastic gas cans… as people are bringing poland spring jugs to the gas station and being turned away .. 2- 1/2 gallon or smaller…. we would love 5 gallon ones too but they are very heavy to carry when full especially if you have to walk a great distance…….. trust me I know!
  • – our “pipe dreams” are for generators and hand trucks but we will work on the small stuff for now…
  • – I know there are more items but these are what WE needed when we were there… clothing and food being brought by local scout troops etc but the above things the stores down there are out of!

So there you have it. Having a basic understanding of life saving skills like CPR, having a plan, and having the right tools can make all the difference in another disastrous situation.

Not Being Able To Help

The situation in Japan is really horrible but perhaps an even worse situation is that rescue workers and aids are afraid to help those within a 12 mile radius of the nuclear power plant.

Aid agencies are reluctant to get too close to the plant. Shelters set up in the greater Fukushima area for “radiation refugees” have little food, in part because nobody wants to deliver to an area that might be contaminated. And with little or no gasoline available, not everyone who wants to leave can get out.

The catch 22 is that all rescue workers and first responders are trained to check for scene safety before engaging in any rescue operation. So what do you do when an entire region is contaminated with radiation? This is the issue many are struggling with and as a result, many more are most likely facing dire circumstances.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans I remember getting an email from someone on my ski patrol because they were looking for volunteers to head down and help with emergency rescue efforts. I was literally packing a bag before I got into a big argument with my parents. The short version is I lost that argument and I didn’t go to New Orleans. I did however get to chat with one of those patrollers about his experience in New Orleans. A few years later I also heard his stories from Haiti and its amazing to see what some people are willing to do to help others.

But now I see the situation in Japan. People want to help but they are afraid to. I guess even the bravest and most willing people have their limits but it also makes me think about the people who could and should be contributing to causes within their reach. The situation in Japan makes me think about all those that can be helped and should be helped.

So I guess my point of this post is, if you are able to help or improve someone else’s life you should absolutely do so. If people are willing to put their lives at risk, it shouldn’t be so hard for you to do a simple task of kindness.

“Not every day is going to offer us a chance to save someone’s life but every day offers us an opportunity to affect one” – Mark Bezos

Video below – this is one of the best short talks I’ve seen in a while. Take 4 minutes out of your day and watch.

Happiness Comes From Helping Others

Mark Suster wrote a great post yesterday called “Life is 10% How You Make It and 90% How you Take It” and it’s definitely worth a read for anyone doing the entrepreneurial thing.

He talks about how “happiness has to be a state of mind” and how “you need to constantly remind yourself to be happy whatever your life’s circumstances.”

I was thinking about this a lot over the past two days. The idea of “happiness” and what it really takes to be “happy” – a sort of corollary to Mark’s post. And I couldn’t help think about one of my most serious rescue incidents on Ski Patrol.

It was my first year “cut loose” on mount snow’s ski patrol, which meant I was able to go out on codes (which are reports of an injury or incident) and provide emergency medical care to guests. I didn’t have to shadow any of the seasoned ski patrollers. I had passed my certifications, was approved by senior patrollers to respond to codes, and was now ready to handle situations on my own.

It was Saturday. Sunny, blue skies, with a temp of about 35 degrees. I was wearing my new, fresh, red ski patrol jacket with a white cross on the back, had all my medical equipment in a pack strapped around my waist, and was sporting my new Burton snowboard. I decided to take a run down the front side of the mountain on the “Standard” trail (this ski trail runs directly under one of the main ski lifts). About half way down the trail and towards the top of the ski lift, I approached a group of people huddling around what seemed to be a small person laying on the ground. I quickly sped up on my snowboard and as I got closer, I could see that there was a person in a blue jacket performing CPR on a young boy who was about 12 years old. There were about 10 other people huddling around the boy and meanwhile, there were hundreds of people passing above us from the chairlift, with their eyes now peeled on the ski patroller and the boy on the ground.

The person in the blue jacket quickly identified himself as a doctor (ironically enough, many doctors are never fully trained as first responders and never get experience with emergency situations. This doctor was one of them). Witnesses told me the boy tried jumping off of a log unsuccessfully, fell back, and hit his head on the log. He was not wearing a helmet, became unconscious and stopped breathing.

Within seconds of my arrival, the boy began breathing again but was still unconscious. I performed a quick assessment, took his vitals and stabilized his neck. I radioed in (as a code 3 – the most serious of codes) for additional personnel and equipment, specifically needing a backboard, neck collars, oxygen, and suction (in case the boy started to throw up while still unconscious). I requested a helicopter to transport him to a hospital and within minutes, a helicopter was put in the air en route to the mount snow airport.

About 1 minute after I called for extra hands and equipment, 3 more patrollers were on the scene helping me package, stabilize and transport the boy off the hill. We put him in a sled and I quickly snowboarded him down the mountain and into the doctor’s office. As soon as we got him off the mountain, we put him in an ambulance that was already waiting for us, shut the doors, and watched the ambulance take off to meet the helicopter for transport.

The boy’s fate was now out of my control. I had no idea what was going to happen to him and didn’t know if my actions helped or hurt his chances of survival. That night was tough for me and I can’t imagine how tough it must have been for his parents.

The next day, I returned to the mountain to patrol and at about 1:00pm I got a phone call at the summit rescue building.

It was the doctor who treated the boy on his way out with the ambulance. He said that the boy had suffered major head trauma and that his fate could have gone either way, but as a result of my actions and that of my team, the boy was going to be ok.

I realized at that moment that true happiness comes from helping others. The bigger impact you make on someone else’s life, the happier you will be, and the happier they will be.

Win, win.

Picture of me and my daughter, Michaela.

Shaun White is Crazy Committed to Gold

Two years ago I was volunteering on ski patrol at the Winter Dew Tour at Mount Snow, Vermont.

I was stationed at the top of the super pipe for the men’s half-pipe competition, but my shift was for the practice session. There were a handful of competitors and they were all mostly between the ages of 15-30. One of those competitors happened to be Shaun White.

I remember sitting there thinking, “Damn, these guys just snowboard all day, every day, for a living and soak up all the media attention during events.”

Then I saw Shaun White walk up to the top of the pipe. I remember thinking, “this dude is going to crank on some tunes, have a couple of red bulls, BS with the cute mount snow employees and tear up the half-pipe with ease….”

But when he got to the top, I quickly realized I was wrong, mostly.

Once at the top, he simply sat down in a chair (barely making any hellos), strapped on his board, and dropped in the pipe for one of the most ridiculous run’s I’ve ever seen live.

When he finished that run, he came back up to the top and did the same thing. Said almost nothing to anyone and dropped in for a second run. He did this maybe 2 more times after that.

Meanwhile, all the other competitors were goofing around, talking to the fans and soaking up the media attention.

Well, this week Shaun White won a repeat Olympic Gold Medal in Vancouver and I imagine he did it with the same style I saw at the Dew Tour.

Total concentration.

No BS.

No Games.

Dead committed to be the very best at what he does.

Props to Shaun.

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Death and Failure Happens When You Don’t Properly Assess the Situation

Myself and fellow rescuer assessing the scene and pateint (Mount Snow, Vermont)

This October will mark my 9th consecutive year as an emergency health care professional. In all those years, the most important thing I learned (besides teamwork) is that assessing a situation correctly and completely could literally be the difference between life and death. The “assessment” is the most critical aspect when saving lives, treating the injured, or tending to the ill. Emergency health care or health care in general, is the most seriousness business of all (other than war), and within this business, great “assessment” skills are absolutely necessary.

Now think about your own life for a second. Think about your job, your company, your family, your significant other. How could you improve any one of these things if you spend a little more time observing or assessing, before you act or do anything? Think about the job of a manager, quant, marketer, or salesman? As an example, how much better could a salesperson be if they spent more time understanding a business’ needs, before they blindly push a product onto a prospective client?

With that in mind, consider the following few paragraphs:

As a salesman, you must perform a quick but thorough assessment to identify a prospect’s needs and to provide proper business solutions. Prospect assessment includes many steps and is the most complex skill that you will learn in the field. To make the task easier, it is helpful to identify and discuss the key components and skills of prospect assessment before you learn the entire process.

As you begin your assessment, you must gather and record some key information about the prospect. You will also need to obtain and evaluate the prospect’s vital signs of their business. The failures, struggles, or needs and the history of what occurred before and since you arrived are key pieces of information that you will have to obtain by asking a series of questions. You must also learn about the prospect’s past history and overall health of the business.”

Gathering Key Prospect Information

You will need to know which questions to ask and how to ask them. By using your deductive powers, you will be able to interpret the meaning and implications of your findings and the information that you have gathered. When assessing the prospect, you will have to look, listen, feel, and think.

If you couldn’t tell, this excerpt was actually taken from an Emergency Health care manual, with a few words changed. (Outdoor Emergency Care, Comprehensive Prehospital Care for Nonurban Settings, 4th Edition). The real excerpt is below.

Point is, you can’t possibly solve a problem or address an issue, without fully understanding the problem in the first place. In health care, this could possibly mean death. In business and in relationships, this could possibly mean failure.

Think, assess, and only after, act.

“As a rescuer, you must perform a quick but thorough assessment to identify a patients needs and to provide proper emergency care. Patient assessment includes many steps and is the most complex skill that you will learn in the OEC (Outdoor Emergency Care) course. To make the task easier, it is helpful to identify and discuss the key components and skills of patient assessment before you learn the entire process.

As you begin your assessment, you must gather and record some key information about the patient. You will also need to obtain and evaluate the patient’s vital signs. The injuries, illnesses, or symptoms and the history of what occurred before and since you arrived are key pieces of information that you will have to obtain by asking a series of questions. You must also learn about the patient’s past medical history and overall health.”

“Gathering Key Patient Information

You will need to know which questions to ask and how to ask them. By using your deductive powers, you will be able to interpret the meaning and implications of your findings and the information that you have gathered. When assessing the patient, you will have to look, listen, feel, and think.”

(Outdoor Emergency Care, Comprehensice Prehospital Care for Nonurban Settings, 4th Edition)

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