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Snowboarding accident highlights our impressive emergency medical system

LETTER: For the week of March 7
Photo by Braden Dupuis

My stepson, who recently moved from Vancouver to Squamish, is an accomplished athlete in snowboarding, rock climbing and running. At age 30, he is in peak physical shape.

In early January, he and his brother and two friends boarded the Creekside Gondola for a day of snowboarding in fresh powder. It's a mountain he grew up on, but an unexpected impact with a tree stump changed (my stepson's life in an instant).

What played out over the next 48 hours is an example of our medical system working in the way it was designed to. Years of training, intuitive decision making, skill and teamwork all came together with the best possible outcome any family could ask for.

It all started with the quick action of the Whistler doctor on the hill who recognized the seriousness of the injury and began administering pain meds (intravenously). Every day, doctors freeski Whistler (Mountain) with a radio and a backpack containing emergency medicine. This is a service that saves lives on the mountain, and our family strongly supports this program.

The ski patrol got him to an ambulance, which took him to the Whistler Health Care Centre. We are so grateful for the stellar Whistler doctors who immediately diagnosed the seriousness of his injury and requested he be air lifted to Vancouver General Hospital (VGH).

The weather gods were kind that day and the air ambulance arrived in an hour. The team of paramedics on the helijet kept him alive while he flew the 25 minutes to VGH, another superb link in this chain of emergency medicine.

When he landed at VGH, he was immediately taken to a new state-of-the-art hybrid operating room. A team of trauma surgeons, led by Dr. Emilie Joos, and every available specialist at the hospital that afternoon worked to keep my stepson alive.

That chain of professionalism extended to the ICU doctors and nurses who kept him safe those first tense nights and those who cared for him for five weeks in hospital.

My stepson's case is a trauma team's golden moment when they can be proud of what went right. While the case is already the talk of the medical community—this one's for the record books—they plan to share his success story far and wide.

No words can express the thankfulness our family feels towards all the medical professionals who brought their "A" game every step of the way.

Meanwhile, the rehabilitation is going well and I have no doubt that my stepson will be back on the mountain next season with a whole new perspective on life.

Ingrid Abbott