Dec 1, 2010 | Marmot, Winter 2010

Another Happy Customer: Tim Baker’s First Hand Experience Being Rescued

I started skiing in 1971. I took my first instructors course in 1978, and was an instructor for a number of years. I joined the volunteer ski patrol in 1991.

In those days there was a vigorous debate about upgrading the first aid standards requirements for our patrol. Standard first aid was all that was required to join the patrol at that time. There were a number of us that believed we needed to upgrade to Industrial First Aid Standards (Occupational First Aid Level 3- these days).

It was a bitter battle, and we probably lost a few members who were not willing to upgrade. For me it was always about being prepared with appropriate training to meet the kinds of first aid challenges we regularly encounter on Mount Washington. We eased the transition over a number of years as well as taking on Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) to give our members a financially viable alternative to OFA#3. The result of these positive changes has been seen in our training weekends as well as in the service we provide to the customers of Mount Washington.

The morning of December 21, 2008 was my second day on skis that season. I checked my clock and it was 09:50. I was on my way down Coaster to FAR (First Aid Room) to meet with a group of first year patrollers to give them an introductory tour with a toboggan. At the bottom of Coaster on the skier’s right was a nice clean spot of untracked snow, about knee deep, which instinctively drew me to it.

Without warning my skis hit ground under the snow and both stopped. The bindings did their job both releasing, my momentum carrying me forward I bounced, helmet first, my feet continued forward and I ended up in a ‘sitting upright’ position. My first thought was,”oh no that was not good.” It was the mighty crunch in my spine that I heard and felt when I bounced off my head.

With my experience with spinals over the years, I knew what to do. I stayed still. The only thing I moved was my hand to my mike to call for help. I was able to describe point tenderness in my thoracic spine

The first patroller was there in 30 seconds from my call. In all I think there were 6-8 patrollers involved in my call, and I am pleased to say that they were all on the same page regarding spinal protocols and how to move a spinal patient. They were professional, and efficient, yet they took the utmost care, whenever I was moved. I spent the rest of the day on a spine board, ambulance down to the hospital, x-rays, CT scan etc. The result of end loading my spine was that I have two compression fractures. T2 and T4 are both compressed about 10% front corner.

My recovery has been steady and I’ve been OK’d by my Doctor to start some easy skiing again for exercise. It’s unlikely that I’ll do much active patrolling this season (as that requires loading my spine) but you may see me on the hill as part of my recovery program.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all my rescuers, all of you, whether you did radio dispatch, traffic control, carried my skis down, or carried me into FAR.

All of you are an equal part of a smoothly functioning first aid team, you can be proud of, whether you are paid to do this or not. A thank you also to my many friends who have called, and signed cards, to wish me the best in my recovery. Your concern means a lot to me.

It occurred to me as I was being professionally packaged and moved by a team of paid and volley patrollers, that we had done the right thing all those years ago, when we fought hammer and tong to get the first aid standards raised.

I had the unique perspective of seeing first hand exactly why that had been a good idea. I broke my back and I was being handled appropriately.

Tim Baker
Mount Washington Ski Patrol Association

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