It was about 10 years ago now, that I received a call from my cousin's wife, Tracy, letting me know that there had been a serious accident on the mountain bike trip some friends and family members were on. She said they didn't know about my Dad. That was enough to stop my heart momentarily. I thought he was gone.
Then Tracy said that he had some tingling in his fingertips, so I immediately knew it was a spinal cord injury, and potentially a head injury. I raced to the health care centre in Whistler as soon as we heard news of his rescue to await his arrival by helicopter. He was wheeled out on a stretcher, still unable to move, but with a lot more tingling in his extremities - a good sign, we were told. After some x-rays, they rushed him to VGH for surgery. His C spine was broken in several places and his spinal cord was being pinched.
When he had crashed, the other guys he was riding with were ahead of him on a long downhill section. By the time they had stopped, realized he wasn't right behind them, and hiked back up to him it had been close to 30 minutes. He was laying face down in the dirt, with no feeling anywhere below his neck, his helmet the only thing allowing him to breathe the dusty air in the 1 inch of space between his mouth and the ground. He could move his tongue, and he could move his eyes, and that was it. He could hear the birds chirping, and his entire life flashed before his eyes. He thought about his girls - my sister and me. He thought it was all over.
Our family friend Kevin rode out for help, while my cousin Keith and our buddy Aaron made the incredibly tough executive decision to roll my Dad over, after deciding it was imperative that they clear his airway. They used logs to stabilize his spine, and saved his life. ... for the time being.
Kevin rode hours and hours, by himself, to Tyax lodge, where he was able to use a phone to call Search and Rescue. 6 hours after my Dad's crash, a helicopter with Pemberton's Dr. Howard in it landed in a spot the guys had cleared, and rescued my Dad.
His survival still baffles neurosurgeons and neurologists alike. He has now made a full recovery, and is back to doing what he loves - skiing and mountain biking, and spending time with his girls, when he's not busy with his lovely partner Carol, running their rapidly-growing plumbing and gas business in Whistler, Pemberton and North Vancouver.
The volunteers of Search and Rescue spend countless hours of their time training, and risking their lives to save those who get injured or lost in precarious backcountry locations. These non-profit organizations receive very little funding from the provincial government, and they are barely able to keep up with the ongoing costs of keeping their rescue equipment up to date.
Whistler Search & Rescue are hosting their annual Winemakers Dinner "Wine'd Up" this Saturday at Dusty's in Whistler. The event is sold out, but there is still time to make a contribution to the silent auction, or just straight-up donate through their website (click here). If you or people you know spend time in the mountains, please take the time to recognize the importance of this cause, and show your support.