A Scary Accident Turns Into a Safety Mission
Last March 24, 1st year U-16 Jonathan Davis took his race run down a slalom at Whiteface. Like most everyone else in the race, his skis were razor sharp. As happens so often in slalom, he hooked a tip and his ski came off. Jonathan’s GMVS coach, Tim Curran, caught the fall on video. It was a bummer, but the fall seemed pretty tame, and Curran panned back up the hill to catch his next racer coming right behind. When Curran panned back down to Jonathan, he saw a long dark streak in the snow and realized that something was seriously wrong.
The dark stain on the snow was blood. In an instant, Jonathan’s ski’s edge had cut his hamstring, lateral quadricep, IT band and femoral artery. It had also nicked his sciatic nerve, and shaved a layer off his femur. Fortunately, a group of quick-acting coaches with wilderness and EMT training snapped into action. Coaches Pat Purcell, Corky Risely and Royce Van Evera were able to use a gatekeeper’s belt as a tourniquet and shove a pair of SL training shorts into and around the wound to provide compression until Jonathan could get off the hill and into the ambulance. He was transported to Adirondack Medical Center and then to UVM. By then, Jonathon had lost 7 units of blood. An adult person typically has 8-12 units of blood. The quick action by trained coaches saved not only Jonathan’s leg, but his life.
For Jonathan’s mother, Shelley Davis, the accident was more than a traumatic event. It was a wake-up call. Her daughter Maddie, also a ski racer, had suffered a similar accident and sustained a badly cut hamstring at a training camp several years earlier. Then too, Maddie had been lucky that fast acting, prepared coaches were on the scene. This time, Shelley was determined to do something to help prevent the tragedies her kids had so nearly missed.
While Jonathan was in the hospital he thought a lot about Kelly Brush, a GMVS student who was able to turn her tragic accident into a movement and foundation that has made a tangible, positive difference in safety for ski racers. This effort has mostly come in the form of thousands of rolls of B netting provided to clubs throughout the country. Brush visited Jonathan his second day home, and later talked to Shelley, who had become attuned to the rise in these types of accidents in the ski world. The Kelly Brush Foundation and U.S. Ski & Snowboard was just then teaming up to create a new Alpine Competition and Safety Consultant position. Brush soon got back in touch with the Davises, to tell them that this was the type of issue they hoped to address.
A FAST RECOVERY AND A NEW MISSION
It all came together when a GMVS parent, who is also a doctor at UVM, mentioned to his colleagues that Jonathan had played in a GMVS lacrosse game on May 25, a mere eight weeks after his accident. UVM asked Jonathan to be a spokesperson for their local Stop the Bleed campaign, part of a national movement to educate, train and equip bystanders to better help trauma victims. (Pause here for a freakout check: this problem goes way beyond ski accidents. Think car accidents, hunting accidents, shootings, and so many sports related injuries).
Jonathan and his GMVS teammates were already hosting an annual Spinathon in conjunction with the Kelly Brush Ride, where GMVS students and staff log miles on stationary bikes at the school from 6am-6pm. This year their efforts contributed to the nearly $60,000 GMVS raised for the Kelly Brush Foundation, and will be directed towards the goal of providing every ski club across the country with one Stop the Bleed kit. Each kit has a C.A.T. tourniquet, emergency trauma dressing, trauma sheers, gloves, compressed gauze, Hemostatic agent or hemostatic gauze, a pen to document the time the tourniquet was applied, and an instruction card. As Shelley explains of the skills needed: “It’s not difficult at all, but if you don’t have the right stuff in front of you it’s hard to know what to get.” With bulk pricing she hopes to bring the cost per kit down to an affordable $40, and for every coach to not only have a kit in his or her backpack, but also the training to go along with it.
TRAINING MADE FREE AND EASY
Stop the bleeding training is a free and quick (1-1½ hours max) class that teaches anyone how to pack a bleeding wound and properly put on a tourniquet. It’s aimed at educating everyone from school nurses and coaches to parents and bystanders, so as many people as possible are equipped in an emergency situation. Nurses, Doctors, PTs and EMTs can train others, so Davis, herself a trained nurse, is also trying to train as many PT’s as she can. To anyone who thinks, “this is not my job,” Davis says simply. “It’s not your job until you have to do it.”
Along with the kits, clubs will get a link to this short but powerful video. Davis noticed that once coaches saw the video, it was as if a switch flipped. “They came up w 10 stories of things they had used in emergency situations,” she says. In addition to outreach to clubs, academies and college teams, Davis will speak at the Eastern Region Youth Development Workshop at Cannon Mountain 10/1. She will also present at Okemo 10/24, VARA 10/27th, NYSEF 10/28th and the GMVS ski club on 11/4. Jonathan, now fully recovered, recently got back on snow in Chile. He remains committed to the cause while also being mindful not to dwell on the accident, so he can put it behind him.
PREVENTION—DRESS FOR SUCCESS
Training and kits are one line of defense, and another proactive one is protection. Cut-resistant long johns are required equipment in the speedskating world, which has until now been the best source for ski racers who want a layer of protection. Skaters, however, use one piece suits, which are not ideal for ski racers. POC makes separate tops and bottoms, and after Jonathan’s accident Race Stock Sports bought all their inventory. Other sources are Cascade Speedskates (one piece Apogee suits only) and Ilovespeedskating.com (separates by Base 360 and one piece suits by Apogee). POC is in the process of planning production for next season, and more companies are trying to make similar products, but it turns out sewing through Kevlar is, literally, hard. Another solution? “Why not put it in the suit?” asks Davis. “We’ve always adapted as stuff changes. This is the next thing.”
If you have any good sources for cut-proof long johns please share the love! Any thoughts on how to train more people and protect more skiers? Bring that on too!
To get more information about training and kits for your club, or to find your nearest Level 1 Trauma Center that will come out and do training, contact Shelley Davis at email@example.com. For more information and to locate stop the bleed classes across the country go to bleedingcontrol.org. To find out how to help get more kits to ski clubs across the country contact Davis or the Kelly Brush Foundation.