A Heroic Rescue
When SVMC Orthopedics’ Athletic Trainer Patrick Deedy and his group of 10 friends headed to New Hampshire’s Tuckerman Ravine Trail for some late spring skiing on the Sunday, May 30, 2021, they didn’t anticipate needing to put their medical skills to the test. Luckily the group included several members with relevant experience: ski patrollers, an occupational therapist, and a wilderness first responder.
They parked at Pinkham Notch and hiked up the 2,500 feet of elevation gain with their skis on their backs. They were among a couple of other groups skiing, including a father-and-son team.
“The line we were skiing was called Sluice,” Deedy remembered in an interview earlier this month.
After his exhilarating run down the mountain, Deedy and those who had joined him at the bottom looked up to catch the rest of their friends skiing down. Before long, they saw the father of the father-and-son team “tomahawking down the mountain,” Deedy said, which means he was falling end over end. He wasn’t wearing a helmet.
The fallen skier narrowly missed one of their group and crashed into a part of the trail known as “Lunch Rocks.” The group rushed to the spot where he fell and noticed a big gash in his head. He had an altered level of consciousness and difficulty breathing. Deedy applied pressure to the gash, and together they rolled him to his side to improve his ability to breath.
That day happened to be the final day of the season for the backcountry ski patrol. They arrived quickly and alerted the group to a cache of emergency response equipment buried in a barrel nearby. While a member of the group took off to retrieve the supplies they needed, the ski patrollers checked the patient’s vitals and put him in a basket that would be used to transport him down the mountain.
By this time, it was 1 p.m. The group had planned a quick trip, because the weather was forecasted to turn later in the afternoon. It was around 50F and overcast. The ski patrollers radioed down to Hermit Lake for more help.
“Our job was to keep him warm and stable until help arrived,” Deedy said.
Meanwhile, they set up a system of ropes and belays, so that they could slide the patient safely down the mountain.
“There were some climbers in the group who helped set up the ropes as the wind and rain picked up,” Deedy said.
Usually, Deedy explained, helicopters could land in the ravine, but the weather made it too treacherous. So, the group carried the man down 1 mile of steep and uneven blocky terrain.
“It was very difficult,” Deedy remembers. “There were 10 of us and four on-duty patrollers, and it was still really tiring. We were recruiting hikers to help as they passed by.”
Everyone was grateful when paramedics arrived on ATVs on Sherburne Trail. They took over care and got the patient into one of the cabins on Hermit Lake, where they could keep him warm. They started IV fluids, and the patient seemed a little better.
Then, they waited. A Coast Guard helicopter responded, but it couldn’t land in the conditions. Instead, the helicopter lowered a guardsman, who checked on the patient. Then, they dropped a basket and, one at a time, lifted a paramedic, the basket with the patient, and the guardsman before taking off.
“We waited just in case the helicopter mission wasn’t successful,” Deedy said. They wanted to be sure that they wouldn’t be needed to carry the patient the rest of the way down the mountain.
The patient spent nearly a week in the hospital in Portland. According to Deedy, he is doing a lot better now.
“We were really lucky that there were so many experienced people, including the ski patrol, there and that we all worked so well together,” Deedy said.
Lead Snow Ranger Frank Carus recounted the incident in a report for the Mount Washington Avalanche Center. “This group of 20 – 30 years olds jumped in to assist, suffering in the cold drizzle to render first aid,” he wrote. “Anyone having an accident would be lucky to have this group of solid individuals to assist them.”
“It wasn’t surprising to me that Pat was involved in this rescue,” said Ivette Guttmann, MD, a sports medicine physician who works closely with Deedy at SVMC Orthopedics. “This isn’t the first time he has run towards danger or a difficult situation to lend a helping hand. He’s knowledgeable, confident, and reassuring. These qualities make him an invaluable healthcare provider. We are lucky to have him as part of our team.”
“I was able to use my training to help someone in need,” Deedy said. “To use those skills in the backcountry felt pretty incredible.”
A friend who had stayed behind at the group’s lodging pulled off another heroic feat: a hearty dinner for 10 exhausted rescuers and the time to eat and talk about all that had happened.