Please be respectful when posting - family and friends of fallen climbers might be reading this forum.
I want to express my sincere gratitude for everyone involved in the rescue, and this was a real rescue, of my father yesterday on Handies. I'll provide details when I can, but here are the basics:
My 74 year old father suffered a heart attack yesterday at around 13,600 ft on Handies. An incredible, coordinated rescue followed, with the end result being that my father, Duane Olin, is now recovering at St Marys Hospital in Grand Junction. There are too many people and groups to thank properly right now, and I'll never know the names of most of those involved but this was a huge effort from fellow hikers, SPOT services, a helicopter pilot and medic that put their own lives at risk to land at the saddle at 13,400, the sheriffs dept at Lake City, and so many more. I'll write this up with more info when I can. For now, thank you so much. My father, an avid mountaineer, and truly special person, is alive right now because of all of you. Sincerely, Keith Olin
UPDATE: AUG. 13... My father, amazingly, was released from the hospital yesterday. He is in great spirits, expects to recover fully, and would like to thank everyone involved. I promised more info and lessons learned when I could, so here goes:
Background: My Dad, Duane Olin, currently lives in Oregon with my Mom, Ila. He is an experienced mountaineer...much more than I am...with ascents of peaks like Denali, Assiniboine, and the Grand Teton. All of his major climbing was accomplished in his 50s and 60s. Now age 74, he has toned it down . Last year he climbed Sneffels and Wilson Peak with me. I'm at 46 on my 14er list, and he has done 15-20 with me. Last week's hike of Handies from American Basin was supposed to be a stroll (and was to a point!). Although I had climbed Handies before, my teenage daughter was with us, and with storms in the forecast, a short, beautiful hike sounded perfect.
We reached the saddle at 13,450 without incident. My father was feeling great...he wears a pulse monitor, and keeps his heart rate at 120 or below. 15 minutes later he stopped, saying he wasn't feeling well. We decided to descend immediately, but before we could, he started to have bad chest pains. He was having a heart attack. We were on the fairly steep slope 200' above the saddle. I knew we were in serious trouble. I hit the SOS/911 button on my SPOT immediately. I got his feet above his head, and gave him an aspirin (he remembered!) (note: I should have crushed it, or had him chew it, because it takes a while to dissolve the micro-coating otherwise). I fished out my cell, thinking I wouldn't have coverage, but I did. GEOS/International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC), which is contracted by SPOT, had received my beacon, and was already trying to call me. They had just called my wife, Jan, who was with my Mom in Lake City. The cell phone made a huge difference. I was able to pass to IERCC that it wasn't an accidental beacon, and that this was a serious heart attack. Also, I passed his vitals...his pulse, on the monitor, had fallen to 46, pain was spreading to his shoulders, and one hand was numb. The cell phone also helped in that my wife was able to pass info to and from me; and once Dad had stabilized, he was able to speak to my mom, which helped them both a great deal.
Others hikers had already stopped to offer assistance (of course ). A fellow hiker, Greg, who we had hiked a ways with, had summited with his 9 year old son, and was on his way down. He took my daughter with him...he would eventually get her to the sheriff in Lake City where my wife met them. At this point, other than keeping Dad as warm as possible, and keeping him talking, things were out of my hands, but I have pieced together what happened. IERCC called Hinsdale County Sheriff's Dept in Lake City, which has a SAR unit. The unit is headed by Keith Chambers and the ground rescue coordinator is Dennis Cavit. Considering the time critical nature of the emergency and the fact that the weather was getting worse, they made the decision to call the closest helicopter service (TRISTATE CAREFLIGHT out of Montrose). They also assembled two ground teams of professionals and volunteers in case the copter couldn't evac my father (1 team met me on the way out, escorting me and keeping me informed, since there wasn't cell coverage below the saddle).
Somewhat over an hour after the SOS, the helicopter appeared. It seemed like forever to us, but in reality this was amazing. They have a hard time spotting my prone father because I have him covered in blue cold weather clothing. Now other problems...We are on a slope at about 13,700'. Not where a helicopter can land. The saddle below us was flat, but very small, and at 13,450'. The weather was getting worse. Winds on a saddle are typically strong and shifting. I'm an airline pilot and former Navy pilot. I know the pilot, medic, and nurse aboard the helicopter are now putting their own safety at risk. It will be difficult and dangerous to attempt to land. The helicopter is small, and high-powered, it's built to do this... but initially it doesn't have the lift to attempt a landing at this altitude . So they leave and drop off the medic and some gear at the TH. They return and somehow land on a space that I would have trouble parking a compact car. So the pilot is not only brave, but very good at what he does (thanks Stephane!).
Stephane and the inflight nurse, (thanks John!), now have to get themselves, a stretcher, and heavy gear up a few hundred ft of steep, loose slope. A couple of hikers descend with me to help them. After getting Dad on the stretcher, several more hikers help us carry him down the slope to the copter. This was much more tedious and difficult than I imagined it would be. It starts to rain/sleet/hail as we're loading him. I was now afraid that after all this, the helicopter was going to be grounded, and time is short...it's now been over 2 hours since the heart attack. But they lift off, and it's determined that they will fly him straight to Grand Junction, which has a cardiologist and full team available (how many correct decisions does it take to save a life???). The cardio team led by Dr. Bronson is ready and waiting when they land. 3 hours after a heart attack on a remote mountain, the clot that has led to 100% blockage in an artery is removed. The next day my father is fully alert and upright in his bed. He is surrounded relatives. Now he is on his way home, expecting to recover fully.
Our family is sincerely grateful to the organizations, professionals, volunteers, and fellow hikers whose actions made this unlikely outcome a reality. We love the mountains, and the mountain climbing community.
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I'm 65 and have lost two very close friends to sudden, massive heart attacks this year. This hit me very hard.
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James Dziezynski wrote:Colorado SAR is comprised of world class people. Glad to hear your Dad is on the mend and hope he is back on feet soon.
Absolutely true statement! I too, am glad to hear that your dad is okay!
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ORION wrote:Quick update: Thanks for the posts, my Dad might be released as early as Monday. He had a clot that led to 100% blockage in an artery but the cardiologist and staff here were amazing. A full team was waiting for the helicopter here and they operated immediately. His chances for a more or less full recovery are very good. He sends his thanks to everyone
Great news! Thanks for posting Keith.
Duane, get well soon! So glad to hear you are expected to have a full recovery. I hope to meet you on a peak someday. One of the reasons I am climbing was because I climbed Humboldt Peak with a 74 year old man.
So, once again…thank you Search & Rescue!….which once again prompts me to ask everyone: Do YOU have your CORSAR card?
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