Appreciation for Belleayre Ski Patrol and employees
To The Editor:
The call came in to the house at about 10 a.m. My four-year-old and I were just about to leave to drive over to Belleayre Mountain to meet my father, his grandfather, for a little bit of beginner skiing. Instead, unexpectedly, my mother and I would be getting into the car for the drive to Kingston Hospital’s stroke unit.
We weren’t able to speak to him so we didn’t really know what shape he was in. We knew he wasn’t going to Albany, the nearest cardiac unit, so we knew it probably wasn’t a heart attack. But we also knew he wasn’t going to Margaretville, so we knew it wasn’t an orthopedic injury, either. What we knew was that Kingston is the nearest fully-equipped stroke unit. So we started worrying and we started driving, the 40-plus minutes down Route 28.
When we walked into the ER, he was laying in a bed, still wearing most of his ski gear, looking a wholly unnatural color. The left side of his face was drooping slightly and he had trouble lifting his left arm.
“It’s better now,” he said. Trying to look for the positive, but the scared look on his face was something I hope never to see again. This was my dad.
The ER doc and staff were all confidant and knew both what they were doing and what needed to be done. He’d certainly had a stroke, they told us. Given his condition, they thought it was a mild one at the time. In the end, it turned out to be much more significant.
But what happened, exactly, on the mountain? My dad has been a season pass holder at Belleayre for years. As his 70th birthday approached, he was truly and vocally looking forward to being able to ski Belleayre for free. Unfortunately, a disappointing management and policy change over recent years meant he would need to pay for his season pass at a discount instead.
He’d skied there with friends and solo often over the past 25-plus years. And this day was not unlike any of those times before. He came straight down Belleayre Run and turned right onto Tongora. But something wasn’t right. He wasn’t able to lift his left arm at all and his vision was a little foggy. His central thought coming down was to stay in the middle of the trail and away from the trees. He remembered someone suffering a fatal head injury in the trees recently after having a heart attack on skis and losing control.
When he stopped safely at the bottom of the hill, someone caught up to him with the ski pole he lost toward the top. Then, typically, his first inclination was to tidy up and stow his gear in his locker. One gentleman helped him carry his skis downstairs where he ran into former Belleayre Superintendent Tony Lanza, who alerted the ski patrol that there was a problem.
The ski patrol, and its nurse on staff jumped into action. The Shandaken EMS arrived and rushed him to Kingston where the excellent emergency staff and stroke unit did everything they could to treat him quickly, effectively and make him, and us, comfortable.
He spent five days in Kingston before being released to a rehab near home in New Jersey where he is doing exceedingly well.
There are two reasons I decided to write this story down in its entirety. First, I wanted to thank everyone who responded so quickly to help my dad. I can’t imagine how different the end of this story might be without the swift response of the Belleayre Ski Patrol, Shandaken Police and emergency staff and Kingston Hospital ER and Stroke Unit.
Second, I believe everyone who skis at Belleayre should understand the commitment these people have to our safety and well-being. I always appreciated them, but from now on, I will make a point of saying thank you whenever I can.
Lyle Smith Jr., Margaretville