Sunday, September 23, 2007

Blase's Message - September 2

I am pasting in below Blase's message to us from a couple of days
ago...for clarification, Blase's partner is also named Melissa, and
she too was on the rescue. Many thanks to both of them for what they
offered during that time:

From Blase:

Melissa -

Thanks for including me in your updates on mark's condition and for
sharing your reflections on the situation. Since Melissa and I left
her parents in CO - a day after you arrived I think - I've been in the
field doing my thesis research or, for the last week, in class. I've
kept up with your updates as best I could, including getting verbal
updates from M when she met me in backcountry of Glacier NP after I'd
been out for 4 days. I am thinking of you both and visualizing as best
I can, though sometimes vascular flow or decreased platelets seem a
little abstract and remote out in the backcountry! Please, keep the
emails coming. I hope to visit you both sometime this fall while I'm
in Boston visiting my family.

I want to share a few impressions and details with you from the actual
rescue. I think they reveal alot about both Mark and the situation. My
friend Will and I were the 1st to reach Mark and Jason about 10-15
minutes after the accident. We were with him pretty much till he
reached the helicopter, except during the actual lower. I was right
behind the rescue group at that point, retrieving ropes, and heard the
whole alarm as the lower started and they pulled him back up and
discussed the tourniquet. So I witnessed Mark's response to the
accident pretty closely.

I'm a former EMT and have worked in the backcountry for most of the
past 25 years, as a ski patroller, river guide and researcher. Mark's
accident was by far the most serious I've encountered. It was
life-threatening and the actual injury was gruesome. At the same time,
Mark's response was by far one of the most remarkable displays of
courage and grace I've ever witnessed. He was calm, present and strong
throughout. I have tried to imagine what it would be like to look down
and see my leg like that, and I can only guess at how terrifying and
traumatic that would be. Waiting for a rescue in that situation would
have been trying, to say the least. Mark, however, never grew
desperate. He expressed a little urgency as we waited for the rescue
team to arrive - I was wondering what took them so long too - but he
never showed any desperation, never cried out or expressed any
frustration or fear, much less begged for anything, like I can imagine
myself or most people doing. It was impressive. We joked that Mark was
alert and oriented times 5 - though times 4 is the highest level of
consciousness in the actual scale - esp after he corrected Will on the
day of the week. That presence of mind and his medical training made
him a very easy patient. There wasn't much Will and I could do except
wait with him and Jason. Though we monitored his vitals, Mark was
maintaining regular breathing and staying calm and that was
tremendously important. It postponed shock long enough for medical
help to arrive. When shock symptoms did start just before they
arrived, the decision to reposition Mark was easy - it was his, and we
didn't have to explain the risks or prepare him for the pain. Mark
initially refused morphine - though they snuck it in on him. He
maintained that presence of mind and self-possession through the next
6 hours, letting the team help him, never asking how long til the
helicopter, never getting desperate or hurrying anything, never
complaining. It was courageous, graceful, and inspiring. I can only
hope some of it rubbed off in case I'm ever in a similar situation.

From my perspective, the rescue team, esp the nurse Mel Streeter, gave
Mark excellent medical care. After her initial assessment, she radioed
for more IV bags, a decision that now seems critical to Mark's
survival given that he went through 6 liters of fluids. I say survival
because I believe it was in question. He was bleeding continuously
throughout the rescue - there was blood dripping from both ends of the
litter for much of the time we carried him through the talus field,
and that was hours after he was stabilized and packaged. I am grateful
we were no further from help and that we were able to call for help
immediately after the rockfall. Will and I were not equipped to handle
an emergency that serious - we had no way to treat the shock that was
imminent even with Mark's level of consciousness. I'm also very glad
Mel didn't apply a tourniquet - his survival was in question and it
seemed quite possible that Mark wouldn't keep his foot and leg even
when we got him to the hospital. It wouldn't have been a wrong
decision. I think that Mark's courage and calm and his minimal use of
morphine made the difference in her decision. He was taking care of
himself and giving himself every chance he could and it inspired
everyone else to give him the same.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, it had plenty of lighter,
even comic moments. For one, Jason wasn't wearing a shirt, and we got
concerned about him getting sunburned. But all the packs with gear
were down below and no one had anything that would fit him. So Melissa
gave him a baby blue button-front shirt. Of course he couldn't get his
arms into it so he buttoned it around his neck like a mini cape. It
didn't even cover his shoulders. He looked like a comic book
superhero. It made everyone laugh. Picture it and you will laugh.
Jason was wonderful throughout. He cares deeply for Mark.

Lastly, I'm familar with MGH from 5 weeks of late night bedside vigils
for my mom and I've watched the sun come up over the Charles numerous
times. I can picture the place very easily - the rush on the 1st floor
during shift changes, the crowded elevators, the close, hushed waiting
rooms and the quiet wards with their surreal mix of monitors, intimacy
and anonymity. I emphathize with you - your task is not easy. I
appreciate your positive attitude and updates all the more. I'm
curious what unit Mark is in - an orthopedic ICU? MICU?

The upshot of all this is that based on what I've seen of Mark and
what I know of MGH, it's easy to be positive about his recovery. I can
imagine him handling each new turn with the same grace and courage
I've already seen. I appreciate the updates and your reflections and
you are both on my mind despite my silence to this point. Please keep
the updates coming.

Melissa sends her best.


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