Sam Huettinger and Joe Cataudella arrived for work at Boreal Mountain on Presidents Day, Feb. 17, prepared for a typical—if not busy—day of patrolling the hill. But the two unexpectedly had to put their medical training to work when a cardiac arrest occurred near the base-area 49er lift. Sam and Joe, Boreal's health and safety and assistant health and safety manager respectively, were first on the scene and started CPR, which they performed for more than 30 minutes until the patient was transported to an ambulance and eventually by life flight to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno. Remarkably, the man survived—beating the odds and earning the two patrollers an award for their exemplary service. 

Patrollers at ski resorts around the country are trained for these situations, but it's rare that they have to put that training into action. For Joe, who started at Boreal in August, it was his first real CPR experience. Luckily the two, who typically work opposite shifts, were nearby and able to arrive on the scene within two minutes, Sam taking the lead on compressions and Joe stabilizing the patient's spine. Several other patrollers and a local nurse also assisted. The team effort included many rounds of compressions and shocks from a defibrillator before the ambulance arrived.            
The decisive, competent action on the part of the patrollers did not go unnoticed. In the gathering crowd was Samuel Blesse, EMS supervisor for the local Plumas County Care Flight, who was at Boreal that day with his daughters. Care Flight provides 24-hour emergency response services to the region, and like the patrollers, Blesse is trained for this sort of emergency.

"Due to my background, I would normally go over and offer assistance,” Blesse wrote in a letter to Cataudella after the fact. “But after observing the team work and quality of the CPR that was being done, I concluded that getting involved would hamper the incredible resuscitation that was being performed. It was very clear to me that they were doing very high quality CPR."

Typically, explained Blesse, a resuscitation may last about 10 minutes until an ambulance or other advanced life support team arrives. He commended Sam and Joe for maintaining a resuscitation for close to 30 minutes, which helped beat grim odds: Nationally only 10 percent of out-of-hospital heart attack victims survive.

"While the paramedics and Care Flight Critical Care team were important pieces of the puzzle, the fact remains that without your staff this man would not be alive today," wrote Blesse. “I can unequivocally state that your staff saved this man's life.”

In honor of the life saving effort, in March, Care Flight honored Joe and Sam with its Golden Rotor Award, which recognizes those in the community that have gone above and beyond to help others. The Care Flight Crew that flew in to present the award was the same crew that helped on the day of the incident. The Truckee fire crew that was on duty that day was also present for the award.

The patrollers are humbled by the award, but say they were just doing their jobs. “This is what we’re here for—it’s what we enjoy,” says Sam.

Boreal GM Amy Ohran says the entire team is proud of the outcome of the medical response and of the Care Flight award. “We are all grateful for the leadership of Sam and Joe, who embody the integrity, ownership and teamwork that we strive for in our culture,” says Ohran. “They are authentic and passionate about our sports and have built a team of pros that are integral to our team and our resort and camp operations.”

As a new leadership team,” adds Joe, “the award was a reminder that we are on the right track in building a strong Health and Safety Department.”

The day was intense, and it took some time to recalibrate. Joe says it took seeing the next patient, the next day, to bring him back down. “Knowing that your time is now committed to them helped get me off that emotional roller coaster.”

Congrats to Sam and Joe! Thanks for keeping us all safe as we play outside and do the things we love.

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