2017-03-15 / Letters

We sleep better at night knowing you are there

Tuesday, March 7, I didn’t work my 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift at the NorthStar base in Carrabassett Valley. Earlier, I requested the time off in order to guide and shuttle a group of x-country skiers for the week.

I dropped my skiers off at a place where the Maine Huts & Trails ski trail crosses Long Falls Dam Road. They were a group of 11, led by Ginette Beaudoin, a leader of trips worldwide for the Appalachian Mountain Club. Conditions were cold and windy with a lot of crust and ice on the trail. I drove to the Flagstaff trailhead to park the van and skied back to meet the group. I met Ginette with only part of the group and she informed me that one of our skiers had fallen and was injured. Three skiers helped their friend back to the yurt where they built a fire and wrapped her in extra clothing while Ginette led the rest to the Flagstaff hut to avoid hypothermia.

When I got to the yurt I determined that the only safe way to evacuate our friend was to alert NorthStar personnel for a back-country rescue. I had my radio with me and was able to communicate directly with Wade Browne and Chip Eames on duty at the base. I have been doing this as a first responder in the back country for a lot of years but this time I was part of the group that needed rescuing.

I am writing this in order to thank everyone involved for their excellent response but even more important, to emphasize what an incredible resource we have in our small communities. These rescues can be very confusing and complicated, often requiring a lot of manpower and a combination of vehicles. This one was no different. What was different for me was being more of a spectator than a participant and realizing what an amazing and talented group of responders we have here.

The unsung heroes in all this are the men and women who are not professionals and are not required to respond. They are people who care enough to listen to a radio and drop everything in any weather day or night to answer a distress call. They miss family time and work they can’t afford to miss. They often return home with images seared in their brains that can never be erased. They are here in all our small towns. I have lost count how many times they have arrived precisely when I most needed them or were on scene before I arrived doing whatever needed to be done.

When I came out of the yurt, thinking I would ski down behind the sled, I found my skis all packed and a seat ready for me to ride out. After a careful ride to the road, I saw all those familiar faces and they immediately took over and did what was necessary. A fireman had already taken one of my skiers to retrieve my van and they gave two skiers a ride to my house so they could get a car to follow the ambulance to the hospital.

This left me free to find the rest of my group for the ride home. Looking at my crew from this perspective, it occurred to me how lucky I am to share a bond with such a fine group. They make our system work and though their names are seldom in the paper we all know who they are. I should add that the patient was amazed at the skill, care and compassion shown to her by every individual involved. This is a salute and a thank you to all of you who run toward the “wreck” instead of turning away. We all sleep better at night knowing you are there.

“Gang Warily,”
Greg Drummond
Highland Plantation

Return to top