Charlie Voysey, 16, had been skiing before. It was an activity he and his family enjoyed for most of his life. This most recent trip to Beaver Creek ski resort in Colorado, saw Charlie, his father, and his younger brother hitting the slopes with gleeful abandon.
Still, the Kansas City family was just getting their legs under them, prepping for the more difficult hill, the Birds of Prey lift, the following day. Charlie raced down Larkspur, a blue run, heedless of anything in his path. Then, suddenly, disaster struck.
Around the same time, and on the same slope, Dr. Heston LaMar, was making his way down the same ski trail with a few of his buddies. In his day job, Dr. LaMar served both as medical director of health and wellness and a professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Dr. LaMar and his friends had also come to Beaver Creek that March in order to get away for a weekend. Their path was a bit more languid and careful than Charlie’s had been, however. Because of this, they were able to stop in time to notice what looked like a couple of ski patrollers working on a boy in the snow.
Dr. LaMar had been on the slopes enough times to recognize the signs of a collision. He skied up to patrollers and informed them that he was an ER doctor and asked if there was anything he could do to help. They declined and the doctor, sensing that everything was OK, was about to ski off when he noticed something.
Then he looked down at the men stabilizing the boy’s arm and saw red blood pooling below the thick ski jacket. This was unusual and worrying. The collision had only just happened and yet a significant amount of blood had soaked through to the snow. The injury might have been worse than it looked.
More Embarrassed Than Hurt
Charlie himself didn’t actually think the wound was that bad. His arm hurt, sure, but it didn’t hurt as much as the amount of blood indicated it might. He felt more embarrassed than anything else. He’d hit a patch of ice on the slope and tumbled out of control into a nearby snowboarder. The impending collision had knocked him to the ground hard, but he was still conscious.
Of course, once Dr. LaMar clicked out of his skis and bent down to stop the patrollers from carting him off, Charlie realized that his arm might be worse off than he’d believed. The doctor opened his pack and pulled out a pair of shiny, sharp-looking trauma shears and at that moment, Charlie knew something was very wrong.
The Proper Tools
Dr. LaMar used the shears to cut Charlie’s glove and up the arm of his jacket. Charlie shivered as the cold struck his arm, but that wasn’t the only thing that chilled him. The teen could now see a giant laceration up his broken arm. The collision had severed several arteries, ligaments, and nerves in his forearm.
Panic Sets In
Charlie’s dad, David, stood nearby, watching the doctor work on his son. Even he didn’t know how bad the wound was until the jacket came off. “I remember when he looked into that jacket, I was holding him and I could feel him tense up,” David explained to the Colorado Sun. As he held him, he felt his heart beating faster and faster.
And with every nervous beat of Charlie’s heart, blood came spurting from his open wound. Luckily for the injured young man, Dr. LaMar hadn’t just come by right in the nick of time, he had also brought with him a backpack full of every tool a surgeon on-the-go could ever need whilst on the ski slopes.
Though Dr. LaMar would tell you that it’s only a few “basic supplies,” it is quite a bit more than that. Fortuitous as the doctor’s arrival was, it also came with a fair bit of irony too. His buddies had been ribbing him not long before they’d gone out to the ski trail for carrying the thing everywhere. “When are you going to use that thing?” one had asked, just that morning.
Regardless of his friend’s teasing, Dr. LaMar was a man who liked to be prepared and the backpack they had so callously teased him for, was critical in saving a boy’s life. After cutting open Charlie’s sleeve, he pulled out a combat application tourniquet and began packing Charlie’s bleeding wound with combat gauze.
Luckily for Charlie, combat gauze is impregnated with a blood-clotting agent and it was able to stop the bleeding. As Dr. LaMar began packing the wound, he noticed something even more worrying. Charlie’s arm felt like it was nothing but soft tissue and blood, the bones of his forearm were nowhere to be felt.
No Bones About It
Charlie’s arm felt like all the bones had been removed, but Dr. LaMar knew it was much simpler than that. “That’s when I got more concerned. I couldn’t feel any bone anywhere. The bone had broken in a manner that it had shattered and come apart. It was all just soft tissue and blood,” explained the doctor.
In the end, Charlie ended up with only a few broken bones in his arm. They were shattered pretty badly, but once Dr. LaMar wrapped the boy’s arm tightly in some gauze and stopped the bleeding, he stabilized enough to move. The ski patrollers put Charlie on a stretcher and skied him down the hill towards an ambulance.
Young and Strong
Dr. LaMar admitted that even without his intervention, Charlie would have probably been fine, so long as the ski patrollers made sure to get him down to the ambulance fast enough. Charlie was young and strong, but he would have lost a lot of blood. His trip in the ambulance and ensuing surgery would have been even harder to manage if he hadn’t stepped in on the slopes.
A few months after the accident and Charlie is on the mend. He is still working through rehab on his left hand and the feeling in his fingers hasn’t entirely returned, but the prognosis is good. Nevertheless, he recalls that day fondly and likens Dr. LaMar’s timely intervention as if it were magic. “It was like he was an angel,” Charlie explained.
Charlie continued by saying that it wasn’t just Dr. LaMar’s timely arrival but the fact that he had the medical expertise, the knowledge, and all the necessary medical gear to staunch the bleeding and save his life. As for Dr. LaMar, he doesn’t consider himself a hero in any capacity. He doesn’t even like the mention of the word.
As far as Dr. LaMar is concerned, it wasn’t he who got Charlie down the hill. Nor he that stabilized the teen with intranasal pain medication. He didn’t do the surgery or repair the damage. No, as far as Dr. LaMar is concerned, the team were the heroes. Saving Charlie was a team effort and the doctor isn’t happy being in the spotlight for the rescue.
That said, there have been some reactions to his fast thinking and careful preparations that Dr. LaMar does appreciate. Recently, the doctor was approached by an ER resident who had read about his efforts at Beaver Creek and taken it upon himself to start carrying a pack loaded with medical supplies, just in case they ever proved necessary.
Spreading the Word
He may not want to be called a hero, but Dr. LaMar is glad to see that people are making safety preparations. “That’s another great thing to come out of this. Maybe that will spread and there will be more people out there who can be at the wrong place at the right time with all the tools they need,” he said.