Peter Casey – When an Alaska Flight Paramedic Gets InjuredLifeMed Alaska Flight Paramedic and Anchorage Base Chief, Peter Casey with wife, Stacey and son, Grayson.
The story of Peter Casey, an Alaska flight paramedic who was airlifted after he broke his neck snowboardingI just laid there in the snow, board facing down the hill. I was scared. Thoughts started flashing through my head, “Could I be paralyzed? How would I take care of my family?” Time became relative. The biggest thing I felt—pardon my language—was “this just sucks.” How did I get here? It was late February. My wife Stacey, our kiddo Grayson and I were in Alyeska on the “stay and ski free” package. The conditions were O.K. Nothing amazing. We snowboarded all day, had a nice dinner, and went to bed—nothing out of the ordinary, including the suboptimal conditions. The next morning, we were greeted with a clear, bluebird day. It had snowed overnight. The slopes were covered in fresh powder. We were going to leave, but I told my wife and my kid, “I have to go down just one more time.” I left them at the cabin to take the lift to the top. A bluebird day in Alyeska. At the top of the mountain, I popped my music in. I was just enjoying the view on my way down when I came up to a crossroads. I chose to go left toward a glacier bowl. As I was on my way down one side of the bowl, I glanced up and to the right. Right at that moment, the tip of my board hit something under the snow. Now, I have been snowboarding since I was 14. This was not the first time I had biffed. Unfortunately, the fall was completely unexpected and I did not have time to tuck and roll. I had been going about 20 miles per hour, and I was flung end-over-end about 15-20 feet down the hill. I landed on my head. My neck snapped to the left. I heard it snap—it was a loud CRACK! I was in immediate, agonizing pain. My entire right arm was numb. As a medical professional, I knew this meant that I had broken my neck fairly high. That was when I laid in the snow. After an indefinite amount of time, I regained control over my mind and decided to perform some self-testing. I felt a wash of relief when I realized that I could wiggle my toes. I was not paralyzed. I started trying to get other people’s attention, but it was not working. I tried to sit up. It felt like someone took a taser to the end of my fingers—pain was shooting down my arms. I popped the bindings off of my board and started scooting myself down the hill to where everyone was passing by, being careful not to jostle my neck. I was able to flag someone down to get the ski patrol. I called my wife, “pretty sure I broke my neck.” It was a very emotional phone call. In hindsight, I am not sure why I did not call someone in the first place. The ski patrol arrived. I told them that I was a flight paramedic with LifeMed Alaska, and to call them in. I knew that I had only a short time before swelling could cause more damage. The ski patrol got me down the mountain on a backboard. At the bottom of the hill, I met my wife at the ski shack and was transferred to the Girdwood fire department. From there, I was transferred to LifeMed. I was relieved to see LifeMed. I felt safe. Everyone there is so good at their jobs. As a LifeMed flight paramedic myself, being on the “other side” was a change of perspective for me and I learned a lot. I was keenly aware of the efforts they made to make sure that I could see them and talk to them despite being immobilized, strapped to a backboard. I knew both of the professionals on the flight, Paul my paramedic and John my nurse. At one point, Paul scratched an itch on my nose for me. I know he would have done the same for any of our patients. LifeMed Alaska making a transfer from a local fire department in October. Today, I have made a full recovery. I feel so fortunate. The injury damaged one of the nerve roots to my right arm. I had lost 50% of its strength and mobility. My right arm is not 100%, but it is very close. I am back at work. I have received incredible support from my community—the EMS community, Chugiak (where I live)—lots of donations that have helped massively with the medical bills. You may have seen the YouCaring campaign circulating on Facebook around that time. One of my coworkers even setup a meal trade. I had people I did not know showing up at my house with meals! My story was featured on Alaska news site KTVA.com.
Peter’s family shared this photo of his hospital recovery in a YouCaring campaign to assist the family with medical bills and day-to-day expenses. I highly encourage you to consider the LifeMed Alaska Membership. For only $49 a year, their membership will cover you and your family for emergency medical transports throughout the year. It was the LifeMed airlift I received that made all the difference for me. If I had chosen to take a longer trip on an ambulance instead, further swelling could have caused more damage to my injured neck. But that’s not what I did, and I made a full recovery. If you would like to learn more about “The Alaska Life” of LifeMed employees like David, another Alaska flight paramedic, read The Makings of an #AKHero.