Feb. 15 started like any other day for retired Lakefield resident Chris Davies.
He had no way of knowing it would end with him saving a life.
Davies is one of nine volunteer members of the Kawartha Zone ski patrol — one of 56 zones within nine territorial divisions under the Canadian Ski Patrol — stationed at the Kawartha Nordic Ski Club in Haultain in North Kawartha Township.
With more than 4,500 first aid and emergency trained volunteers from coast to coast, the Canadian Ski Patrol is a non-profit organization that promotes safety at cross-country trails and downhill skiing resorts across Canada.
When Davies, who’s nearly 70, arrived at the Kawartha Nordic Ski Club, an employee handed him a phone.
Someone needed help.
On the other end was a 60-year-old solo skier. He told Davies his heart rate was fluctuating wildly.
After a quick symptom evaluation over the phone, Davies acted quickly, making the time-saving choice to pack only the essentials onto his snowmobile before heading to where the skier was located, about four kilometres from the chalet. Davies retrieved the skier.
It wasn’t until the pair were 30 metres from the chalet that the man began exhibiting the telltale signs of a heart attack.
“His hand went up, he grabbed his chest behind me and screamed in pain … and essentially fell off the Ski-Doo,” Davies said.
Davies and the chief instructor, who waited behind, helped the skier into the treatment room, feeding him two aspirins before calling 911. An ambulance was dispatched from Aspley.
“The ambulance arrived in 13 minutes, which was spectacular,” Davies said. “EMS took him to Peterborough Regional Health Center (PRHC) where he was operated on. He then recovered well.”
EMS personnel credited Davies with his quick-thinking.
“They said the best decision I made out of all the decisions I made was spending no time to take excess equipment but to go in and get him out because if he had that heart attack four kilometres back in the woods, the outcome would have been significantly different,” Davies said.
Davies was recognized on Sept. 11, when he received the national John D. Harper Lifesaving Award at a ceremony alongside his peers. He earned a five-year service pin at the same event.
Kawartha Zone patrol leader Mark Wickham said the incident was a “very humbling experience.”
”I’m certainly very proud of (Davies’) efforts and our entire team,” he said.
Wickham, who has trained Davies himself, said all volunteers undertake a comprehensive annual course, racking up to 40 hours of recertification training each year.
As for Davies, he believes his fellow team members would have done the same thing had they been in the same position.
“I was the guy who was there and the outcome is a direct reflection of the time we spend doing our advanced first aid training and to have spent hundreds of hours training and then be able to apply that t training to save someone’s life — I think any member of our patrol would have also been able to do the exact same thing,” he said. “I feel very blessed and thankful that I had the training to help the gentleman out.”
After bringing the skier to safety, Davies received an email from the man’s wife — something he cherishes to this day.
It was signed “the widow not to be.”
Davies sees himself volunteering with the ski patrol for about five more years. For him, it’s about giving back to the community.
“Doing the ski patrol is what I call ‘paying back into the pot.’ I serve a couple not-for-profits for the same reason. I’ve lived a tremendous life and I think it’s very important to pay back to the pot I’ve taken from, so the Canadian Ski Patrol is one way of doing that.”
Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.
Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner