Mammoth Ski Patrol saves life of 14-year old girl
At around 10:30 a.m. on Monday, December 31, fourteen-year-old Cassidy Seitz of Hancock Park suffered a heart attack while approaching an unload ramp on Mammoth Mountain’s Chair 4. What happened next was a testament to the training, organization, and rapid response of the local emergency medical system; from the quick response of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Patrol and quick thinking of the lift operators to the transport to the emergency room at Mammoth Hospital.
After being assessed and stabilized in the Mammoth Hospital ER, Seitz was flown by the local medical Lifeflight service, ReachAir, to the Renown Children’s ICU in Reno, where she stayed only a few hours before being flown down to be treated at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles via the L.A. International Airport (LAX).
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, about 790,000 Americans have a heart attack every year. Of these cases 580,000 are a first heart attack, while 210,000 happen to people who have already had a first heart attack. It breaks down to one heart attack every 40 seconds. Cassidy was one of those in the “first heart attack” category. Heart attacks are very rare for a girl her age. It certainly came as a surprise and shock to her parents, Valerie and Jason, who were unaware of any heart problems in their daughter, who is also a well-conditioned gymnast.
Cassidy and her family had been in Mammoth for a week and she was looking forward to a day of fun skiing and snowboarding with the three friends that shared the 4-person ski lift chair on the Roller Coaster Express Chair #4 going up the mountain. According to her mother, the group was about 3-5 minutes from the end of the lift when Cassidy turned to 14-year-old Julianna Savagian, her best friend since the age of two, telling her that she felt “dizzy.” She then became unconscious and unresponsive. At first her friends were uncertain what was happening until they saw her ski poles fall from her hands to the slope below.
The response of her three friends was impressive. Colin, age 14, and Emmet Kneafsey, age 15, (the two are cousins) quickly linked arms around bar. Julianna held on to her as well. As the chair approached the end of the lift, the group signaled the lift operator that there was an emergency as they came to the landing.
The ski patrol was almost immediately on the scene providing lifesaving care. Cassidy was unresponsive and showed no signs of a pulse. An automatic external defibrillator (AED) was successfully applied. She was immediately transported down the mountain to the Mammoth Hospital Emergency Room and would then later be flown to Reno and then down to Los Angeles. It would be a full-day before she fully regained consciousness, in part because she was kept under sedation as doctors attempted to diagnose her medical condition.
Again, heart attacks for young people are very rare. Her mother said that the cardiologist treating Cassidy, after numerous tests came out normal, told her that it was most likely a genetic anomaly. The diagnosis was that it was an electrical problem with the heart. The heart is the only organ in the human body with its own built in electrical system which causes the heart to beat. When it is disrupted, bad things generally happen, such as a heart attack.
Valerie Seitz and her family are enthusiastic in their praise of everyone involved in saving their daughter’s life. One person for whom they were especially grateful was Cindy Dady, Mammoth Resorts Health and Safety Manager. She kept the family updated on what was happening, arranged for transportation around town, settled their accounts during their stay (i.e., removed all charges) and took care of a myriad of tasks for the family while at the hospital. She also repeatedly contacted the family even after the incident to make sure that Cassidy was okay. The family was very impressed with the service from Mammoth Resorts.
Mammoth Resorts President and Chief Operating Officer, Mark Brownlie, issued a statement saying that “the Mountain Ski Patrol performed to the highest ability in what can best be described as a life or death situation for Cassidy. Cassidy was then transferred to our local emergency services and has since recovered and returned to school.
We are incredibly proud of the performance of our team that day, and of their dedication to providing a safe and fun environment for our guests.
Kathleen Dunn, Corporate Director of Clinical Services for REACH Air Medical Services offered the following:
“We are so grateful for the operational excellence, expert skill and expansive knowledge our clinical, aviation and maintenance team brings to the Sierra Lifeflight mission. They continually strive to provide extraordinary service in a community they consider ‘family.’ We are proud to have played a role in the continuum of care while transporting this patient to much needed specialized care.”
The Seitz family loves Mammoth Mountain and has been coming to the area for many years. Valerie said her husband proposed to her at the top of the Gondola and she was snowboarding in Mammoth when she was pregnant with Cassidy.
Cassidy had been unconscious for a full day during her medical emergency, but after treatment, she recovered, and she has returned to school.
Last weekend, in a show of confidence, Cassidy’s father, Jason Seitz, was back up on the mountain skiing with his 12-year-old daughter, Stella. If what happened to the family on December 31 is an example of “never knowing what life will throw at you,” it is also an example of why visitors to Mammoth Mountain and Resorts should be confident that, if something wrong does happen, you can be assured that you will be well taken care of while here.