Location: Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Date: March 4, 1989
On March 4, 1989, in the snow covered mountains above Great Barrington, Massachusetts, ski instructors Lou and Marty Allessio set out for their first run of the day. They had enjoyed skiing since they had started twenty years prior. They began skiing down Nut Hatch trail, Marty on the right and Lou on the left.
Out of the corner of Lou's eye, he saw 52-year-old Marty start to fall, skid, and hit a tree. He was concerned about the possibility of her breaking her back or neck. He began to scream for help, reminding himself, "Don't lose your cool. She needs you now more than anything."
Joe Mosa, head of the Butternut Basin Ski Patrol team, rushed to the scene. Mosa recalls, "When I heard a ski instructor had hit a tree, I expected to see a gory mess when I got there." Upon his arrival, Mosa began a survey of Marty, checking for injuries. He found her stomach area to be hard and pulsating, a sign of internal bleeding. Concerned about getting her off the hill as soon as possible, he decided to request that Lou leave the hill, go down to the ski patrol, assist upon Marty's arrival and with the transport to the hospital. He found it hard to leave her there, but he knew she was in capable hands with the ski patrol.
It took less than 8 minutes for Mosa and the ski patrol team to assess her, place her on a backboard and toboggan, and take her down the mountain to a waiting ambulance, where they were met by EMT Mary Berryhill. Berryhill was concerned regarding her facial expression, difficulty in breathing, and inability to speak due to that. She knew Marty "was in serious trouble."
Marty was rushed to Fairview Hospital, a small facility close to the slopes for treatment. En route, her condition continued to deterioriate. By the time she arrived, her heart rate had dropped, her pulse had increased dramatically, and her respirations were even more difficult. "She had all the signs pointing to a very, very serious injury," said surgeon George Veinoglou, who was called in to examine her. He, upon seeing an x-ray, saw broken ribs and a collapsed lung.
Marty was taken to surgery. Dr. Veinoglou was concerned with doing a major exploratory surgery with no other help than Dr. Nemio, the gynecologist. He discovered that there was a quarter-sized hole in the heart caused by a broken rib. He was concerned, wanting to send Marty to a larger hospital more specialized, but decided to not do so for fear she would die, and that time was of the essence. He placed his finger in the hole to stop the bleeding, but she went into cardiac arrest. He requested internal heart paddles, but none were available. External ones had to be used to start her heart again. Dr. Veinoglou said, "It was like M*A*S*H", using very limited conditions and tools to save a life." Marty had several more arrests. However, she was able to be resuscitated.
Meanwhile, Lou, his son, Chuck, and other family and friends were asked to move to the meditation room by a nurse. He was concerned that this meant that Marty had died, but he later learned it was an effort to bring him closer to her, as she was in the intensive care unit down the hall.
After spending two and a half weeks in the hospital, Marty made a slow but full recovery. She can't forget how close she came to dying. Lou is thankful for the fact that she was still around at that time. Chuck is thankful to Dr. Veinoglou and his staff for "performing a miracle" and saving his mother's life. "He's probably the best man I've ever met in my entire life."
Marty later returned to skiing saying, "For me to stop skiing would be like not breathing." She continued to ski because it was natural for her and something she loved.