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Mountain News: Breath of life blown into blue face of buried skier

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VAIL, Colo.—Michael Lausch was luckier than many skiers and snowboarders who end up vertical in the snow, upside down, their heads buried and their feet sticking out. He lived.

This simple fact has much to do with the chance passing of a group of physicians who were skiing on Vail Mountain proximate to his misfortune. Many people die of immersions, usually after they have plunged into tree wells. The 40-year-old man from Ohio, however, had plunged head-first into the snow without a tree nearby. Someone who had seen this began frantically calling for help.

“When I got there, there were two ski boots sticking out of the snow,” said Tom Nern, who was skiing with a group from Vail Dermatology. It took the group six or seven minutes to dig Lausch out. Lausch told the Vail Daily’s Ross Leonhart that he stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 270 pounds.

“He wasn’t breathing. He was purple. No pulse—nothing,” Nern said. “He was blue and purple,” added Dr. Karen Nern, a dermatologist and founder of the firm.

Said Beth McCann, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist who was among the rescuers: “He was bluer than blue when we got him out.” Karen Nern gave him three sets of chest compressions, and McCann provided six to eight breaths. Then, with a snorkelling kind of breath, he was alive again.

“This showcases the importance for people to be trained in CPR,” said Doug Lovell, chief operating officer at Vail Mountain.

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