On Patrol…

Seven years ago at this time of year, I was getting ready to start classes to become a National Ski Patroller in northeast Ohio. The first night was simply a registration session, time to pay for the course and pick up the syllabus, the big thick textbook and the almost-as-thick workbook.

As I drove to that first session, I had a panic attack. I started shaking and had an overwhelming urge to turn around and slink back home. This was a strange reaction for something I was looking forward to! I stopped in a parking lot and called a friend, explaining what was happening and asking her to pray for me.

nsp jacketAs she prayed, things suddenly became clear. I was hearing echoes from middle school—not athletic enough, not good-looking enough, not special enough, to join the “popular crowd.” In my mind, ski patrollers were the golden people, the good looking ones at the ski resort, the hot-shot skiers, the “in-crowd.” After all, EVERYONE wanted to wear one of those nifty jackets with the big cross on the back and be the hero to save people’s lives!

Once I recognized what was causing me to panic, I thanked my friend, hung up the phone, gulped a few times, and finished driving to that sign-up session. Yes, the training stretched my brain at times. Yes, I wasn’t sure I could master everything required to become a ski patroller. Yes, I was nervous about passing the skills test later that fall. But…I stuck with it.

I became one of the “golden-people.” I got to wear that special jacket. Even being overweight, older, and not-so-coordinated couldn’t stop me. I, yes I, was part of the National Ski Patrol.

Over the past seven years, I have enjoyed patrolling in a number of settings. I gained an instructor certification for the emergency care part of the certification process. With the encouragement of patroller friends, I persevered and gain my “senior” certification.

on patrolIt was often said that fellow ski patrollers become “family.” I wasn’t so sure about that. I enjoyed spending time with new friends, with mentors, and with fellow instructors. I delighted in helping students find the “aha moments” as they put together knowledge and skills in the classes. It was fun to see my kids get involved in the Jr. Patrol. But “family”? I already had plenty of that.

Then one of our sons died unexpectedly. Beyond close friends, church friends, and family, we were also joined by ski patrol “family” while we waited and mourned on that long, long day at the hospital. In the days and weeks following our son’s death, my ski patrol “family” surrounded us, bringing food and stories and cards and love. Yes, I realized, they truly were more than friends. They proved themselves to be “family.”

Our family moved to a remote area of New Mexico almost two years ago. We are working with at-risk Navajo young people. I love what we are doing. In addition, I am jumping through the hoops to transfer my EMT-B certification (earned before we moved out here) from Ohio to New Mexico, am taking an on-line instructor certification class, and am considering doing the work to get EMT-Intermediate certification.

I only wish there were ski resorts within a reasonable drive. Too bad the sheer-sided mesas out here don’t hold enough snow for skiing! I’m confident I made the right decision to not renew my ski patrol certifications…

…but I sure miss being one of the “golden-people.” I miss wearing the special jacket with the big white cross on the back. I miss being a hero to save people’s lives. Most of all, I miss my ski patrol “family.”

I was reminded of all I miss about being a ski patroller when I saw THIS VIDEO posted on facebook. It gives an excellent picture of what it is like to be a member of National Ski Patrol. I only wish it showed an older, overweight, not-so-coordinated patroller on the smaller hills of Ohio. Then it would truly be a picture of my experience as one of the elite—of me “on patrol.”



I have always been fascinated by medical things. For years I thought I wanted to be an RN (until I learned just how much authority they don’t have!) I dabbled with the idea of becoming a chiropractor, but couldn’t imagine the years of schooling required. Plus, like I explained in an earlier post, I really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom which felt incompatible with massive school debt. Not actually having any medical certifications has never dulled my interest. I’ve read a zillion books over the years about every imaginable facet of medical care, medical research, emergency care, wilderness medicine, and more.

First...ski patrol

Five or six years ago, I started down an interesting path. Like many starts and like many paths, I had no idea where I would eventually end up. It started innocently enough with a late-night ski session with my daughter, Nettie. There was a sign in the window of the First Aid Room—Ski Patrollers Wanted. I went in, “just to talk,” and a few weeks later I started the training program to become a certified Outdoor Emergency Care technician, also known as a “Ski Patroller.”

On the way to the first class, I fell apart in the car. I was shaking and crying and felt sick to my stomach. All I wanted to do was turn around and go home. I called a friend instead. As she prayed for me, I realized I was terrified of rejection. After all, I’m an overweight, older woman. I’m not the glamorous, athletic image most people have of Ski Patrollers. Who was I kidding?! I finally dried my tears, and finished the drive to class. I figured I could quit before paying the fees if it really wasn’t for me…

But…I loved it. I was finally learning and using medical skills. I delighted in the knowledge. I have always been good at memorizing information and taking tests. I really could do this!

...then EMT- Basic

And then in the fall, we started practicals classes. Oops! My mind went blank on the first scenario. I couldn’t think of ANYthing to ask or do. This time, instead of wanting to quit, I got mad. I went home and studied harder, determined to not just pass the eventual tests but to be GOOD at figuring out what to do in an emergency setting.

That first ski season started and I enjoyed the challenge. I could have fun skiing, I could keep my brain active, and I could actually help people while doing so! A friend who went through the classes with me only lasted one season. She hated the pressure. She felt like someone could be harmed or even die if she did not do everything perfectly. On the other hand, I thrived on the challenge. Each time I helped stabilize and treat an injured skier or boarder, all I could think was “if I do everything right I can save this person’s life…or at least make a difference in their recovery.”

someday Paramedic...

I have continued to walk down the path I started “way back when.” I became an instructor for OEC/Ski Patrol. I took the classes and passed National Registry as an EMT-Basic. And now? Now I am getting ready to start classes to become a Paramedic, looking toward to the eventual day when I can get certified to train local Navajo as First Responders.

I laugh when I tell people I finally figured what I want to be “when I grow up” (now that I am almost 50 years old!!) I wanna be a PARAMEDIC! I wanna help people in crisis and potentially save lives in emergencies. I wanna train others to do the same.

Looking back, I think it is quite interesting that one of the few TV shows I ever watched regularly was “Emergency.” Through middle school and high school I thrilled each week to seeing paramedics in action. (Later it was “M*A*S*H* and, more recently, House—all shows with a medical theme.) Now?? One of these days I may be one of them! I may be a “medical professional.”

Did it start with these guys??

Who would have ever imagined??

And YOU? What seeds were planted in your childhood of interests or dreams that you gradually left behind? Which seeds, if reconsidered, might bring enjoyment and fulfillment to your life today? Don’t discount where those paths might lead…