During the 2013 Christmas break, Dani Posner and her family decided to take a trip from their home in Chicago to Beaver Creek, Colo. Despite being new to snowboarding, Dani and her father Wally eagerly hit the slopes on the first morning of their visit.
As with all beginning snowboarders, they took a few tumbles while trying to master the new equipment. However, Dani soon began telling her father that she felt nauseous and was experiencing pain in her left shoulder.
“I thought she just had a little altitude sickness and a sore shoulder from a previous fall,” said Wally. “I really didn’t think much of it, but called the ski patrol as a precaution.”
The ski patrol examined her and offered to take her down the mountain to a doctor. Dani maintained that she could continue snowboarding and declined the offer, but soon after the consultation, Dani collapsed on the slope.
Not only was Dani carried down the mountain, ski patrol performed CPR on her for the entire descent to attempt to restart her heart and resume her breathing. They took her to a nearby hospital for evaluation and discovered that she needed to get to a lower altitude and a hospital that specializes in heart health as soon as possible. Paramedics took her by ambulance to meet an AirLife medical helicopter, which flew her to The Medical Center of Aurora.
When her family arrived at the hospital, Dani had already been admitted to the cardiac catheterization lab where a stent had been inserted to fix what turned out to be a ruptured artery in her heart. The nurse in charge took her family into a room and described to them what had happened. Dani, just 20 at the time, had spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), a rare condition where a split or separation suddenly develops between the layers of one of the arteries in the heart, causing a heart attack.
“We were at a large hospital, but it felt like Dani was the only patient there,” said Wally. “It seemed that everyone stopped what they were doing and focused on my daughter. The doctors and nurses updated us on her condition constantly, were very patient and answered all of our many questions. They were all truly amazing.”
After six days in the hospital, Dani was discharged and headed back to her Chicago home with her family. Shortly after her return home, she began her spring semester of college, got back to driving and returned to her regular life.
Dani was truly lucky. SCAD is not well understood and has a very low survival rate of just 14 percent. Because of the experience, Wally will raise money for SCAD research by biking from Chicago to Beaver Creek during the summer of 2014.