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LVH–Pocono Heart Care Helps Get Skier Back On The Slopes

Steve Bomberger, volunteer ranger at Camelback, suffered sudden cardiac arrest on the mountain

Steve Bomberger’s last day on the slopes in April last year at Camelback Ski Resort was nearly the last day of his life, but fate, friends and world-class medical care combined to keep him schussing the trails he loves.

Bomberger, 66, a retired Delaware home builder from Landenberg, Chester County, was volunteering as a ranger on the slopes at Camelback on April 2, something he often did. That day marked his 60th ski day of the season, a slight drop-off from his usual 70-plus days on the slopes. His second home in nearby Pocono Pines puts him in the middle of Pocono ski territory.

As a ranger, he’s an ambassador of sorts, helping the ski patrol where needed and educating skiers on safety and skiing responsibly on the mountain.

The world went dark

“I was feeling pretty good,” recalls Bomberger, who stopped along a trail to get a trail marker that was knocked over. As he spoke with Camelback ski patrol members Mike Brong and Rich Miller, his world went dark and he slumped to the snow with no heartbeat.

Did you know?

More than 356,000 people have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the United States every year and about 60-80% die before reaching the hospital. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“They [Brong and Miller] knew exactly what was going on,” says Bomberger. “I immediately turned gray, and they knew right away that it was some kind of cardiac problem. They immediately started CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and called into the ski patrol base for someone to bring an AED (automated external defibrillator) out on the mountain.”

The AED arrived quickly and Bomberger says he regained consciousness after the first shock from the device. “I remember people telling me to keep breathing, keep my eyes open, that I was going to make it,” he says.

“He just went over backwards and there was agonal breathing (gasping for air),” says Brong, 65, also an emergency medical technician with an ambulance service in the area. “I told Rich he just coded (cardiac arrest) and we started prepping him for CPR and the AED.”

Brong, who’s logged decades on the ski patrol, said everyone came together that day to save Bomberger. He credited his training, including annual CPR training, with making a difference.

Brong said he participated in the successful resuscitation of another skier several years ago. “It certainly makes me appreciate life a little more. Life is pretty fragile,” he says.

Miller, in his 26th season on the Camelback Ski Patrol, says he got to know Bomberger in recent years as they chatted during breaks. “I knew Steve and that’s why we stopped to talk with him,” Miller says. “Who knows how things might have turned out had we not stopped.”

Miller also credited his annual CPR training with helping to save the day. “Everybody who ever taught me [CPR] was with me that day out on the hill,” he says. “I always took it seriously. Everybody takes it seriously.”

“It’s gratifying. Oh, my God, it’s gratifying,” says Miller. “The first time I saw Steve afterwards I had tears coming down my face. It was very emotional.”

Care at LVH–Pocono

An ambulance crew took Bomberger to Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Pocono, where doctors performed a battery of tests, including a cardiac catheterization to look for blockages that may have caused Bomberger’s heart to stop. Anil Gupta, MD, Chief of Cardiology at LVH–Pocono, installed a stent in one partially blocked coronary artery, but there was no sign it contributed to Bomberger’s cardiac arrest.

Bomberger had suffered sudden cardiac arrest, the stopping of the heart due to an irregular heartbeat. But tests showed Bomberger’s heart was healthy and there was no sign of an arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat. There was no heart damage.

Dr. Gupta spoke with Bomberger about getting an automated defibrillator implanted to guard against any future sudden cardiac arrest. Bomberger agreed, calling it an easy choice. “He [Dr. Gupta] explained to me that the fact I was standing there talking with two ski patrol members was why I was still alive. They saved my life,” Bomberger says. “I liked the way he [Gupta] explained what was going on,” Bomberger says.

He [Dr. Gupta] explained to me that the fact I was standing there talking with two ski patrol members was why I was still alive. They saved my life.” Heart patient Steve Bomberger

Dr. Gupta says timely CPR and the use of the AED were critical in Bomberger’s survival. The survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is about 10 percent. “CPR keeps blood flowing to vital organs, including the brain,” Dr. Gupta says.

Bomberger’s defibrillator was implanted by cardiologist and electrophysiologist Simon Gringut, MD. Both doctors are affiliated with Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute.

Good fortune, bright future

“I’m a lucky man,” says Bomberger. “God was watching, and he brought the ski patrol there to save me.” His good fortune had another positive outcome. “My daughter got married this past October and I was able to walk her down the aisle,” he says with a voice cracking with emotion.

Bomberger says he’ll be forever grateful to everyone who had a hand in saving his life, from the ski patrol to the ambulance crew, to the clinicians at LVH–Pocono. “I got the best care I could have asked for,” he says.

Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute


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