MORRIS – The bike riders of the Mountain Miracle Team rode into Morris on Saturday afternoon for their first overnight stop on a 1,300-mile journey that will take them from the Chicago suburbs to the Rocky Mountain town where the life of one of the riders’ daughters was almost lost.
Wally Posner, 54, of Highland Park, is leading the team to raise awareness and research funding for SCAD, spontaneous coronary artery dissection, seven months after his daughter experienced a SCAD.
Cheryl Crisman of Morris was there to meet the riders at their stop and buy them frozen custard shakes. Crisman also is a SCAD survivor, and there aren’t many of them. The condition is so sudden and serious that it is often fatal. SCAD is one of the most common causes of heart attacks in women younger than 45, according to the Mayo Clinic.
It’s an emergency condition seen most often in young women where the lining of one of the arteries in the heart splits or tears.
Posner’s daughter, Danielle, had a heart attack snowboarding with her father down a mountainside last December in Beaver Creek, Colorado.
Suddenly, according to her father, Danielle bent her head down, turned blue and went down. Unknown to her father, one of Danielle’s major heart arteries had just burst. There was no warning, no signs, no known medical conditions. The 20-year-old college student had seemed the picture of health.
Danielle clinically died on that mountainside in the arms of her father, then was brought back to life by the heroes of the Beaver Creek Ski Patrol. They responded immediately, Posner said, with CPR, intubation and defibrillation. They continued their rescue efforts at the same time as they transported her down the mountain on two rescue toboggans – one for her and one for her first responders.
“They brought her down the mountain while doing the CPR,” Posner said.
After the ambulance ride, Danielle was airlifted to a major hospital where surgeons placed a stent in her artery and saved her.
“It was absolutely the worst nightmare you can ever imagine,” Posner said. “We were just asking, ‘Why is this happening?’ ”
Danielle recovered and went back to her spring semester.
Posner was so filled with gratitude to the ski patrol team and with passion for finding a reason and a cure for SCAD that he has devoted himself to the bike trip ever since. The three reasons for the trip, he said, are to raise awareness for SCAD, to raise $500,000 for research at the Mayo Clinic and to recognize everyone in Colorado who had a hand in saving his daughter’s life last year.
One of the members of the Beaver Creek Ski Patrol who was there that day on the mountainside was Ryan Rapp. He also is riding the whole distance with the team. He said his patrol sees cardiac incidents on the slopes at times, and he was really glad that Danielle recovered.
“Typically, you don’t get the results we did,” Rapp said.
Saturday was the team’s first day of their journey and Rapp, who is an experienced bike rider, said he had a flat tire and rib cramps that put him behind a little. The Chicago area traffic was pretty bad, too, he added.
“There was so much traffic,” Posner said, “that you have to be very cognizant of it. When you get distracted, that’s when accidents happen.”
Almost worse than the traffic, Posner said, was the 20-minute delay at one of the river bridges in Joliet.
Andrew Fleishman of Highland Park was along for the first day of the ride and suffered a bad scrape on his forearm when a large bump unbalanced his bike.
Sports writer Laurel Darren-Simmons of Phoenix also is a part of the long-distance team. She said she thought it was a great cause, and signed on.
The team said after the Chicago traffic, climbing the more than 11,000 feet of mountains in the Rockies will be their most difficult challenge. They will end the ride in Beaver Creek, where they will honor the ski patrol and others who saved Danielle’s life.
Crisman said she hopes people will donate to the cause at www.themountainmiracle.com.
“Wally is doing something to give back,” she said, “And it’s research that will help all of us and our children.”