“His win is our win,” says VGH ICU nurse

Earlier this week, Mark McMorris won the bronze medal in Slopestyle at the PyeongChang Olympics. The two-time Olympic medallist is lucky to be alive, let alone competing, after a disastrous accident last year sent him to VGH.

“On death’s doorstep”

When Mark arrived at VGH last March, he was, as he says, “on death’s doorstep.”  The snowboarder had been airlifted from Whistler after hitting a tree in the backcountry.

After he was stabilized in the ED, he was sent up to the ICU team.

Photo from Mark’s Instagram page showing him in ICU.

“He looked pretty bad when he first came in,” recalls Simmie Kalan, critical care nurse. “He’d been sedated and we were keeping him pretty still.”

Mark had a nasty list of injuries including: a broken jaw, broken left arm, ruptured spleen, stable pelvic fracture, rib fractures and collapsed left lung.

Thumbs up 

However, Mark’s tenacity soon began to show and the ICU team started waking him up just 12 hours after he was admitted.

“I remember the first thing he did was give us a thumbs up,” Simmie says. “That’s huge from a neurological perspective because you have to think about what you’re going to do and then you have to make the muscles move.”

“It blew our minds” 

After only 10 days in hospital, Mark was doing well enough to go home. Always determined, he spent the next several months in physiotherapy getting ready for his next shot at the podium.

“It blew our minds how quickly he turned around,” says Simmie. “It shows the type of person he is.”

Simmie Kalan, clinical nurse educator, was one of the critical care nurses looking after Mark in ICU.

After an astonishing recovery, five months later he was back on a snowboard. In November, he won a World Cup event in Norway. He had his sights set on PyeongChang.

Olympic victory a win-win

Earlier this week, referring to his second Olympic medal in PyeongChang, Mark has been quoted as saying: “I’m on the podium and I probably shouldn’t even be here, so I’m pretty stoked.”

The VGH ICU team is pretty stoked too.

“We all started messaging each other when we found out,” says Simmie. “We’re not surprised he won the medal and we feel like his win is our win. I mean, what we did for him, we would do for anyone.”

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National Post story: Mark McMorris nearly died last year. Now he’s an Olympic bronze medallist

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