© Copyright 2021 by Jacquline Musgrave
“Look! I’M DOING IT!” I yelled as I was able to keep my feet straight and my ski’s from crossing and falling as I had on every previous attempt. It was our first ski trip, mine and my younger brother Donnie. We were with my Mom and our stepdad in a nice big rented motorhome. It was a 3 day weekend, and being 16, I had been allowed to bring my best friend Jodi. There were lots of hot guys on the mountain, and we were just trying to ski well enough to stand so we could talk to them without falling as most of them were skilled on their feet. We were at an RV park, plugged into their electrical posts but only went there at the end of the day to eat and crash. My stepdad, Don had paid for us to have ski lessons the first day, trying to prove to my Mom that he could be a caring father figure to us. Donnie couldn’t ski very well only being 10 so he skied with the little kids and we went on ahead. “ You’re better at it than I am!” Jodi whined, crossed her skis, and fell. I kept on going down the mountain. There was a serenity in skiing I realized when you could do it. Quiet freedom came over me as the sun came through the trees, the wind blowing on my face and my skis gliding over the snow- it seemed so easy at that point. I was getting the hang of it.
It happened on the last day of our trip, and we had to move the motorhome to the parking lot on the mountain. Sunrise, Arizona is a nice ski community. The mountain is steep in places and flatter in others. The road to the top of the mountain wound around it like a corkscrew, taking about an hour to get to the top, where we were at. Since we were in the parking lot, we were parked by the other motorhomes in the area all of which were running on their generators. Don was a Ski Patrol medic. He spent the day on the slope toting fat ladies with rolled ankles down the mountain in a toboggan, while my Mom stayed behind making lunch and cleaning up the motorhome. Jodi and I were skiing the intermediate slope because I was feeling brave and skilled after day 3. We could see the sun starting to go down a bit and knew we would have to be leaving soon. We got back to the motorhome where Mom had made us a nice lunch of sandwiches, orange slices, and chips. As we sat eating, Mom came from the back of the home holding a dishrag. With a smile, she asked, “Is everything ok?” “Yes, it's great! Thank you Mom…” I glanced up to see blood tearing from her eyes, running down her face. “Oh, shoot, Jakki I’m bleeding,” she said “where am I bleeding from? I’m not cut!” “Oh my God, I’ve gotta get Don. Mom sit down” I bolted out the door, and found Don hoisting a heavyset woman on a toboggan. He was halfway up the hill but seeing me in a full sprint coming his way he stopped. “Jakki what is it?” “Come quick Mom’s eyes are bleeding” “ Oh shit..carbon monoxide….Jakki hurry!” he left the woman there and skied like a pro down to the parking lot. When we walked in Mom was woozy acting, like she was drunk. “I just need to lay down” she slurred, blood-streaked all down her cheeks. My stepdad said, “Oh, Jesus, she’s in bad shape..” he took out his walkie-talkie and reported to the medics team, and soon there were people everywhere. Mom was in and out of consciousness. “ Don you’ve got to get to the station..they have one tank of oxygen left”. Don started driving the motorhome. “Jakki talk to her, keep her with us.” I tried, but she was fading fast. “Don! She’s not responding!” “ Jakki, you have to drive the motorhome up this hill!” I had never really driven before, but I jumped behind the wheel, and gunned it. Stuff was flying around everywhere and I remember hearing him slapping her in the face...pop! “ Alice! Alice!” pop! He was hitting her hard. “Stop hitting her so hard!” I yelled at him.” Jakki, I’m not hurting her, she needs to wake up! Hurry up and drive!” Dishes were falling out of the cabinets as I drove the motorhome like it was a Nissan Sentra. We got to the top where the trauma team awaited us. They piled into the motorhome and immediately started on her. “Her pulse is weak, start her on the oxygen” they hooked her to a machine. “ beeeeeeep” she flatlined “Give me the paddles” She lubed them, while another opened Moms shirt.” Stand by,...stat CLEAR!” Moms body flopped like a fish. “beeeeeep” still no heartbeat “AGAIN,...stat….CLEAR!” Mom flopped again,..” beep...beep..beep” The medic was an Indian woman with a long braid. My brother was crying hard at this point. “Get these kids out of here! Take them to the break room!” she yelled as she kept working on Mom. They took us 2 levels down in the ski lodge to the employee break room and gave us hot chocolate. “What are we going to do if Mom dies Jakki?” Donnie sobbed at me, holding our family dog.” Don’t talk like that! They are working on her, she’s NOT going to die”. Then Jodi piped in, “ but Jakki what if she does? I mean, her eyes were bleeding. That’s not normal. That’s bad.”
I knew it was bad, but I wasn't hearing it. We finished our hot chocolate and they came for us. “ You guys, your Mom is stable but critical. You HAVE to get her to lower elevation.” We were only at the top of the flipping mountain. Don started driving the motorhome while we kept oxygen on Mom who was lifeless at this point. It was heartbreaking to see her like this. She was only 36, and the thought of losing her was too much for me. Her eyes had stopped bleeding, and as the tank got low, she started to come to. We got to the bottom of the mountain and Don swapped out that tank for a fresh oxygen tank and she didn’t want it. She didn’t understand why she needed it or what had happened.”Why were you and Donnie crying and who was that Indian with the long braid?” We looked at each other in astonishment. “She was working on you, Mom how did you see the lady with the braid?” “ I was above you guys and saw you crying and I saw the lady with the braid. She made you guys leave and go with someone. Where did you go?” She had been unconscious that whole time. It seemed impossible, but she had seen us. The rest of the drive was spent with her acting like a 6-year-old, totally innocent, and complaining that everything smelled and tasted too sweet. It was from the carbon monoxide still in her system. It took her about 5 years for her to fully recover from that incident. I never snow skied again after that. She has hardly any recollection of it, and since the two of them got divorced, I found out he had a life insurance policy on her. I've often wondered if he left the windows open or if she did. She doesn’t remember either way, so I guess I will never know. I just feel grateful not to have lost her. We came so close. Let this be a lesson to anyone who goes skiing in motorhomes. Keep your windows shut because Carbon monoxide is a silent killer.