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Carmen Martinez: A new twist to a bone-crushing story

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Part two of two:

Carmen Martinez, Instructor

Carmen Martinez, Instructor

Last week : The Rock Creek chemistry instructor finds herself in a life-and-death struggle on Mt. Hood.

Jesse McColloch is a PCC Rock Creek Campus student working toward his prerequisites for the OHSU paramedic program. He also works as an emergency responder for American Medical Response in Clackamas County.

While on duty during the winter months, he and his partner spend a lot of time at Mt. Hood’s Government Camp treating ski injuries. He recalls one day in 2006 that really stood out in his mind.

“I happened to be on duty and we were called to Mt. Hood Meadows for a ski injury,” McColloch remembered. “They had asked about LifeFlight, but because it was too heavy of a snowfall they called us to come in to transport the injured skier to a lower level so the helicopter could get to her.”

As McColloch and his partner arrived, the ski patrol was trying to get the injured skier down off the mountain to the parking lot. Once in the ambulance, McColloch started to work on the patient, who was really wet and cold. Even though the patient was bleeding, there wasn’t a serious amount, he said. Meanwhile, the LifeFlight helicopter was preparing to land at a school in Welches, more than 20 minutes down the mountain.

“My partner and I tried to get her stabilized,” McColloch said. “She was in-and-out, but able to respond to pain. When I talked to her she didn’t really answer the questions. We knew she had a broken bone, but not how severe it was. Our main concern was the wet and cold.”

The Ambulance transferred the patient to the LifeFlight helicopter at Welches, which is just a 15 minute flight to Portland’s Emanuel Hospital. By ground, it’s almost an hour drive. He says that they usually never see their patients once they are transported, so when the LifeFlight lifted into the air, McColloch didn’t expect that he’d see this woman again.

That patient turned out to be his summer chemistry instructor – Carmen Martinez.

“I had no idea she was a teacher and I didn’t know her name,” he said.

When winter ended and summer rolled in, McColloch enrolled at the Rock Creek Campus to take an anatomy class and the chemistry course for his prerequisites. On the first day of class, Martinez told the class about her winter accident after being asked by students who had missed her the previous term.

“We’re really the only ambulance service up there and there aren’t too many calls where we don’t go and respond,” he said. “She said that she had a snowboarding accident and it clicked in my mind that this might be who was transported by us that day. During the first break, I asked her if the accident had been at Meadows and she said, ‘Yes.’ Then I told her I have your snowboard boots. LifeFlight wouldn’t take them so we ended up keeping them at our quarters.

“She was shocked and gave me a big hug,” he said. “We talked about it for awhile. It was a pretty cool feeling because we usually don’t get feedback on how an accident turned out for the patient.”

For Martinez, a 12-year PCC chemistry instructor and a native of Puerto Rico, it was a moving moment.

“I started crying and gave him a big hug,” she said.

Today, Carmen Martinez doesn’t look like she was injured a year ago in a devastating snowboarding accident. Back to teaching, she says she is slowly getting her range of motion back in her arm. She still happily answers questions about that day. But the real question is will she ever return to the slopes of Mt. Hood again?

“I already did,” she confessed. “I was up there last weekend.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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