BOISE - First responders know all too well how people can wind up in trouble. It’s their jobs to help ease the situation and get victims to safety, but you could say a group of medical professionals from Air St. Luke’s went above and beyond when they helped an injured hiker in the Sawtooth Mountains.
Heather Contos has hiked the Sawtooth Mountains the last couple of years.
“When I saw the Sawtooths that first time, oh gosh, I just had to backpack it,” Contos said.
On Saturday, Contos headed into the woods with her daughter, son, and best friend for a multi-day hike up into the Sawtooths.
“We just had an enjoyable first couple of days. We hit a part of a trail where we couldn't go any farther. We wanted to go up to Spangle Lake originally, but we couldn't find the trail,” she said.
They decided to turn back, and since it was late, set up camp.
“I hooked my hammock to a couple of the trees down there. They seemed really sturdy,” Contos said.
But just before bed, one of the trees gave way.
“Tree fell on me. I didn't even know that's what had happened at the time,” Contos said.
The next thing she remembers is being face down on all fours, trying to breathe, and spitting up blood.
“Apparently my 100-pound daughter just picked up the tree and just took it off of me, and my best friend was helping her trying to push it,” Contos said. “They went back later and said they couldn't pick that tree up for anything. So it must have just been love, adrenaline love.”
Heather and her best friend stayed at camp while the other two went for help.
“This happened at 10:30 at night. They hiked out the four-and-a-half miles in the wilderness on that same trail where it wasn't clear,” Contos said. “They got out of there in record time.”
Air St. Luke’s was dispatched to help Contos. Rick West and his team, using night vision goggles, searched for 20 minutes to find a suitable place to land, settling on a spot about a half-mile away.
Once on the ground, they huddled up to figure out what equipment to bring and headed out towards Heather.
“It was too dark and they knew they could trip or drop me or anything, they could have fatalities themselves if they had left in the dark. So they waited the night through the rest of the morning in the darkness with me,” Contos said.
Three medical professionals that went above and beyond.
“This is just one of those we had no idea until we got up there what we had, and we had to make decisions on the fly and we did it with huddles, very slow, very deliberate, not rushing even though we need to get to the patient to evaluate them,” West said.
“To do it safely we have to, there's so many things to take into consideration on a night cross-country trek in the Sawtooth Mountains.”
Once daybreak hit, Heather was then carried out and transported to Saint Alphonsus in Boise. She suffered a broken vertebrae, two broken ribs, and a number of bumps and bruises.
Heather tells KTVB it wasn’t so much they stayed the night, but rather keeping calm in a scary situation.
“It was like I knew her for 20 years. We just talked about everything,” Contos said.
Heather was released from the hospital on Wednesday and is headed back to her hometown of Laramie, Wyoming.
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