I’m pretty sure that each of us taking part in the Amazing Backcountry Race for STARS has either taken a ride in the STARS helicopter or know someone who has. We all feel the ripple effects when someone is transported via the Air Rescue System, whether through being directly involved in the accident or seeing the red helicopter fly through the sky.
One of our riders, Deb Dombowsky, experienced the ride first-hand last summer when riding in the mountains west of Calgary. She shares her story…
“It was a beautiful morning in the mountains in my favourite camping spot, Little Elbow Equestrian campsite. The sun was just breaking over the mountains with the promise of a warm day. I saddled up my young horse, Secret, for what I thought was going to be a quiet, short ride down to the river.
We set out just behind the campsite and I was pondering where I would take my brother when he got up there later in the morning. It was maybe a half hour into the ride when we came around a bend in the trail and were met with a black bear.
My horse stopped hard and the bear took off into the bush with my dog in pursuit. It happened so fast, when my horse jammed on the brakes I clinched my legs and unfortunately stuck her pretty hard with my spurs. And then we were off to the races so to speak!
Next thing I know I’m out of the saddle, onto her neck, and then sailing through the air and right into a tree. I lay there on the side of the trail trying to breathe. When I hit the tree I collapsed my lung and broke 10 ribs (5-11 were flail), broke my collar bone, and fractured my scapula in three places.
At some point I knew I needed to get out to the road if I was to get any help, so off I crawled. I was very lucky to have a young man come along and he went to the camp attendants to get help. Jim and his wife were with me right up until I was transported by STARS. They kept my dog and horse safe until they could be brought back home. I am forever grateful for their help.
I heard the helicopter landing right there on the road and I thought, ‘how many times have I heard and seen STARS in the sky and never dreamed I would be in it one day.’ The crew was so fast and efficient, I truly believed them when they said, ‘you are going to be okay.’ As we made our way to Foothills hospital the voice that came through my headset kept reassuring me and walked me through all they were doing for me.
As I write this I need to include that it was barely a year ago that I watched STARS take my grandson, Tyson Hirbnak. We were camping in the backcountry in Dutch Creek and had a propane explosion which badly injured my grandson and my husband. You can read about Ty’s story in the January 2014 STARS calendar. You can watch a STARS video featuring Ty here: http://articles.amazinghorsecountry.com/uploads/video/dombowsky1.mov
STARS has made a huge imprint in the lives of our family. Now when I hear and see STARS in the sky I have a flood of emotions, but mostly a deep gratitude in my heart for them and all they do.
Thank you STARS.
Deb resides in Calgary Alberta.