Kudos to first responders who rescued mountain biker: ‘They were like a professional sports team’

Routt County Search and Rescue and Steamboat Fire Rescue crews transfer a mountain biker to a Classic Air Medical helicopter after the individual suffered an apparent cardiac event on Tuesday, August 29, 2023.
Routt County Search and Rescue/Courtesy photo

“Can a Garmin watch indicate a heart attack?”

The Google search on his phone was the last thing David Stacey remembers before he passed out while riding his bike on Emerald Mountain after suffering a cardiac event on the afternoon of Aug. 29.

Stacey would never get an answer to that question — from Google, at least. The members of the Routt County Search and Rescue and Steamboat Springs Fire Department who rescued him that day would save him the search.

“I am not a center of attention kind of guy,” Stacey told The Steamboat Pilot & Today as he sat with his wife, Kathi, outside of Taco Cabo on Friday morning. “The main reason I wanted to meet with you is to make sure all the first responders know how much I appreciate what they did and how much I respect them.

“They were like a professional sports team.”

About two miles from the top of the Morning Glory trail on Emerald Mountain, Stacey, 59, remembered how he started feeling “kind of bad” before everything went dark. Recalling the incident, he said he should have just called 911 immediately, but the ride was supposed to be an easy one for him.

“Bike fit and in good shape,” Stacey said. He went on to say he “should have been very low risk for any type of cardiac event” after completing both the 118-mile Triple Bypass cycling event and the 79-mile Courage Classic ride with his son in July.

“I am not a person that asks for help, I am more of an idiot,” he added with a smile as his wife nodded with agreement.

When the father of two regained consciousness with his face buried in the dirt, he decided he would ascend to the top of the Morning Glory trail before taking an easier route down. But after about a half-mile, his chest “started getting really tight” so he set his bike down and just tried to get comfortable.

A passing biker convinced Stacey to call 911 (not his wife, as Stacey initially suggested) before a second biker, who works as an emergency room nurse, came upon the scene and sprung into action.

“That was a blessing,” Stacey recalled. “He is telling me what to do and talking to the dispatch and right away they are coordinating everything and within 30 minutes of that initial call, a paramedic comes jogging down the trail.”

According to Search and rescue incident commander Doug Klingmen, three members of the Routt County Search and Rescue and a Steamboat Fire Rescue paramedic used a side-by-side all-terrain vehicle to reach Stacey that day before identifying symptoms of a cardiac event. Using a stokes-and-wheels stretcher, they shuttled Stacey uphill to Prayer Flag Meadow where a Classic Air Medical crew waited to airlift him to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.

By 8:30 p.m. that night, doctors in Glewnwood had installed a stint in Stacey’s left anterior descending artery — the largest of three arteries pumping blood to the heart and often referred to as the “widow maker” artery. He left the hospital the following morning.

While he isn’t back on the bike just yet, Stacey is feeling better and said he will meet with a cardiologist next week after he and Kathi — who bought a house in Steamboat Springs four years ago — return to their home in Dallas.

“I cannot say enough positive things about search and rescue and the first responders,” Stacey said. “The community really needs to stay behind them and get them the funding they need … I expect a full recovery and a lot of that is because of them.”

David Stacey, left, and his son, Will, participate in the 2023 Triple Bypass ride in July. While he isn’t back on the bike just yet, Stacey said he expects a full recovery and is thankful to the first responders who saved him after he suffered a cardiac event last month.

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