Trauma conference studies dirt bike accident impalement, adds mental health lesson

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue staff Nick Brookshire, left, and Christian Keller watch as paramedic Jason Greany, with UCHealth EMS and Trauma Outreach, demonstrates a procedure during the UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center's 10th annual Trauma and EMS Conference on Dec. 8, 2022, at Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The case study at this year’s regional Trauma and EMS Conference in early December in Steamboat Springs highlighted a dirt bike accident in Routt County that required cooperation from multiple medical agencies, plus luck.

The case involved a man who fell off his dirt bike onto a log that impaled his chest while he was riding this fall in northern Routt County.

“It’s not something that you see every day. I’m glad it turned out as well as it did. The possibility was there that it could be pretty serious,” said Brad Parrott, assistant chief and EMT for West Routt Fire Protection District, who responded to the call along with A.J. Giannini, an advanced EMT.

The accident turned out okay for the patient in the end, but the situation was presented as the conference case study to learn more about airway management and pain control as well as cooperation across agencies, said Julie McFadden, trauma services manager at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.

“We like to do case studies because these teams work in such challenging environments, rural, rough roads, challenging terrain. All of this goes into trying to get the patient the right care,” McFadden said. “Each of our teams, when they speak about their case, it really helps the providers understand what each team member goes through and the challenges.”

The 10th annual conference hosted by UCHealth YVMC was provided for free in a combined in-person and virtual format to reach as many regional first responders as possible. The 50 attendees from Oak Creek to Craig to southern Wyoming came from agencies such as Routt County Search and Rescue, Yampa Valley Regional Airport and Classic Air Medical. The conference is geared toward EMTs, paramedics and nurses and is presented by physicians, advanced practice providers and paramedics.

This conference included sessions such as toxicology, medications, and burns from both fire and frostbite. The first responders spent time at hands-on skills stations for advanced airways, needle decompression, ventilator basics, traction splints, pelvic binders and tourniquets. This year’s conference added mental health education about how trauma can take a toll on first responders.

“We recognize the stress that our emergency responders are under, not only from the pandemic, but from their daily work and we want to bring mental health conversations forward so that we can help providers take care of themselves,” McFadden said.

Julie McFadden, registered nurse and trauma services manager at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, watches as Carrie D’Agostino, registered nurse, practices a procedure to access the vascular system during the regional Trauma and EMS Conference.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Parrott said part of the challenge for the dirt bike accident victim was the location was more than one hour from a hospital. The riders did not have cell phone coverage, but luckily they were found by a hunter with a GPS device with satellite network connection that allowed text messaging to emergency services.

The hunter drove the injured man in an off-road vehicle, and the party met the first responders in transit. West Routt Fire responders transferred the patient to YVMC. The patient was later transferred by Classic Air Medical to UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.

“There was a lot going on with logistics of it because they were so far away, and we did not have a lot of information initially,” said Parrott, who noted the riders provided direct pressure on the wound using a T-shirt.

Community first aid, Stop the Bleed classes

UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs offers a variety of health care certification classes throughout the year, including classes helpful for people recreating in the backcountry such as CPR/AED/First Aid.

Classes are conducted in a hybrid format, with online learning modules completed prior to in-person classes. Class schedules and additional information can be found online at and then search Steamboat Springs. For questions, contact or 970-871-2414.

The hospital staff also provides free Stop the Bleed training classes in the community. Contact or 970-846-8511. More information including short instructional videos are available at

Parrot encouraged backcountry recreators to be fully prepared for possible self-rescue situations by always traveling in pairs or groups, carrying a good first aid kit and taking basic first aid classes.

“When people go out of cell phone range, there is a possibility that they won’t get help. There’s a possibility you could get into some serious trouble,” Parrott said.

“We always advocate for people being prepared in the backcountry because it can take a long time to get those emergency medical services to you,” McFadden agreed.

Since the victim did not have a neck or back injury, Parrott said it was a good decision to load up the man and travel to meet first responders.

“As long as it’s safe to do so, I think that’s the best option, because it’s so far away,” Parrott said. “If you suspect a neck or back injury, then it’s probably not safe to do so.”

McFadden said the trauma conference has become even more important in the past few years considering the difficulty in retaining and hiring first responders as well as the increase in backcountry recreators during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The increase in call volumes especially for small volunteer organizations always creates a challenge in getting the right education to the volunteers,” McFadden said. “Our goal is to make sure that from the minute the patient encounters EMS, Search and Rescue or any providers that those staff have the training they need to take the best care of the patient.”

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