Snowmass Fire District’s community fund, quick response key in saving girl
September 18, 2017
Sheri and Carl Slesinger-Hall raced home to their Snowmass condominium to face every parent's worst nightmare: a medical emergency involving their child.
If not for a community fund that sends Snowmass first-responders to paramedic school, Sheri is convinced "it would've been a different ending."
Ashli, 14, was unconscious and experiencing anaphylaxis — a severe, potentially fatal allergic reaction — after eating a brownie with nuts on Aug. 17.
Her 10-year-old brother, Alec, had called 911 and his parents as Ashli's symptoms — vomiting, asthma attacks and difficulty breathing — escalated.
“(Ashli) was probably the farthest gone patient that I’ve seen come back. We all thought she was going to die right there in front of us on the bed.”
— Snowmass paramedic Dan Burch
"Her lips were turning purple from the lack of oxygen," Alec recalled last week. "It seemed like she was only breathing every 10 or 15 seconds."
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He found an EpiPen in his parent's room, read the instructions and acted.
"It scared me to death," their youngest brother, Chase, said of the incident. Chase, 9, along with the family's neighbors, also helped Ashli until their parents and the paramedics arrived.
"The neighbors just grabbed (the children) and took care of them," Sheri said. "We didn't even know the neighbors. I mean, we'd said hello to them before, but it wasn't a close relationship.
"It was terrifying."
Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Protection District paramedic Dan Burch said when he arrived at the scene, Ashli was "totally not breathing and blue from the chest up."
Burch was one of two paramedics and five first responders on-site, according to Snowmass deputy fire chief Kevin Issel.
"It was very, very serious," Burch said. "(Ashli) was probably the farthest gone patient that I've seen come back.
"We all thought she was going to die right there in front of us on the bed."
Upon administering epinephrine to combat the allergic reaction, placing a tube down Ashli's throat and starting an IV, responders sped her to Aspen Valley Hospital. Ashli was later taken via helicopter to Children's Hospital Colorado in Denver.
"It was so bad," Sheri said last week. "It's hard to even talk about it still."
Unconscious throughout the incident, Ashli remembers nothing. She and her father asked if the brownie from a local restaurant was nut-free and were told yes.
"It was a miracle," Issel said. "And the community should feel good about it because they helped."
Both paramedics at the scene were recipients of the Snowmass Fire District's scholarship. Since its 2003 inception, Snowmass' paramedic scholarship has assisted 12 firefighters in becoming paramedics, according to fire district administrative assistant Susan Herwick.
The scholarship typically garners $15,000 to $20,000 annually for Snowmass firefighters to either attend paramedic school or maintain their paramedic certifications, Herwick said.
"The paramedic programs today are highly rigorous both academically and physically," Herwick said, "in order to prepare students for what they will be seeing in the field."
Sheri said she's still at a loss for words and "can't thank everyone enough." The Snowmass Fire District's chiefs honored the responders during a Snowmass town council meeting Sept. 5.
"It was traumatizing," an emotional Sheri said. "But they worked their butts off to save her."