Andy Stone: In amazed appreciation: Wow! What great people |

Andy Stone: In amazed appreciation: Wow! What great people

When I was editor of The Aspen Times, I used to have a somewhat jaundiced view of all those gushing letters of thanks that people would send to the paper.

We’d get letters that would go on and on about the “wonderful” police or “wonderful” ambulance drivers or “wonderful” hospital staff or “wonderful” whoever the heck it was that saved their lives or their dogs or their vacations. When I read one of those letters, my fingers would twitch with an almost irresistible urge to clean it up, tone it down, bring all that over-enthusiastic praise back in line with reality.

I didn’t touch those letters, of course. But Lord knows I wanted to.

Well now, because apparently there is justice in this universe, it’s my turn.

This week, we had a minor family gathering of sorts here in Aspen. My mother, my aunt, my sister and my brother-in-law flew here on Saturday for a week’s stay. My mother and aunt had visited here a few years ago and had a wonderful time, so we thought we’d do it again.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as planned.

My mother – although she is strong, smart and independent at age 89 – went into a steep decline almost as soon as she arrived. An afternoon nap, to rest up from a long morning of travel, turned into 18 hours of sleep. And then she refused to get up for Sunday breakfast. Or lunch.

Foolishly – after a lifetime of being amazed by my mother’s indomitable strength – we kept assuming she’d rally. She showed the classic symptoms of altitude sickness, so we kept hoping she’d start feeling better. That’s what normally happens, after all. But by midafternoon, we were forced to realize that something was seriously wrong and I called the hospital.

From that point on, events followed a logic of their own. The emergency room staff gave me good advice that led to a decision to call an ambulance, which required a call to 911. The 911 operator was swift and efficient. Almost immediately, an Aspen police officer arrived at the condominium we had rented for the family. Minutes later, the ambulance was there.

I could go on through the events that unfolded, step by step, name by name – from the calm, clear professionalism of the EMTs on the ambulance, to the helpfulness of the police officers who carried my mother downstairs on a stretcher, to the emergency room nurses and doctors, who were caring, thorough and skilled … and on.

But I don’t think I should, because this isn’t the story of my mother’s unfortunate “vacation” in Aspen. And it isn’t the story of the specific individuals who saved her life with skill and compassion and astonishing good spirits.

Instead, this is a somewhat larger story, a story about what an amazing place Aspen is.

As I have already said, at every step of the way, over the course of the 60 or so hours from the time I called 911 until the time my mother left Aspen Valley Hospital, heading back home, we encountered extraordinary people doing an extraordinary job.

We were treated with intelligence, care and compassion. And, beyond that, the people we encountered seemed genuinely friendly. And happy.

My relatives – three from New York, one from San Francisco – kept exclaiming that everyone was so nice. And so professional.

My family members have all had their share of encounters with police and EMTs and emergency room doctors in the big city – and they found it hard to believe how different everything was in Aspen.

And, even though I know the people are certainly the heart of it all, I have to note that everyone was impressed by Aspen Valley Hospital itself. The small, friendly scale of the building. The excellent equipment. The good food. The wonderful views.

Despite my deep concern for my mother’s health, I found myself glowing with pride for my community and my hospital – and the wonderful people who make it all work.

I said I didn’t want to mention names, and I don’t. That’s partly because I don’t want this to be my personal letter of thanks and partly because I wasn’t in “reporter mode” – so I wasn’t taking notes and I don’t have all the names in front of me. But how could I not thank, in order of appearance, Peggy and Scott and Linda and Judy and (with an extra measure of amazed appreciation) Bambi … and all the others.

Wow! What a great bunch of people. What a wonderful hospital.

What a wonderful community.

[Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is]

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