By Jennifer Thibault | Joint Task Force-Space Defense Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — U.S. Army Maj. James Kirby, Joint Task Force-Space Defense Operations Integration Division deputy division chief, set out to celebrate a snow day sledding with his family but found himself putting his military life-skills training to use.
Kirby, his wife, Audra, and three children, Noah (7), Emma (4) and Connor (2), took their sleds to the popular hills at Cottonwood Creek Park, in northeast Colorado Springs.
The park was busy that day with many fellow Coloradoans joining in the winter pastime fun.
“I was watching another child sledding belly down, head first when he went under the softball field fence and hit the cement footing holding the fence post,” he said. “I waited for a few seconds to see if he’d get up, and sprinted down to him when I saw he wasn’t moving. There was a lot of blood on the snow, and his eyes were rolled back in his head. I lifted the chain link fence with my back and neck, prioritized treatment and began to address the bleeding after making sure he was breathing.”
Kirby called 9-1-1 and relayed their location. He coordinated with the dad, to get the boy’s age (10) and name (Ethan). Kirby has undergone Combat Life Saver training in the Army, as well as CPR training and volunteers on his church’s Emergency Response Team.
“I didn’t have my usual gear with me, so I took off my hat and used it as a makeshift pressure dressing to try to stop the bleeding,” he said. “After a few minutes, Ethan became responsive but was struggling to speak and started throwing up … my gut feeling was a traumatic brain injury, but I was also concerned about a cervical fracture and shock.”
The ambulance arrived and took over Ethan’s assessment and treatment. They couldn’t use the gurney to get him to the ambulance so Kirby then assisted getting Ethan on the sled and back up the hill.
The father rode with Ethan in the ambulance to the hospital and the Kirby family hasn’t been able to make contact with the injured party.
“Our children were nervous but we reassured them that Ethan was in the best place possible with access to the care he needs to get better,” Kirby said. “They were worried, but still seemed to be OK with sledding although they haven’t asked to go recently.”
Unfortunately, incidents like this seem to be on the rise in Colorado Springs.
According to a recent KRDO news report, there is a 43 percent increase of sledding injuries seen at Children’s Colorado hospital from 2020 to 2021. The main culprits include broken bones, injured internal organs and head injuries like concussions.
Kirby had some safety tips for people planning to go sledding in the next few months, all of which regularly include snowfall in this region.
“Make sure you know what’s at the bottom of the hill and consider wearing helmets, especially when around other people. Also, brush up on your first aid and keep a kit nearby just in case,” he said.
Children’s Colorado Springs Pediatric Injury Prevention specialist recommended the following additional tips to prevent sledding injuries:
• Pick a hill with minimal people so the chances of crashing into others is lower.
• Clear off debris from the sledding path before going downhill.
• Choose a sled with handles.
• Choose a clear hill, that doesn’t end at a street, road or fence.
• Dress kids in layers that way they can remove one when they get a little hot.
• Make sure they are drinking water and wearing sunblock.