Injured US skier sings Kiwis' praises

WILMA MCCORKINDALE
Last updated 05:00 21/09/2013

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Veteran American skier Toby Kravet is today contemplating one almost-fatal night on a freezing slope, and the five weeks of warmth he's received since.

Tears flow. He sobs and becomes almost inaudible recalling the events since that potentially fatal August night.

Emotions take over. The 72-year-old from Hawaii breaks down in his room at Dunedin Hospital as he talks about his 2013 Kiwi experience.

By that he doesn't mean surviving a night alone on a frozen mountain, with legs broken in several places and a dislocated foot, after becoming disoriented in the fog while skiing last month.

"I don't know any place in the world this would happen," he says.

"First of all, the caring and the support from everybody, professional and civilian, here in Otago has been overwhelming.

"The professional expertise of the rescue personnel and the medical personnel at the hospital here has been top-rate.

"The support I've gotten from the community has been overwhelming.

"I've gotten food, visits, get-well cards. I got a care package from some people in Wanaka that must have cost a fortune - and I don't know who these people are.

"I don't pray to God but, if there is one, He or Her is looking after me big time."

"Big time," he repeats.

Kravet says he has had plenty of time to think about his ordeal.

He doesn't see his survival as anything unusual, although he knows everyone else does.

"For some reason I didn't feel pain. Why that is I don't know.

"Maybe I've lost a lot of my nerve endings because of my age."

What's more, says Kravet "it wasn't me out there".

"Well, when I say that, maybe it was me. What I'm saying is my mind was in survival mode.

"I became a totally deliberative machine. I assessed my situation. I knew I wasn't going to be found that day. This thing happened at 3 [pm] and I saw a helicopter at 5 [pm] that didn't see me.

"When the helicopter I saw at 5 went, I made up my mind 'you're either gonna live or you're gonna die.

"And if you're gonna live, what you're gonna need to do is keep moving, keep the blood flowing and you're gonna have to stay awake.

"You're not gonna have the luxury of allowing yourself to drift off to sleep, because if it really gets cold and you drift off to sleep you're gonna freeze to death.'

"I thought: ‘if I die out there it's gonna be participating in a sport I love on one of my favourite mountains'."

Kravet designed several arm and body movements to keep hypothermia at bay, repeating them 100 times each time.

"I wasn't doing anything I read. I was just making it up as I went along. I don't know what I'm doing, I'm just making this up as I go along."

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If he couldn't ski again he would be "vastly disappointed", he says.

"Words cannot express how disappointed I will be if I don't ski again."

Then, after a long pause, he says: "I think I'll ski again."

- The Southland Times

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