On a cold, winter day, nothing beats a trip down the mountain. Climbing up, coming down, it was the kind of day 16-year-old Earl Kufen and his Scout troop were enjoying at Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Longswamp Township. It was on Jan. 16, but if you ask Kufen to tell you about it, he doesn't remember a thing. Others who were there remember everything.
"When I got there, I saw Earl. He was laying on his side and he was as blue as the blue on my sneakers," recalled Melissa Bubbenmoyer, a member of Bear Creek's ski patrol.
"I can clearly see, you know, his entire body was turning blue. There was no color. There was nothing there, and I'll never forget what he looked like," said Marci Krauth, another ski patrol member.
Kufen was standing in line, waiting his turn when he collapsed and hit his face on the way down.
"A call came across for a young male down at the tubing park, so I grabbed a pack and I ran over in my ski boots to the tubing park, Peter Silbermann recalled.
Kufen was in cardiac arrest. He had a faint pulse at first and then stopped breathing.
"We started rotating doing CPR and talking to Earl, trying to make a connection with him so that he knew there were people there helping him," said Silbermann. "It was a blur."
The exhausting CPR went on for nine minutes.
"As we were working on him, all of a sudden, we started to see a little bit of pink coming in," Krauth said. "Missa was on his pulse and she was rotating people in and out, and when we were making sure people were in the right positions and going deep enough with the CPR compressions, and she's like, 'Do you see some pink coming up?' It's like, 'Yeah. I think I'm seeing some pink come up,' and it was just crazy."
Then, an AED delivered the first shock.
"And he started breathing," Silbermann said. "It was, I had tingles."
"He had a pulse, so he had cardiac functions and he was gasping, you know, trying to breathe, and then we were breathing for him, so we knew at that point that his body was alive, but we didn't know what would happen to his brain," said Bubbenmoyer.
Kufen had been gone for 13 minutes. Topton EMS took him to the hospital, where one of the ski patrollers works. That Monday, she found out he'd made it.
"And it was the best day, you know," Bubbenmoyer said. "His mom and his dad were just there and they just couldn't let go of me. I happened to be the one who was there, but I'm sure they would have hugged us all had we all been there. It was amazing."
As for Kufen? He lost 15 minutes of his life, a chunk in his teen years. He's now a student at Penn State University.