LIBERTY LAKE, Wash. – A Liberty Lake doctor who was caught in an avalanche back in January while skiing in British Columbia said it was miracle he was found and he survived.
Jake Rabe said he spent much of January 19 in suspended excitement. His GoPro captured every risk and reward of his ski trip. An hour before quitting time, Jake and his friends posed for a snapshot on the slope.
"I remember that picture. I remember lining up for that picture. That was the run that the avalanche happened,” said Rabe.
Seconds later, without warning, a wall of snow pummeled the group. The avalanche threw Rabe over jagged cliffs and trees for more than 2,000 feet. It happened so fast it was hard for him to remember.
"Everything was blank until I woke up that last day in the ICU ten days later," he explained.
He traveled the length of five football fields before coming to a rest, knocked out and buried in the snow. The avalanche carried only one other skier as far as him. In the distance, the group's lead guide heard a faint call for help.
"He said he felt something physically pushing him down the mountain until he started the yells of the other guy buried next to me," said Rabe.
Then this story took an incredible turn. The guide showed up to the area where Rabe and his friend were buried. After helping the other man, the guide took a look around.
"My fingertips were right above the snow. The guide turned around and saw some fingertips," he said.
It was a chance discovery. Rabe wore white gloves that day. He blended in with the terrain around him and yet he was found. At the time, he wasn't breathing and had to be given CPR.
"If you don't have a full breath when it stops, you can't breathe. You can't expand your lungs because the snow stops like concrete," he explained.
All this happened on his wife's birthday. Once at the hospital in Spokane, he never left her sight. He spent 10 days in the ICU.
"It was very humbling to go through what all my patients go through on a regular basis," he said.
Remarkably, his entire group survived the avalanche. Out of them all, he was actually the worst hurt. He had 16 fractures total and tremendous nerve damage to his arm. A loving wife and kids as well as random acts of kindness helped him get through it.
"Sometimes my wife and I talk about it and we cry because we can't imagine and we can't believe the help we've gotten," he said.