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Get Doc! A Vail Tale

Randy Wyrick The Vail Daily

Vail started lucky with its doctors and has stayed that way. Dr. Tom Steinberg was the town's first full-time doctor brought to town by Vail investor John Murchison. A few years later Dr. Jack Eck rolled into town bringing with him his experience as a Vietnam combat doctor.

During the years hundreds of the world's leading physicians have called Vail home. Thousands of people have rolled through their offices some under their own power some on stretchers.

Among the best stories:
• The Gilman mine was still operating when Vail opened in 1962. One January day a young man took a bunch of pills to kill himself so Phil LaMantia and John Donovan hauled the kid over to Doc Stanley in Gilman on a Sunday night.

Disgusted he was being disturbed on a Sunday night Stanley told the kid “You're gonna die!”

“NO NO! I don't wanna die! Please save me!” the kid pleaded.

“OK you're gonna live. But if you interrupt my Ed Sullivan again I'm gonna let you die!” Doc Stanley said.

• Dr. Tom Steinberg Vail's first full-time doctor was treating a wounded golden eagle and someone in the waiting room was in a snit. Steinberg said “This golden
eagle is an endangered species. You're not!”

• Nail guns were new and a young man fired a round at a brick wall. It ricocheted back and hit him in the heart. He came in with that nail sticking out of his heart. The guy had lost all blood pressure and had about three minutes to live.

• Dr. Eck was new in Vail fresh from Vietnam where he worked evacuating wounded soldiers from combat. There's a sack around the heart and this kid's had filled with fluid. The pressure was keeping his heart from beating. Steinberg and Eck went in with a syringe pulled some of the fluid out of that sack and re-established a heartbeat. The kid was flown by helicopter to Denver one of the first to make the trip that way and his heart was sewn up. Four days later he was back in Vail. But 30 days after that he was killed in a car accident. “When your chips are up your chips are up” Steinberg said.

• A young woman and man had skied off the top of a ridge and ran into each other in mid air. One suffered a lacerated liver and the other a ruptured spleen. He loaded them each into a separate ambulance and then rode in tandem to Denver. Steinberg had to get out every 30 minutes or so to keep the other alive.

• A ski racer hit a bamboo pole broke it and drove it into his upper palate. Steinberg had to kneel down and sit the lad up to sew it shut. If he'd stood and had the lad lie down then the blood would have run down his bronchial tubes.

• In those years when Steinberg was still the only doctor in town a flu epidemic hit town. He saw 126 patients in one day. “That's not very good medicine but that's what was necessary” Steinberg said.