A friend of critically injured half-pipe skier Sarah Burke has spoken up. Burke's close friend and fellow competitor Kristi Leskinen talked to Outside’s Grayson Schaffer to report that Burke's surgery to repair a torn vertebral artery was successful, but that doctors are keeping her sedated and under close watch. According to the latest press release from the family, issued yesterday morning, Burke is still listed in critical condition.* Burke has been unconscious since a fall, Tuesday, in the Park City superpipe, in which she landed on the back-left side of her head.
OUTSIDE: Any update on Sarah’s condition?
Leskinen: It’s a very serious situation, and she’s fighting. Surgery was a success and that’s a massive step in the right direction, but with head injuries, you don’t know much.
Is she at all responsive?
She’s in an induced coma, so she’s totally unresponsive. She’s had quite a lot of swelling on the brain. The coma is to keep her heart rate down and prevent any further swelling of her brain. Her surgery yesterday was pretty major and lasted several hours.
Do the doctors have any idea of how her recovery’s going to look?
It’s hard to say with a traumatic brain injury, but she’s doing well. I know people are saying this, but it is true, she is the most resilient person I’ve ever met. I’ve seen her bloodied and bruised and broken, and said, “How’re you doing?” and she always says, “I’m fine! I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been with her—and she’s taken some bad crashes—and you say, Sarah, that was a bad one. You’re bleeding. And she’ll say, I’m fine. If strength, heart, and toughness play any role in her recovery, she’s going to be absolutely fine.
Does she have a history of concussions?
I don’t know of any concussions. I had a brain hemorrhage in 2005. I’m aware of a lot of her injuries, and I’m not aware of her ever having a concussion.
Do you know who was with her at the time of the incident?
It was a big crew of guys: the Monster Energy ski team was up there, and there were a lot of people at the pipe. The Park City crew and staff were also there—Jeremy Cooper [the Park City terrain park manager] was the first one on the scene.
From what Jeremy told me, the crash was sort of uneventful—it wasn’t a crash where you go, that was awful! The kind where you start running before they hit the ground. As far as I know the eventful part was that she clearly wasn’t moving once she hit the ground. It was immediate. When I had my head injury, I didn’t get knocked out immediately, but her condition was serious from the start. She’s been unconscious since.
Where did she take the hit?
The back left side of the head. The doctors say they repaired her vertebral artery.