When Dan Smoker, Sr. was first rushed into Sky Ridge Medical Center near Castle Rock, Colorado on Saturday, the nursing staff was calling him the Broken Man. Now, perhaps thanks to Christian McCaffrey and his brothers, they’re calling him the Miracle Man.
Dan Smoker, Jr. and his wife, who have lived in a small suburb of Denver for just over six years, were headed to San Diego for their 15th wedding anniversary, and as they had done many times before, invited his parents out from Cincinnati to spend some time with their 13-year old grandson Eli. And as he had done twice in the past, the 72-year old Smoker, Sr. was determined to hike to the top of Castle Rock, a 1.4 mile trek that is described as a medium difficulty hike, mostly uphill trails with some small bouldering near the end; the trail is about 35 minutes from downtown Denver.
But this time, the hike would end with 13-year old Eli frantically calling his parents in San Diego after the elder Smoker fell over 15 feet and lay prone and not breathing, with strangers attending to him, trying to keep him alive until paramedics arrived; these hikers, who had actually seen the fall and said afterwards that it felt as if Smoker had been in the air for 10 seconds, stabilized his neck and did chest compressions to keep him alive until the ambulance could come and rush Smoker, who had suffered a broken pelvis and femur, bleeding on the brain and nine broken ribs, to the hospital. The entire ordeal, from fall to ambulance arriving, took only eleven minutes.
“It was surreal,” Dan Smoker, Jr. said about his father’s accident. “To be talking on the phone to my son while my father is so helpless, it’s – if those guys hadn’t been there, I don’t know what would have happened. They quite literally saved his life by stabilizing his neck and doing what they did.”
“I’d like to think that I would have done the same thing in that situation, but I’m not sure that I would have been able.”
Smoker, Sr. remained in critical condition as his family waited in the hospital to see whether or not he would recover; as they waited, the group of hikers that had rescued his father made easy conversation with Smoker in the waiting room, chatting about how his son may want to attend Valor High School to play football in the fall. It was after the family said that they “may have an in” at the school that Smoker realized who the family was that his father owed his life.
“It started to click when they said that he had just become the head coach at Valor, because I knew that Ed McCaffrey had just become the coach at Valor. It was then that I realized who I was talking to,” Smoker told me earlier this week. The McCaffreys have visited the hospital multiple times and have texted with the Smokers to check in on them since Saturday.
“We all took it upon ourselves to check up on that kid,” McCaffrey explained to Panthers.com. “It could be a lifelong bond between us. He experienced a lot in those five minutes. It’s such a … I don’t know what you’d call it. Truly a blessing that we turned the corner at that exact moment and we could be there for him. I don’t know what would have happened… We were lucky to be at the right place at the right time.”
Eli’s grandfather remains in critical condition, although we were told this morning that doctor’s had removed the breathing tube and Smoker, Sr. was talking to his family; it will not be weeks, but months before he is released from the hospital and can return home to Cincinnati. Should his recovery time run into football season, Smoker, who is a Bengals fan, may have to change his allegiance.
“I could certainly be persuaded to be a fan of the Panthers and 49ers [where Max is currently a wide receiver]. I could certainly be persuaded.”