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Book review by Lynn Rosen and Steve Giordano   October 1, 2011


Kim Kircher throws bombs in her job as an avalanche controller at Washington State's Crystal Mountain Resort in the shadow of Mt. Rainier. She throws them before sunrise, before the ski lifts open. When the mountain is open, Kircher morphs into her ski patroller role, the one where she saves lives and performs heroic rescues.

So you could say, like the press release for her book The Next Fifteen Minutes says, “Kim Kircher lived life hanging onto the edge of a mountain.” She often did, and still does, but the statement also alludes to her struggle through the life-and-death drama that stemmed from her husband’s fatal diagnosis of primary schlerosing cholangitis, a liver disease in its terminal phase.

  Book cover - The Next Fifteen Minutes  

Both on the mountain and in the hospital she learned that her courage comes in fifteen-minute increments. If she could concentrate on just getting through the next fifteen minutes, she could then take a deep breath and start on the next fifteen minutes, performing what was required of her in quarter-hour segments.

This concept of time management also refers to research findings on the survival probability of a victim buried under snow: of 123 skiers dug out of an avalanche during the first 15 minutes of burial only 8 were dead with 6 having sustained injuries as a result of the avalanche itself. It is known as the Golden Quarter of Rescue.

No stranger to dangers on the mountain and digging out avalanche victims, Kircher took on this fifteen-minute mantra to get herself through her husband’s cancer avalanche and all its twists and turns, bumps and storms. It boiled down to “I can handle this 15 minutes at a time.”

She pulls no punches in her description of any of the highs and lows of her emotional responses to medical procedures, personal connections with her husband and her family, her allegiance to her colleagues on ski patrol on the mountain or internal battles with herself. This book is a page-turner.

Metaphor and simile are used masterfully to express her fears, rage, terrors and perceptions of the reality of what is impacting her life. The reader is privy to a vivid picture of what it’s like to be going through medical terrorism, not as a patient, but as the sidekick, the caregiver, the confidant, the observer.

Kim keeps you on the edge, manipulates you to stay on that edge of terror, both on the hill and in the hospital. You will not be able to put this book down. It is riveting.

Is there a caregiver role for you in your future? Would you like to realize that you too can get through medical crises fifteen minutes at a time? Read the book. Kircher is no superwoman—she's just one of us, but she chose to follow her bliss out of the classroom and into the mountains and then using what the mountains taught her to help save her husband's life. He's one lucky husband. Death is the background character here, lurking behind the curtain. No spoilers, but this is a story that will chill and warm your heart.

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