Success for Jonathon: Keeping His Cool
What does it take to ski down a mountain at 40 miles per hour toward a 10-foot high ramp, launching oneself 60 feet above the landing area while executing a series of back flips and twists? “Fearlessness is an extreme advantage,” says Jonathon Lillis, 17, who specializes in freestyle aerials as one of the youngest members of the U.S. Ski Team.
From his perspective, no accident on the slopes can compare to the one he suffered in his own home. Four years ago, running around with his younger brothers, he slipped down the stairs and was nearly strangled to death when his necklace somehow looped around the banister. Still unconscious, he was rushed to Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester, NY. There, doctors in the Emergency Room were familiar with the benefits of therapeutic hypothermia, in which a patient’s core body temperature is deliberately lowered and then maintained at that lower temperature over a period of time.
“They asked me if they could use this technique on Jonathon,” recalls his father, Bernie, who replied, “Whatever it takes.” Using the Arctic Sun® temperature management system, which utilizes proprietary external hydrogel cooling pads that dramatically increase heat transfer to rapidly cool the body, doctors brought Jonathon’s core temperature down to 92 degrees as an essential part of his treatment.
Today, the only legacy of that near-fatal accident is an unrelenting drive to push his capabilities to the limit—or at least to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. “Just being there, walking into the stadium, representing your country—that’s pretty special,” says Jonathon. Four years ago, most would have chosen a different word: “Impossible.”