Friday, January 15, 2010

More Stories from the Clippings

What if the mountain had claimed him…

Charles T. Dotter was the chairman of the OHSU School of Medicine Department of Diagnostic Radiology for 33 years until his death in 1985. In the late spring of 1953, just after coming to OHSU, the young doctor and a fellow radiologist, Louis H. Frische, prepared to climb the still snowy peak of Mt. St. Helens. They began their ascent in the dark, cold, pre-dawn hours. Dotter, an experienced mountaineer, knew the risk they were taking, but taking chances was nothing new to Dotter. It seems that he was well known as a bit of a dare-devil.

When a storm engulfed the mountain, Dotter decided that he would continue his ascent in the "teeth of the storm", but Frische decided to stay at a spot just short of the summit to wait. When Dotter and Frische didn't return home, their wives began to worry and called the Mt. St. Helens Rescue Committee. All phone lines were down, so the Washington State Patrol was called in with portable radio units. An 11-man search party was assembled and set off to find the two climbers.

Frische had waited for Dotter for the agreed upon two hours in the driving snow before he walked down the mountain. He was found by the WSP just below the Mt. St. Helens Lodge. In the snow and fog, he had missed the cabin by a proverbial inch.

Blinded by the snowstorm, Dotter unwittingly descended the opposite side of the mountain; it was reported that he was found holed up in a ski club cabin above Timber Lake. After a 25 mile trek around the mountain at 5,000 feet, Dotter's tale is that he walked in on the ski patrol in the ski club cabin. "One of the party on the radio said, 'Frische's found. Now I wonder where Dotter is.' 'Here he is', I told the startled rescuers as I walked into the cabin. They were mighty glad to see me."

Exhausted but unharmed, Dotter and Frische walked safely off the mountain. His students presented him with three compasses, two maps of Washington, a classroom full of friendly and insulting signs and two cowbells. He carried one of the compasses around in his pocket to help explain just what had happened.

How lucky it was for his many patients and for the future of diagnostic and interventional radiology that he lived.

Considered the father of interventional radiology, Dotter introduced transluminal angioplasty at OHSU in 1964, using catheters to increase the diameter of blocked arteries and improve blood flow in patients with arteriosclerosis. During his career, he continued to develop innovative techniques that expanded the field. He was honored with numerous awards and honorary memberships. He received gold medals from the American College of Radiology, the Radiological Society of North America, the Chicago Medical Society and the Chicago Radiological Society. In 1978, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine. In 1990, in honor of Dr. Dotter, the Oregon Health & Science University established the Dotter Interventional Institute.

Articles referenced: f1_p11

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