Milt Mastad and his family were STARS supporters long before he needed our help.

And while he joked that his donations served as an insurance plan, he knows living far from a critical care centre is no laughing matter.

“Where we live, we don’t have easy access to medical attention,” said Milt. “I was looking at it as insurance: if I support it maybe I won’t have to use the service.”

Because of donors like you, STARS was able to care for Milt after he sustained a critical injury.

Milt was returning home after a day of work when his daughters were about to take their colts out for a ride. He joined them atop Partner, a young horse he’d recently started training.

“I wanted to put some miles on the colts,” said Milt.

On the way back to the yard, something spooked one of the horses and it ignited
a chain reaction among the others. Milt’s horse, Partner, began bucking, and the rolling landscape, coupled with the lack of daylight, spelled disaster for Milt, who bore the brunt of the animal’s wild ride.

“We were catching so much air, because he’d eap from a hill, and it was just such a far way down before he’d hit again that it was generating so much force,” said Milt. “It was probably four or five jumps, and it felt like he was getting higher and higher and higher, and I couldn’t see where we were going. On one of the jumps I came down in the saddle and I could feel my pelvis just blow apart.”

Several bucks later he managed to slide off Partner and hit the ground — a comforting place to be by comparison.

Once their own horses were brought under control, Tressa, age 11, and Peyton, 13, found their dad lying on the ground and asked if he was OK.

“No, I’m really not,” Milt recalled saying. “I’ve split my pelvis and my SI joint came apart.”

As a former professional hockey player, Milt had seen friends suffer similar injuries before.

While Tressa stayed with Milt, Peyton rushed home to tell her mom, Paulette. Together they drove to the scene.

“We jumped into the SUV and bounced our way out there,” said Paulette, who wasn’t sure what to expect. Once she saw that her husband was unable to walk, she reversed the SUV as close as she could so Milt could find his way into the vehicle.

“Paulette drove up with the bumper almost touching my nose,” said Milt. “I started crawling into the back.”

Once Paulette called 911, first responders made the long drive to the ranch and determined Milt was in critical condition and transported him to the nearest town, where STARS picked him up and flew him to a trauma centre. A potential three-hour drive was suddenly a 20-minute flight.

One of the things we were kind of worried about was, how is dad is going to last three hours in a vehicle all the way to the city” said Peyton. “Then we found out STARS was coming and we felt so much more relieved that he didn’t have to suffer through the pain of bouncing down a bumpy highway. That kind of calmed our worries a little bit that he was going to get to safety quicker.”

Not long after Milt left hospital and began his recovery, he checked a number of milestones off his list. He resumed riding within four months on a different horse, and before the one-year anniversary of his accident he was back on Partner.

He also met his flight crew.

For Milt and Paulette, supporting STARS brings comfort to their family.

“Everybody in the province either already knows someone or they are going to know someone who needs the service,” he said. “I do take comfort in the fact that if something does happen, STARS might be there to give me medical attention again.”

When asked what she would say to donors, Paulette was overwhelmed with gratitude.

“Just keep donating,” she said. “It’s so worth it. You don’t think you’re going to need it, but when you do you’re sure thankful.”