Someone To Watch Over Me

Watch a video of Lisa skiing!

Poised at the top of a snowy slope at Camelback Mountain in Tannersville, Sue Ballek looked at her younger sister Lisa and said, “This one’s for dad.” Seconds later, the two sisters, one on regular skis and the other in an adaptive piece of equipment called a bi-ski, were swooshing down the mountain with the aid of two volunteer ski instructors.

The swift ride to the bottom ended with Lisa Ballek, a resident of the Good Shepherd Home-Bethlehem, grinning from ear-to-ear. Under normal circumstances, Lisa’s dad, Bill, would have been right there with her, but he passed away suddenly from a ruptured aortic aneurysm on February 2, at the age of 79, leaving a deep void in his family’s life and that of his fellow skiers at Camelback where he volunteered on the ski patrol for 50 years.

Still, the presence of this vibrant, robust man was very much felt on this brisk winter day. “I know that her dad was watching her and smiling,” says Judy Morrison, a physical therapist with Good Shepherd who works with Lisa as a volunteer instructor through a program with the Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports which provides the equipment.

Lisa Ballek may have once reigned as queen of the Good Shepherd Home-Bethlehem resident ball, but perhaps the crowning achievement of her life is being able to do something that very nearly was lost to her forever – ski.

Twenty years ago, Lisa was a bright, engaging sophomore at Bloomsburg University when she collapsed in her dorm, hitting her head and causing a brain injury. Many things were stolen from this promising young woman’s life, among them, the joy of going out on ski patrol with her dad and sister at Camelback.

But for the past few years, using the bi-ski, the 48-year-old has been reunited with her favorite sport. “This gives her freedom from her wheelchair and gets her back into a sport she loved to do before her injury,” says Judy. “She’s doing it a lot differently, but she’s still out there, skiing down the hill!”

It was Bill who made certain Lisa got up to Camelback for her ski sessions, but an outpouring of love brought family friends together to make certain Lisa kept her date with the mountain. Lisa is helped into the bucket of the bi-ski and strapped in. She is then lifted onto the chair lift for the short ride up the mountain. At the top, the bi-ski is tethered to her ski instructor and her run begins. On her way down, an exhilarating ride with the wind in her face and the sound of crisp snow being broken by skis, Lisa can help chart her course by turning her head and leaning her shoulders in the direction where she wants to go.

“Lisa’s doing a lot better initiating turns on her own, which is a big improvement from last year,” says Judy.

Lisa’s love for the sport dates back to childhood. “The kids were exposed to ski patrol since they were infants,” said Bill who was interviewed for this article shortly before his passing.  “When she and her sister grew up, they both became ski patrol members. We’ve just been going at it ever since.”

Lisa’s mother Joan was also involved in the family sport. Although retired from the ski patrol, she volunteered in the First Aid room at Camelback.

“I think as a parent there’s no greater reward than to see your child enjoy something, especially when a person has limited capabilities,” said Bill. “It’s exhilarating to see her have that much fun.”

Now when Lisa skis, a special angel will be right alongside her…just like he always was.