What in the world happened to me? Wellll. On Tuesday July 28, 2020 Windy, Cali, and I went out for ‘a three hour tour’. But no!
Our destination was a challenging hike to Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica mountains above Malibu. It was obvious within the first 15 minutes ‘we’ (meaning I) weren’t going to make it to the top so we decided to divert to a picnic area 2+ miles away. What was I thinking? That’s 5 miles round trip in the crippling heat on a rocky and only lightly groomed trail without even a stick of shade. I said to myself, it’s ok, I’ll just turn around when I want. But I got too far and couldn’t get back.
What comes next I have zero memory of happening and am using Windy’s and Cali’s recounting. We had turned back but it was too late. I went down, dead weight, unconscious. I landed on scorching rocks and was there long enough to generate second and third degree burns covering my back and butt and some of my leg and arm. While this was happening Windy had made it to the trailhead, fallen on some rocks and broken her hand. So there was Cali with two broken-down old ladies. She Picked Me Up. Picked Me Up. WHAT? She picked me up and carried me, to stick my head under a bit of shade and left me on the ground to go for help.
At the trailhead the other hikers jumped in to assist, they revived Windy although I was still unconscious. Someone supplied a shade cover and someone called 911. A chopper team did an aerial rescue taking me, still unconscious, wrapped in ice blankets and ice packs, to Los Robles, the nearest hospital, with a triage diagnosis of Exertional Heat Stroke. (“Exertional Heat Stroke is a medical emergency defined as life-threatening hyperthermia (core body temperature ≥ 105°F]) and central nervous system dysfunction. Exertional Heat Stroke is one of the top three causes of sudden death in athletes.”)
I have survived thanks to Cali, kind strangers, the 911 helicopter team, and the ER at Los Robles. I woke up in the ER still wrapped in ice blankets and groin and armpit ice packs and I could tell the gang there was both surprised and relieved and also maybe amused and pleased when I started complaining. My first conscious words…I’m SO Cold…Why is it so wet in here…My back hurts. Hey everybody, she’s not dead!
Now that the life-and-death crisis had passed, the question was what damage did all that time being unconscious and the Exertional Heat Stroke do to my vital organs.
They were especially concerned about my heart and scheduled a Coronary Angiography (another paper says Cardiac Catheterization) for Wednesday. The procedure is meant to discover narrowed or blocked blood vessels. When it was over the Cardiologist come out and announced “You have a beautiful heart”. I loved that expression so much I’ve said it 100 times already. I have beautiful heart! So that means I’m going home, right? Wrong.
Another one of the battery of labs they do in the hospital revealed an elevation in creatine kinase, an indication of a possible Rhabdomyolysis condition. (“Rhabdomyolysis may be caused by injury or any other condition that damages skeletal muscle. This muscle tissue breakdown results in the release of a protein (myoglobin) into the blood. Myoglobin can damage the kidneys.”) So sorry, they said, you’ll have to stay Thursday night and see if this elevation goes down with another day on IV fluids.
The next day, now it’s Friday, tick tick, all is well, time to go home. Yes, Thank You! Lona, Trevor, and Beth picked me up and Trevor drove my car home. They left me with food and good will and soon it will all be just a story.
It seemed a good idea at the time!
What’s left for me to do: exhaustive and exhausting wound care. Those burns I got from the hot rocks are very large patches of 2nd degree and some bits of 3rd degree burns. I’ve been getting wound care treatments twice a day at the hospital and now I have a home health care nurse who will come once a day to clean the wounds and change the dressings. How civilized! What’s not left for me, for a while anyway, is a covid test because they did one in the hospital: Negative!
What happened to Windy: she and Cali drove my car from the trail head to the hospital and then Windy checked in to the hospital too! She was in another wing but everyone around seemed to know they had the two sisters from the trail. Her injury was not too severe and she went home Wednesday. She’s bruised and battered from the fall and will see her own doctor for a referral for her hand.
What happened to Cali: she’s fine although still a little sore from hauling that huge dead weight (that being me!) and what an incredible adrenaline rush to put on a 17 year old. It’s her Hero Story for sure.
What happened to my stuff: when I first became aware, I had no clothes. The Chopper team had cut them all from my body! My favorite pants! My favorite shirt! Oh well, when Jeff came to pick up Windy on Wednesday he brought me one of her outfits. I had been having a few hours of massive stress about my bag – my phone, insurance, credit cards, driver’s license, SO much hassle. But sweet Cali had gathered up everything and brought it to me on Wednesday along with the clothes. Still missing, my glasses. On Thursday afternoon a lovely woman was standing in my hospital room door with my glasses! She was on the helicopter rescue team and had put them in her pocket and just forgot. She went far out of her way to find me, glad I wasn’t dead, and glad for the amazing save she had made.
So that’s it for now. I am not going to challenge the sun again. You win sun. I surrender!