Sunday, May 3, 2009

Calling 9-1-1

Saturday, April 2: Mt. Williamson (A Failed Summit)
This post is dedicated to Moosetracks, the luckiest girl in the world,
who keeps me out there in the mountains even when I'm bedridden.
Keep those trail reports coming, GF!

Islip Saddle to Mt. Williamson Summit

~6680' to 8244'
~5 mi roundtrip (~1600 elevation gain)

The snow is finally receding from the mountains in my So Cal "backyard," so I've been mulling over which summit to make next. My newest hfh hiking buddy is not from this area and has not explored much of our local mountains. Plus, I am still quite puny from whatever has been going on (I'm clearly trending the wrong way now and really need to get that turned around). So I thought a little hike, not much mileage but a good grade, would be best. Mt. Lewis was my first choice, but the road is still closed between Vincent Gap and Islip Saddle. So I printed out all the information I wanted for climbing Mt. Williamson (no, not the 14er! I'll start off with the smaller one!) the next Saturday and waited to hear from my hiking buddy.

I felt worse and worse as the week went on. I could barely get up. On Thursday, I called my daughter in and told her what she would need to watch for in case I had a seizure. I just did not feel right.

Thursday night/Friday morning, I woke up feeling REALLY REALLY BAD. "Wow, I think I need to call the doctor and go to the hospital right now," I thought. But what on earth would I say? All I could figure I could tell them is "Something is REALLY WRONG." That doesn't get ya very far in an ER. I compromised with myself by deciding to make an appointment with my oncologist in the morning.

I called and made the appointment, but didn't get one until Tuesday. I decided I would just stop by the office and see my oncologist after my scheduled echocardiogram appointment. I would just tell him, "Something is really wrong." I knew he would listen to me and try to find out what is going on.

So we set off, my daughter driving since I just didn't feel "right" and didn't trust myself to be driving. And boy was it a good thing! We hadn't gone but a mile when a traumatic event occurred. Here's what I remember of what happened:

Something didn't feel quite right; I was lightheaded and felt weird like I wasn't getting enough oxygen. It was like I had stood up too fast and was "head rushing," only I was sitting relaxed in the car. Right then, I knew I also had to cough. Since I
already felt like I was "head rushing," I put my head towards my knees and tried to cough with as little force as I could.

The next thing I remember, I was aware of my arms and torso jerking.
I was trying to fight my way to consciousness, and gain control of my left arm. It slammed SO HARD in my head that I thought we had been in a car wreck that I never saw coming. I heard a crazy LOUD static buzzing sound in my head and was becoming aware of music from the radio trying to bleed through it. I was going to ask my daughter "What's wrong with the radio?" but couldn't speak. I tried to fight my way to more consciousness. I realized we had not been in an accident; there was nothing wrong with the radio, the noise was in my head. I became aware of my daughter saying something. I finally made out the words. "Are you okay?" I realized we were parked by the side of the road and she was dialing her cell phone. "I think I just had a seizure," I said, alarmed. "Are you calling 9-1-1?" "No, I'm calling Daddy," she said just as I realized where exactly we were; how close to home. "Tell Daddy to call 9-1-1 and you drive home," I said. "We'll meet the paramedics there."

She was whipping the U-turn while still calling on the phone. I just focused on breathing. I was terrified it would happen again. Seizures, especially if caused by metastasis to the brain, often come in series.
She told her dad something had happened to me, that I had lost consciousness, and that we needed him to call 9-1-1 to meet us at the house.

He was waiting for us on the street when we pulled up. He helped me into the house, where I lay on the couch with head elevated and just tried to get my heart to CALM DOWN!

When the paramedics arrived, my saturated oxygen level breathing room air was 100%. But my heart and BP were a bit erratic; I know my normal vitals after all this time! And I was deeply concerned that I'd had a seizure, indicative of metastasis to the brain. I'm proud to say I was able to slowly get myself from the couch to the gurney. But you know how hard I've tried to avoid having to call for an ambulance all these years.

I heard my daughter's description to the paramedics of the episode: She saw me lean forward and start to cough. Then I suddenly slumped and began making a weird noise. My upper torso, neck, and head began shaking and jerking about a little bit. She kept saying, "Are you okay? Are you okay?" over and over until I finally answered. She, too, thought it was a seizure, but she saw no rigidity in the lower body; nor do I recall any.

She had already called and told my oncologist's office that I had had some sort of seizure/loss of consciousness and was being transported to the hospital. I picked the ER closest to my oncologist's office, even though that hospital has almost killed me a few times before.
I waited on the gurney with the paramedics while the hospital cleaned up the lake of blood in the doorway. After almost 20 min, I was finally admitted into the ER.

They ran an ekg of the heart, drew blood, and sent me for a CT scan of the head (brain). After ruling out any bleeding in the brain or major problems with my blood work, they told me I had had an episode of syncope (sin-coe-pee) and could go.
I was incredulous that I wasn't being admitted into the hospital; I'd known last night that's where I needed to be! "You mean you aren't even going to do a chest x-ray?" I asked, still completely incredulous. "Well, we are only here for emergent care; you'll have to have cancer staging done by your regular doctor."

Well, I can't MAKE the hospital admit me, now, can I? So I settled for calling and getting an appointment with my oncologist (for Tuesday). By now, it was after 5 p.m. on Friday night. I knew I better just take it really easy and try to get through the weekend until I could see my oncologist.

So Saturday rolls around, and my hiking buddy shows up to see if I want to get out of the house and go for a ride at all. Yes, please!!! Being bedridden is so boring! So she fixed up a comfy spot for me and tucked me into the motorcar. Where shall we go?
Well, since we're NOT climbing Mt. Williamson today, maybe we'll just take a cruise out Angeles Forest and Crest Highways. The wildflowers should be out, too. And we can investigate if the road is still closed at Islip Saddle.

It was 1:30 in the afternoon before we hit Mt. Emma Road (on the NORTH side of Mt. Williamson). I knew it would be at least an hour or more before we saw those mountains again---from the south side!
Boy, was I off in time estimation. It was almost 4:30 and we still weren't at the junction of Angeles Forest and Hwy 2! So as you can guess, we were having fun taking a ton of wildflower and vista pictures all along the way. After all, it's not really the destination---it's the journey.

So we curtailed our picture taking and drove to Islip Saddle, where the road is indeed still closed. The view was beautiful, and I couldn't resist walking a bit of the PCT up Mt. Williamson. We could look out on the South Fork area of the HiIgh Desert Trail and see all the way to Black Butte and El Mirage lakebed in the distance. It was tempting to continue higher, but I could tell this was no time to push, so I turned around at the first bend. Downhill was so much easier!

I was exhausted after all that, so my buddy drove me straight home. We didn't even stop for dinner. So we will have to take a raincheck on really climbing Mt. Williamson. Enjoy the pictures from the day; as usual, click on the picture to see the larger version.

Roadside lupine.

Tujunga Reservoir.

Sweet broom.


Mountain lilac.

Looks like a nightshade.

A view from Highway 2.

The view from Islip Saddle (El Mirage Dry Lake in far distance).

Manzanita in full bloom.

The Pacific Crest Trail at Islip Saddle heading over Mt. Williamson.

View from the first bend (looking out towards South Fork, the High Desert Trail).

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