This is Ray’s last goal. To go skiing. I am not a skiier so was content to wander the hotel or village to snap pictures.
We stopped in Grand Junction to resupply and get ready for skiing. We drove for about 2 hours and climbed from an elevation of about 5,000 feet to 10,000 feet. I would soon learn this was a no no.
We passed through several tunnels winding our way higher into the mountains.
The view of the larger mountains looming in the distance and the river winding it’s way along with us excited me.
I thought it interesting that the highway was two tiered in places.
We pulled off in a small turnout along the river that had ice forming near the banks. We saw an increasing amount of snow.
Here was our goal. Breckenridge. We passed through several well known resorts including Copper Mountain and Vail. Beautiful resorts along the way.
We exited the highway and saw animal tracks along the road. We pulled into the resort we had booked with. I went inside and checked in. While standing there I mentioned feeling out of breath. They suggested I make use of their oxygen bar. They said be aware of altitude sickness but didn’t give details.
We got up to the room and located the sports shop that we rented equipment from. We drove down to the shop and while he was equipped several people talked to me again about altitude sickness, hydration and O2.
We returned to the hotel and I sat with the O2 for about twenty minutes. I didn’t feel quite as winded so thought I was good. We went up to the room and I drank lots of water. I felt a little off so I took some excedrin. I had felt “funny” when we were in Albuequerque but lots of water and a good nights rest solved that issue.
We woke up Thanksgiving day (next day) and Ray was getting ready to hit the slopes. I felt nauseous and before he left I started vomiting. I just felt the trip was catching up to me and I had caught a bug. Ray went and got gatorade and made sure I had plenty of water. I slept off and on all day and drank water and gatorade. Ray came in throughout the day to check on me. By that evening I was feeling good.
Ray ordered from the restaurant downstairs. I had a grilled cheese and the best tomato soup I have ever eaten. I felt good. We talked about Ray’s day and about our departure the next day. We had plans to go to Colorado Springs and Castle Rock on the way home to Texas. I had friends and other sites to see!
We went to bed. A snowstorm was blowing in. We hoped we would be able to get out without trouble. In the morning Ray tried to wake me. He was able to but I was not acting right. He tested my blood sugar but it wasn’t low. He fed me something just in case.
He got me to the edge of the bed but I could not sit up. He asked me if I could move to the chair. I fell to the ground and pulled the drinks on the nightstand onto myself. He asked me to crawl because I was in a corner. I could not do that.
After this I remembered him talking to the 911 operator and answering questions. Then I remembered an EMT telling me he was taking me on the ambulance. My next memory would be of the hospital room.
I was later told they took me to the ER in Frisco, CO. By the time Ray got there ( he was detained briefly at the hotel to answer questions ) he was told I needed to be taken to a lower elevation immediately. There had been talk of careflight but they didn’t want to risk putting me at an even higher elevation. They diagnosed me with altitude sickness. I had an O2 level of just 38%.
I was put on the ambulance again and taken down to Denver a little over an hour away at an altitude of about 5200 feet. Altitude sickness usually starts at an altitude of about 8000 feet. I was told they did MRIs and CAT scans but I am not sure what was done.
I remember coming to and having several different nurses trying to put a large gauge catheter in. They said it was needed for a certain test. Lots of poking and zero success. I also remember another nurse coming in and doing stroke tests. I was asked to grip, push, pull, smile, etc. They were asking me my name, where I was, why I was there, who the President was and the date. I really struggled with that last one.
They let me off the hook and asked if I knew the year. 1986 I proudly exclaimed! They repeated these exercises through the night. I stuck to 1986. Around 6:30 the next morning I responded with 2012 but knew that was wrong and reverted back to 1986. I also became aware of the whiteboard on the wall. I would look at it but didn’t understand what words were. I could not read! I didn’t even know what that meant...reading. About two hours later I started getting that ability back and was able to read the date to them when asked.
They decided I didn’t need the test they wanted to stick me for and slowly started giving me fluids. I was visited by PT later that day and they wanted to walk me to the bathroom. I had to use a walker and was really wobbly. With the help of two people I went to the restroom. They took me into the hall for a very short walk and returned me to bed.
They were thinking I would need to go home with a walker and on oxygen. Getting a few good meals in me really helped. More rest and oxygen helped too. By the next day I was able to walk without the walker but could not maintain good O2 saturation without using O2.
Sunday I was given a cognitive test. The hardest part was drawing a clock face to show 10:50. I did it though. I went for an even longer walk down the hall. At some point I had a cardiac stress test which showed all clear. By late Sunday evening I was released and Ray took me to his motel.
We got to the room and he helped me get cleaned up and into bed. We got the oxygen set up and had a good nights sleep. We had a 12 hour drive to get home and decided to break it up into 2 days. I let work know what was going on and yhat I’d be in touch once I got home.
We were home by Tuesday night. I felt like a bad dog skulking aeay with itsvtsil between its legs. I didn’t get to see my CO friends but I did get to return home in one piece.
I’m mostly recovered now. Still have some issues with stamina but that will return with time. My O2 sats were normal when I returned to Texas but I used the oxygen for a little longer to help me heal. I’m off the oxygen now and the doctor has cleared me.
Not the ending I had hoped for to my vacation but it was an otherwise wonderful time. I will avoid high altitudes in the future. I was diagnosed with both types HACE and HAPE. I don’t really care to repeat that experience.
Thanks for sharing my travels.