The last post ended with the words, “And tomorrow, I will face what comes…” Of course, I had no idea how relevant they would be. I woke up to the news of the carnage in Las Vegas and was once again jolted out of the sense of tranquility I am working so hard to create. We started scouring the internet to find information about what had happened and what was known so far. Again the suffering of those affected was overwhelming, as was the knowledge that there was nothing I could do to relieve it. Our original plan for the day was to head to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, on our way into Arizona, so we packed up from the current AirBnB, ate breakfast, and moved forward.
As we drove to the Grand Canyon, we listened to classic rock and focused on the splendor of the aspens in full fall color. I reminisced about how much I loved the aspen’s that lined the acequia behind the ranch I used to live on in NM. I felt certain my family was getting tired of hearing my ranch stories, because my time in the high desert had flooded my mind with memories. Overall, the drive was pretty uneventful. When we arrived we were fortunate to find parking easily, since it was the end of the season and the north rim isn’t as frequented by tourists.
We started out on the easy hike to the viewing platform and noticed immediately a thick haze across the Canyon. I tried to remain positive but couldn’t help thinking, “what have we done?” I remember visiting the Canyon as a teenager, I felt like then I could see from one side to the other. The stratification produced vivid colors, which are now obscured by haze. Although we had been dealing with haze and smoke from wildfires for months in the NW, I was appalled that we let one of the most beautiful regions of our country fall victim to our irresponsibility and corporate greed. (https://arizonadailyindependent.com/2017/04/06/court-rejects-arizonas-challenge-to-epa-imposed-emissions-rules/)
What will we leave behind for our children and grandchildren? As much as I tried to keep a positive attitude, so far the day had been pretty damn depressing.
We walked back to the van to get the dogs out for a walk before heading on our way. I began to feel a little short of breath (I have a history of asthma) but thought it was probably just the high elevation. We finished walking the dogs and loaded up for our next destination near Flagstaff. Everyone was quiet as we descended, I tried to focus on the yellow shimmering aspens. The night before I noticed some burning in my left fingertips. I attributed it to cutting really hot jalapeños, but I was beginning to feel it again. I didn’t really think much about it but as we drove along, I began feeling numbness in my arm all the way to my elbow. Next, I noticed tingling in my face and tongue. I decided I should let my family know what was happening. I started to panic and became worried that I was having a heart attack or maybe even a stroke. We got to Jacob Lake (famous for their cookies) and got out to walk around. My teeth were chattering uncontrollably. I felt lightheaded. Maybe it was altitude sickness? We asked the guy at the tourist information center which hospital was closest. He said we should go to Page, AZ. It was 80 miles away!
So off we went. To avoid the expense of tickets, interactions with the police, and because of my extreme fear of being in another car wreck, my boyfriend had been adhering to the speed limit (even when everyone else was not). He let me know that slow driving wasn’t going to happen this time. As we made our way to Page, I began to feel worse and eventually both arms were tingling and numb and I couldn’t feel my tongue! We still had a LONG way to go to reach medical care. It was time to call 911. Luckily, we had cell service at the time. The dispatcher told us to keep driving and an ambulance would meet us. A few moments later the dispatcher called back and told us to put our hazard lights on so the highway patrol could identify us easily. I became more panicked and felt like I was going to pass out. I had no idea what was happening to me! I knew my boyfriend was flying down the mountain, passing lines of cars, but for once I didn’t care. I just wanted to get to Page! Finally, we came around the bend and saw a state trooper. He was waving frantically. He veered to the right where the police were waiting. We were surrounded by four cop cars. “Mike” came up to my side of the car and introduced himself as a supervisor and paramedic. He said they were going to send a helicopter but instead an ambulance was on the way. We were about 10 miles from Page. I was still feeling panicked, but also thought at this point my boyfriend could probably get me there faster than they would. Mike had commended him for “making good time”. My son later informed me we had reached 110 mph! Way to go Kia Sedona (aka Silver Lining). After some discussion, Mike instructed him to jump in line with the police and drive until we met the ambulance.
We raced through the desert at 80mph with our police escort. I really thought we’d get to Page before the ambulance met us. I must have been feeling better because I was starting to worry about the expense of an ambulance ride. At long last, we saw the ambulance and again pulled off the road. Ava (our German Shepherd) started barking as the EMTs approached the van. After some initial questions, they loaded me into the ambulance. It seemed the symptoms were vague enough they couldn’t make an accurate diagnosis and didn’t want to take chances. Once in the ambulance and hooked up to oxygen and an IV, I noticed the buff EMT dudes were wearing bright pink shirts! It just added to the surreal experience.
As soon as the ambulance doors opened at the hospital I was relieved by hearing my boyfriend’s voice. They had beaten us to the hospital, the police escorted them the entire way! I still couldn’t believe what was happening and although feeling slightly better, I was worried about the outcome. The staff at the hospital in Page were excellent! We were treated respectfully and quickly. I was kept informed of everything that was happening and had all my questions answered. They were thorough and ruled out a cardiac event and pulmonary embolism, and X-rays were taken. Ultimately, Dr. Cluff let me know that my lungs had not been effectively doing their job. Three breathing treatments later, we were ready to head to our next cabin in the woods. I was so relieved that the issue was not a new medical problem, but am pretty irked that our environment is under such assault that the air in our “national treasure” is not suitable for breathing.
So yeah, we faced what came and will continue to do so… but next time I do hope it is a little less dramatic!