Before we get into the details of altitude sickness, I’d like to draw some attention to our hero’s out on that mountain that night. Mono County Sheriff Search and Rescue . This team of VOLUNTEERS risk their lives to save others. AND THEY VOLUNTEER!!! I was absolute shocked to hear that they were not paid employees. They do this out of the goodness of their hearts. Their organization is a non-profit that exists off donations. Donations allow them to afford tactical training and medical equipment (like the oxygen tank Joey was immediately connected too).
I CANNOT imagine how that night would have ended if not for the Search and Rescue team. Joey could not move, and without them I’m not sure how we’d have gotten him down that mountain. I cannot thank them enough and have actually requested donations be made in lieu of gifts for my bridal shower and am also adding donations to our registry on our wedding website. SO, I want to do the same thing here. If you’d like to donate to the MONOSAR to allow them to save more lives, like mine & Joey’s, follow this link here:
Now that you’ve read our story and the events that occurred, I want to get into the details of what altitude sickness is and what HACE is and how to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Altitude sickness, also called mountain sickness, is a group of symptoms that arise in higher elevations or as you climb elevation too quickly. This happens because with increases in elevation, oxygen levels in the air quickly decrease. Altitude sickness is most likely to occur at elevation gains of 8000+ feet, we were at 9800 at Minaret Lake (the peak of our hike). There is no rhyme or reason for who it affects, men/women, younger/older, etc. Direct quote of the Urgent Care physician- “You could be Michael Phelps in peak condition and get it.”
It’s important to know the signs and symptoms and to listen to your body when you first realize symptoms. Looking back on the whole situation, Joey says he did feel more tired than he usually does and that he had a mild headache but thought that was due to our hike.
- Fatigue and energy loss
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep problems
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of coordination and trouble walking
- Tightening of the chest
Symptoms usually come on 12-24 hours after reaching a higher elevation.
Altitude sickness can vary in degree, you can get altitude sickness, lower your elevation, and allow your body to acclimate- in which case your body will get used to the elevation and adapt. In other cases, such as HAPE or HACE- symptoms become much more serious.
HAPE: High Altitude Pulmonary Edema: Fluid accumulation in the lungs due to an increase in elevation.
HACE: High Altitude Cerebral Edema: Swelling of the brain due to high altitude.
Symptoms of HAPE and HACE are very similar and in addition to the symptoms listed, patients will have:
- Shortness of breath even at rest
- Inability to walk
- Cough that produces a mucous substance
Things that will help you avoid Altitude Sickness
- Increase your elevation slowly and allow your body time to adapt before taking on rigorous activity.
- Drinking plenty of water (more than you usually would)
- Eating enough food as you increase in elevation
- Know how to recognize the symptoms and QUICKLY lower your elevation if you notice any of the mentioned symptoms
**Consult your doctor before doing any strenuous activity. These are things I’ve been advised off during our experience, but I am not a doctor, so always hike with caution.
My only hope in sharing our story is that it helps someone else out there. Thank you for reading.