By:  Staci Stallings

Oh, my.  The twists and turns life throws at you!

As Dennis told you, I had an “interesting” experience over Spring Break.  We decided to go skiing in Angel Fire which is about five hours from here.  We have friends who have a cabin there.  We’ve been there many times, and it’s always a lot of fun.

So on Friday after the kids got out of school, we headed out.  The trip up there was uneventful but fun.  The kids were happy, and everything went well.  The first “uh-oh” started when we made the turn from Eagle Nest into Angel Fire.  There was snow everywhere!

Now that might seem like a good thing, but we’ve done Spring Break up there a lot, and there had NEVER been that much snow.  We started to worry about the cabin as it is rarely used, so the driveway is not cleared as many cabins’ are.   The farther we drove, the more concerned I became because the snow was literally stacked feet upon feet in the ditches.

Sure enough when we got to the cabin… SNOW!  Thigh deep from the road all the way up to the cabin.  That meant dragging our stuff and ourselves through that and in.  The trek inside was horrible.  I sank with every step, and being someone who does not have great balance, ankle strength, or endurance anyway, it took everything in me to get in there.

The next “uh-oh” came pretty soon afterward when we figured out there wasn’t much propane in the tank.  With no way to know how long our heat would hold out, my wonderful husband figured out at a way to get the dryer to vent out into the cabin for heat.  He also turned on the electric heater in the bathroom.  Both were great for heat, not so great for the moisture in the air.

Then we went to bed.  I put my son to bed, and when I woke up a few hours later, I felt a little strange but was not overly concerned.  I went to our bed and fell asleep… well, kind of fell asleep.  Then I woke up again.  Then I fell asleep.  Then I woke up again.  I would sleep for 10 maybe 15 minutes and then be up again.

This continued until about 3 in the morning at which time I woke up and could not breathe.  I got up went out to the living room to sit and try to collect myself, but it kept getting worse.  I finally realized I had to do something, so I woke lovely husband up.  My only thought was, “I have to get down off this mountain.”  Leaving the kids there, we got in the van and took off for “down the mountain.”

That meant first going up the mountain to Eagle Nest, which was about a 25 minute drive.  By the time we got nearly out of Eagle Nest, I was in serious trouble.  Wonderful Husband decided that going over the mountain and down might not be smart as there is no hospital in that direction for like 2 hours.  So he called 911.

They told him they would send an ambulance, and to sit tight.  Worse, it was a volunteer ambulance.  So we sat and prayed, not together because I could no longer talk, but him out loud and me in my head.  Fighting to breathe, praying, and trying desperately not to pass out, I watched the minutes tick by, willing myself to keep it together until the ambulance got there.

Strangely for the first ten minutes or so, I pretty much prayed, “Lord, I don’t want to die.  Please help me.”  And then there came a point where I started reasoning that maybe dying wouldn’t be so bad.  By this point I was gasping for air and willing myself to stay awake long enough to see the ambulance lights which seemed like they were never coming.  It took over 15 minutes (that I remember).

Come to find out, the ambulance was parked about a mile from where we started in Angel Fire.  But we drove the 25 miles to Eagle Nest, then the EMT’s drove from Eagle Nest (where they live) to Angel Fire to get the ambulance and then back to Eagle Nest!  We could have saved like an hour and a half just calling them from the cabin.  UGH!

When they got there with the ambulance, I plowed out of the van and up into the ambulance READY FOR THE OXYGEN!  Sure enough, my SAT’s were at 89 and dropping.  But the oxygen was great.  In three minutes I was back to asking questions and knowing I was going to live.  They took me to Taos, 45 minutes away, where there is a hospital at 1,500 feet below where we were (wish I would have know that too!  We would have just gone to Taos!).

I spent about an hour in the ER as the only patient that night.  The night before they had 17 patients, some in the hallways it was so crowded (God is good that I was it for that night!).  They decided it was altitude sickness and once they decided I was stable, they sent me home.

Not wanting a repeat, I opted to go to Clayton (2 1/2 hours away) where my best friend met us and drove me home (another 2 1/2 hours).

Come to find out the main problem with altitude sickness is dehydration.  It is IMPERATIVE that you drink a lot of water when you go up to high altitudes.

See.  I didn’t know that.   Now I do in a way I will never forget.

So I’m back now.  It’s just taken me awhile to recover from Spring Break.

Hope yours was a lot less eventful!


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