On Monday, July 15, my good friend Jeff Gronauer and I went hiking, taking on Dial, Nippletop, Colvin and Blake. By 8:30 a.m. we arrived at the AuSable Club, ready for a day of climbing. We were well prepared for the humidity and temperatures in the 80s. We had adequate amounts of water for our day in the mountains.
As I finished the descent off of Colvin and was starting up Blake, my vision began to darken, and I felt an all-too-familiar feeling in my chest. My heart had gone out of rhythm, a condition known as atrial fibrillation or A-Fib. I have had A-Fib for about 12 years, and my heart going out of rhythm is not that uncommon but has never been a problem while climbing.
After 45 minutes, I was able to convert my heart back into normal rhythm. I finished the half-mile up Blake and then the long hike back to our car. Between the A-Fib and the heat, I was moving slowly and working to beat nightfall. While hiking out, nausea and cramps had taken over, and before long I was suffering from diarrhea and vomiting.
By the time we reached the AuSable Club access road, I was depleted of energy and found myself unable to proceed. As luck would have it, a hiker passed us and inquired about my health. By now, both of my arms and legs were numb and tingly; I was short of breath and shaking like a leaf. At this point I knew I was in trouble and was concerned with the possibility I was having a heart attack. Either way, I needed help.
The unidentified hiker had gone ahead to the AuSable Club, and an angel by the name of Chelsea arrived in a minivan to deliver us to our car. After a brief stop for fluids in Keene, I was anxious to get to the Lake Placid emergency room. By the time we reached the ER, it was 9:30 p.m. and I was very weak. I was immediately attended to by two nurses, Denise Griffin and Alise Lieb. They took vitals and did an EKG for Roy Parker, the physician's assistant. I remember thinking how fortunate I was to be lying in the ER with a team of professionals working to restore my health.
The EKG and lab work showed no damage to my heart, and the first of two IV fluids were started. By 11:30 I was headed home feeling as refreshed as I had at the start of the day.
While I was waiting to be released from the Lake Placid ER, I couldn't help but think that if this small village of Lake Placid could host two Winter Olympic Games, there is certainly hope to save such a vital resource as this ER. With the combined talents and commitment of Adirondack Health, the Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Service, the Olympic Regional Development Authority, the town of North Elba, the village of Lake Placid, elected state representatives, year-round and summer residents of Lake Placid, saving this vital community service should be possible. It would be a disgrace to see such an asset to our residents and visitors be lost.
I would like to thanks all those who assisted me in avoiding what certainly could have been a disastrous day, with special thanks to the ER team.
Art Devlin lives in Lake Placid and is a village trustee.