The tragic 2017 death of a young woman who was hiking in Colorado serves as a grave warning for anyone planning to ascend to greater heights.
Most people know the common precautions to take before a hiking trip. Drink plenty of water, pack enough food, sunscreen, etc.
But 20-year-old Susanna “Susie” DeForest had been prepared when she took to the trail to Conundrum Hot Springs with her friends that year.
The hike is 8.5 miles long and rises in elevation of about 2,500 feet, according to the Post Independent. The hot springs the friends aimed for sits at 11,222 feet.
Their hike began later in the day. They were completely prepared with supplies and gear, with plans to camp at the hot springs and make the trip back the following day.
But DeForest would never make it home. She started vomiting during the hike and things went from bad to worse much too quickly.
Her friends did everything they could; two of the three left to find help and the proper emergency officials were notified.
By the time responders arrived via helicopter, it was too late. DeForest passed away around 5 a.m. the morning after she fell ill.
Her case may seem like a bout of dehydration or even heat stroke, but neither was the cause of this young woman’s decline.
“She was hiking in Colorado and suffered acute altitude sickness,” her mom, Kate DeForest, wrote on Facebook in August 2017.
“Her friends who were with her did all they could to get help to her in time.”
Acute altitude sickness — otherwise known as acute mountain sickness or high altitude pulmonary edema — “typically occurs at about 8,000 feet, or 2,400 meters, above sea level,” according to Healthline.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches and shortness of breath. Those at risk include anyone moving quickly to higher altitudes and those with heart or lung disease.
To avoid this condition, Healthline suggests taking to higher altitudes slowly and consulting a doctor about medications that may help the body adjust more easily to higher altitudes.
This is a horrible thing that happened to a clearly vibrant young woman. We only hope her passing will remind others to take precautions when traveling to higher altitudes in a short period of time. Her memory will live on through anyone who might be saved after hearing her story.
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