In the late afternoon of 8-14 a call came in that a 45 y/o female was having difficult time breathing at Trailcamp (12,000′) on the Whitney Trail. She was being monitored by a FS backcountry ranger, FS wanted INYO SAR to take over ASAP.
3 members responded as a hasty team. While the team was hiking up, more information was relayed to them, indication a severe and worsening condition. Rather than wait until we could assess Pt. in person we decided the sympyoms were far too serious to take a chance on running out of O2 and even though it would be very dangerous we needed more people in case we had to chance a carryout, so we asked for a second team and more supplies including our gammow bag, which is designed to simulate a lower elevation much like a hyperbaric chamber divers use.
Arrived at Pt @ 20:00 it was obvious she was in bad condition with a productive cough and fluid could be heard in one lung. High flow O2 helped but we quickly went thru 3 bottles, we tried to consereve O2 with low flow nasal by 00:30 fluid could be heard in both lungs, within 20 minutes you could hear the rails from 20 feet away. Pt had to be kept upright and calm the entire time (it is a scary feeling to be drowning and there was nothing we could do). An up right carryout and the fact that the Pt would start choking with even the slightest movement ruled out trying to get down by foot. Informed base that an air evacuation was mandatory and to do what ever was needed, there was no other survivable option.
We had no choice but to go back on high flow O2 and hope the second team would get there before we ran out. Luckily second team was fast and arrived just in time. We tried to use our gammow bag, but due to Pt,s severe condition and bag design issues we were forced to just rely on high flow O2 and hope the weather and helo availbility would save us in time.
It was a very long and stressful night it was our Pt’s ability to follow direction and stay calm helped avert what would have been a very long nightmare CPR scenario. Using a BVM when an ambulance is minutes away is far different from having to use one for many hours and while tring to carry a PT down rock ledges.
In the morning, base managed to get a hold of SEKI’s airship, 552, to assist. At aprox 09:00, helo arrived and PT was taken to Southern Inyo Hospital for treatment.
Great team effort by all involved no doubt about it a life was saved, job well done.