By Seth Kahan
In my thirties, I trained in search and rescue and got my Wilderness First Responder certificate, the industry standard for professional guides and trip leaders. I was motivated to do this because I loved the outdoor backcountry and had already gotten seriously lost once in Superior National Forest, Minnesota. That scared me enough that I refreshed my map and compass skills and enrolled in these other classes.
I carry a supplemented first aid kit with me and try to be careful so I don’t hurt myself. But, sometimes, things happen.
On my last camping trip, I was just settling down to meditate after my first night in the woods when I heard my canine companion, Kaya, whipping back and forth. I knew in an instant that she had gotten into a beehive. I was up in an instant swatting her, getting her lead unhooked so she could run away, swatting bees off of me, and running away myself.
The bees were on both of us. I threw Kaya in the river and jumped in myself. After several submersions, the bees were gone. Then I started getting dizzy. I was worried it was an anaphylactic shock, but as I found out later, it was just a lot of bee stings. I returned to the tent, ripped open my first aid kit, and ate two Benadryl. Then I packed only essentials and left for the ER.
The bee toxins caught up with me first.
I spent an hour on my back in delirium. It was highly entertaining and reminded me of my college days, except there was this nagging concern about being in mortal danger. Kaya camped out next to me while I was down. After an hour of lucid dreaming, I got myself up and out of the woods. I threw Kaya in the jeep and headed back for the grid; it was about a 30-minute drive. I found the closest ER and headed over as soon as I got online. They were empty except for me, kind, and took care of me.
After inspecting me and taking my vital signs, they kept me for observation for three hours before sending me out with some steroids and significant antihistamines in my system. They also gave me an EpiPen for my first aid kit. I discovered they are good even if you don’t have an anaphylactic shock.
I checked into a wonderful tiny house overlooking the mountains and a lake near Canada. I took two nights off to watch myself for any side effects from the bee stings. There were none. The next day the welts started disappearing.
Kaya and I returned to find the tent, sleeping bag, and supplies in good shape. We very carefully broke camp and moved deeper inland, away from the underground nests, which were numerous around my first site. Now that I knew what to look for, I saw them everywhere.
We had a blissful remainder of our trip, camping near large rock outcroppings up and down the North Fork of the Bouqet River, covered in waterfalls and swimming holes.
Very happy I had Benadryl with me. I had added that to my first aid kit. This fall, I’ll be taking another wilderness first responder course. Is there something you like to do that adds a little assurance to your life?
© 2022 Seth Kahan
Seth Kahan (Seth@VisionaryLeadership.com) helps leaders take on Grand Challenges, wicked problems that require a social movement to be successfully addressed. But he can still hang out and tell stories. Subscribe to his “Monday Morning Mojo” to receive a weekly blast of good energy.