Small Talk

Utah for Christmas & altitude sickness

January 3rd, 2014

For Christmas this year, my husband took our family to Park City, Utah to ski. Alpine skiing is my favorite sport (and I know, I live SO far from the slopes). Yet, I haven't really felt like skiing since my daughter was born.

Claus used to take a guys' trip every year, and for many years they went to Deer Valley. We are - I'll say it - ski snobs. Deer Valley bans snowboarders, which is why they - and we - picked it.

I have never been to Utah. I was excited.

I knew it would be a tight turn around since I work nearly 11 hours on Christmas Eve for the hotel's holiday program, and we flew out on December 25th. Still, Husband has been asking me to do this for years (both skiing and flying out on Christmas Day to maximize our vacation times) and I didn't want to keep saying no.

And this is what I get for trying to be flexible: I have been sick or not feeling quite right for over a week now.

I got altitude sickness shortly after landing and realized I needed a medical clinic to diagnose me and prescribe oxygen. I have been at higher elevations before without issue so I didn't think 6,500' would sicken me, but it sure did. I have had altitude sickness twice before so I recognized the symptoms.
I found a walk-in medical clinic with a doctor to confirm that it was altitude sickness. By the time I was done we were all starving so we had a late lunch.
After lunch it was 4:30 p.m. and we started calling around to the medical supply stores for oxygen rentals. The ones near us were all out of rentals and the closest one was 35 minutes away. As it closed at 5 pm, we had missed it for the day.
However, for efficiency, I managed to set up an account over the phone with someone, who gave me the address of where I could go the following day.
I thought I might be OK overnight and planned to go there at 8 a.m. the next morning to rent the compressor. However I got up at 4 a.m. with a headache and knew I needed to descend the mountain in order to try to mitigate it.
It was 21 degrees, dark, with icy roads, and I had no idea where I was. The entire time I'd been in Utah I had not paid attention because I had been sick. I'm independent and practical, and would have done it myself if I felt I could, but I didn't feel confident, so I asked Claus to drive me downhill to Salt Lake City.
That means we had to wake up Olivia. We all got in the car at 4:45 am and drove half an hour downhill to get to a lower elevation, which the doctor had said might help. It made it worse. I got carsick and threw up in the car.
Once in Salt Lake City we had no other big plan. My idea was that a lower elevation would make me feel OK and I could hang out in a diner until the rental shop opened, but I was feeling worse and we had no idea where to go.
I suggested driving to the rental clinic and waiting in the parking lot for three hours until it opened, so that's what we did!
More driving made me sicker. When we got there we saw a light on and a security guard. He took pity on us and let me in to vomit in a warm bathroom. We waited in the lobby of Intermountain Healthcare Home Medical Equipment & Supplies looking like a ragtag bunch.
Olivia was sleeping on the floor, I was leaning back in the chair trying to rest. The guard wanted the whole story for his incident report and I'm glad Claus was there as I did not have the energy to recount anything.
When the first workers came in, I could hear Claus explaining over and over, our situation to the staff. They were very confused because we had gone to the wrong wing of the building.
When I finally got the oxygen I still had a terrible headache and was queasy, so I needed to turn it on right there in the lobby and breathe it for 30 minutes. If you are blissfully unaware of what an oxygen compressor is, let me explain that it's loud. When you turn it on it beeps for ten seconds, then it sounds like a noisy motor as it pulls air from the environment and concentrates the oxygen for you to breathe. It's not subtle.
I rented an oxygen compressor and an oxygen tank so that I could take it skiing with me. Or so the theory went. It really wasn't very portable. It was 2 feet tall. I couldn't ski with that, but I took it just in case. I ended up never using it.
We drove back to the hotel where I slept for the rest of the afternoon and Claus and Olivia went skiing. I finally felt semi-normal when I got up.
So that takes us through Days 1 & 2, Diane's medical issues. Not the greatest start to a vacation, but it improves towards the middle. To be continued...

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