Don’t panic

Because this blog is from the perspective of novice hikers and I like to show the human side of our adventures, I’m not above sharing our mistakes and what we learned from them. You can learn things the hard way.

Our Summer trip to Leivonmäki National Park can be summed up thusly:

We drove to the parking lot. Carried our things to the camping site at Lintuniemi peninsula and set up our tents. The boys wanted to go for a swim. Heikki had an asthma attack and nearly drowned. Through the ER back to home.

What was the plan

The idea was to take refuge from the Rally nonsense taking place in Jyväskylä. A couple of nights in our brand new tent, visit Joutsniemi peninsula and the lean-to of Soimalampi pond with our friend Roope. This would’ve also added to my 100 nights outdoors.

What actually happened

The classic “it’s not that far, right?” Heikki is physically in gret condition and he’s been working out a lot in the past year and a half but he’s also asthmatic. It has laid dormant for a decade or two and he only carries meds just in case.

A little over half way to the island he felt he couldn’t breathe and swallowed a little water as well.

I made the mistake of thinking “what if I don’t make it?” So in addition to the worsening asthma attack, I panicked. Long story short, had it not been for Roope, I wouldn’t be here today. I have never been more scared in my life. – Heikki

He stumbled on the rocky shore, vomiting what was basically pink goo, and collapsed on the ground, grasping onto a tree and gasping for air. Roope, who is an excellent swimmer, started making his way back to mainland for help. Thankfully there was a couple who had arrived on a canoe and they were more than happy to help.

There was also a doctor on location who checked on Heikki periodically. He was allowed to take more than one dose of Ventoline. Sadly, they were only a temporary solution and even after sitting by the fire for a long time, he wasn’t getting any better. It was already dark but Roope and I did what needed to done: we packed our stuff by lantern light and eventually gave Heikki an empty backpack and carried the rest ourselves. It’s never a good idea to strain someone who’s had a severe asthma attack, especially if there’s even the slightest chance they have fluid in their lungs. So we waddled toward the general direction of the parking lot. On the drive home I could see our swimming champions doze off here and there. Since Möykky, our dog, was with us, I dropped Heikki and Roope to the hospital and went home to unpack the car.

Monitoring, stronger asthma medicine and pulmonary photos later, they finally discharged him at five o’clock in the morning. We woke up at around 2 PM as if we had spent the entire night drinking. Obviously we hadn’t but staying up that late is poison. We managed to visit the Nature Trail of Sippulanniemi on Sunday and even finally had the chance to test our tent! All’s well that ends well.

Let the past be the past – or should we learn from it?

Heikki was visibly traumatized by the incident for a few days. Sure, he came to the Nature Trail and agreed to spend the night in a tent but he was sort of…hazy. I was worried the incident had done permanent damage and he’d give up on hiking altogether. Nature came too close. We talked about it and he had to go through it a bunch of times when telling people and maybe got over it by doing this.

I couldn’t help but think about my own reaction to all that happened – no emotional humbug but calm and collective determination. I might’ve even come off as cold but it’s my own personal way of dealing with fear, mine and others’. I figured I’d have time to shed tears later, my panicking added to the mix would’ve done no one any good. And now when it’s all over, ít seems silly to cry about it. Then again, I’m still analysing how I could’ve done things more efficiently.

What about you? Have you had any near-death experiences or accidents out there in the world? How did you manage to get over it or does it still haunt you to this day?

Oh, and one more thing: don’t swim to that island that’s not that far away. Trust me, it is.


P.S. We’ve visited Leivonmäki National Park before but during Winter.

2 thoughts on “Don’t panic

  1. Pingback: Fetch a stretcher!

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