Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Nightmare on Beth, but alls well.
by scotttimm

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/26/2023
Entry & Exit Point: Sawbill Lake (EP 38)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 9
Trip Introduction:
Our annual family trip did not go as expected.
Part 1 of 5
If you're among the network of people who provided assistance or care to our family this past week, know that we are profoundly grateful. Had we not had help, especially during that evacuation, this would be a very different trip report.

This was my perspective, I’m sure other members of our party have different memories and experiences. This is mine.

The days leading up to this trip made it feel like it would be an epic one. My son Grant "Timber" is in his first summer as a crew member at Sawbill, and he was excited for his first vacation and to share all he had learned with his old man. I had scored Taylor Swift tickets for my wife and two girls for Christmas, and the date landed on the Friday of the weekend we usually paddle in. They described the experience as "life changing" - and all were pumped to listen to TS all the way up to Sawbill. Weather looked a little iffy - but it was clearing, was cool and we were in great spirits. We enjoyed the Sawbill shop, roasted smores and hotdogs, enjoying a campfire in the campground before we entered the Fire Ban area. Last year's family trip to Stuart was a little hairy - and we got wind-bound on Stuart so we had to do that cursed portage twice. This time would be easy and relaxing, we told ourselves...

We figured we would paddle by the island campsite on Alton to see if it was open, otherwise we'd head to Beth. The kids wanted to fish, swim, jump off rocks...and the adults were ready to turn our brains off a bit, read, paint, fish...the usual. The island site was taken, so we continued on to Beth. Bugs were bad on the portage but otherwise seemed normal. The first few sites on Beth were taken, but the one we hoped for in the NW corner was open...perfect! Good breeze, no bugs, we rested, ate spaghetti, took a quick dip, and with the campfire ban retired early to bed. We were slightly tired, but it wasn't too hard of a day at all. Each of our girls had a friend along on the trip - and my wife's cousin ("S") and her daughter ("E) were with us. They had traveled from CT, this was their 5th or 6th trip. My wife was trying out a Hennessy Hammock for the first time. I quickly drifted off to sleep in mine.

Sometime around 4:15-4:30 am I woke with a start - I thought I heard screaming. My wife, 10 feet away, said it was coming from her cousin's tent. I heard her scream "mommy, mommy, mommy, WAKE UP!" I don't remember how but I was in that tent in a flash. E was rocking back and forth in fetal position in the corner, and S was locked up in a seizure, foaming at the mouth. It is hard to separate your head from your heart in emergencies like this. I had taken Wilderness First Responder training decades ago, and remembered I could only try to keep her safe and comfortable, and make sure the airway was clear. She had a mouthpiece she wore at night, but it was clenched safely in her teeth and I didn't want to attempt to remove it and risk her choking on it. My wife and daughter got E out of the tent and into the Bugout, where my daughter was consoling her. Grant fired up the Zoleo app and through their medical chat option, we began communicating while I sat with S. I asked for the time to get an idea of duration of seizure and we figured it lasted about 20 minutes. We decided to hit the SOS button on the Zoleo which sounds like a rocket about to blast off.