Philmont Blood Pressure Story

Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2007 15:21:54 -0400
From: Steve Tucker
Subject: [Philmont] My Philmont Blood Pressure Story

I recently completed my first Philmont Trek (623-M1). Before going to Philmont I was concerned that my blood pressure would be a problem, not because I have alarmingly high blood pressure, but because I suffer from that acute and dreaded "white coat syndrome." When I go for my quarterly check-up at the doctorís office, my BP is usually high when the nurse checks it upon my first arrival and then when the doctor checks it, itís usually normal. My doc always says that I have my blood pressure under excellent control. He has prescribed a daily dose of 10mg of Lisprinivil (the generic Prinivil) and he says taking this therapy is like spitting in the ocean.

I probably worked myself into a frenzy at Philmont with my negative thinking and sure enough, when I went to health re-check, my heart was racing (out of fear, I suppose) and sure enough my BP was sky high.

I am sharing my saga with you, mostly to demonstrate how great the staff at Philmont is and how they worked with me to get me on the trail. I am very grateful to the staff at the health lodge for their efforts on my behalf. I suppose me writing this story down is somewhat therapy for me as well, if I can be selfish for a few minutes.

The short version of this story is that I did get on the trail. My departure was a bit delayed.

Before going to Philmont I had my doctor write a clinical note to be added to my medical form about my "white coat syndrome" and how it affected me at his office and that my BP was well under control, usually around 120/70 when he checks it (not the nurse). I had asked him about prescribing additional medication that might help with my situation. He chose not to prescribe any additional therapy, instead, offering a diuretic I said okay, but never took it, because I had read in some Philmont info somewhere it was the wrong thing to do for Philmont. No need to fight dehydration.

On Day one, we went to medical recheck just after lunch and as we started to approach the building, my anxiety started to build. I think I was convincing myself that I was going to have a problem. When the BP was taken, it was like my heart was racing in the Daytona 500. Naturally my BP was high, so they had me lay down on a couch for a while in the noisy re-check area. No good. I was then escorted to the health lodge, where it was still high and my anxiety building. They sent me to lay down on a cot.

I met two doctors of the course of my multiple visits to the health lodge and both were great Ė Dr. Ken Wible and Dr. Greg Hamel. I really appreciate these two gentlemen working with me to make sure I had a great Philmont experience.

After I had been "resting" on the health lodge cot for a while, Dr. Wible came in to see me and suggested that I rejoin my crew, get some rest and double my Lisprinivil (the generic Prinivil) dosage and come back in the AM early. I did so. Like it was going to be easy to relax.

I spent the afternoon and evening with my crew, including re-evaluating my pack and leaving a few things behind, supper and attending the opening campfire.

I got up early on morning two, took a shower and headed to breakfast with my crew and we then went to have our photo taken. It was great that our ranger knew the ins and outs and we were first in line for photos.

I then took my pack and included it in the packline with our crew and headed off to the health lodge. I was trying to think positive!

When I got to the health lodge, I had to wait more than an hour before anyone was available to take the BP (the health lodge didnít open until 8 AM, but I was told to be there around 7 am) and my anxiety was of course continuing to build. During this time I drank another 2 liters of water and believe me, was definitely clear and copious!

While I was standing outside and behind the health lodge, out the corner of my eye, I saw my son and a couple of his friends from our crew walk by, probably trying to check on me. At that time, my instinct allowed them to walk on by without conversation from me. If I had that to do over again, I would have called them over and talked to them while I was waiting. Hindsight is always perfect!

Our crew was leaving at 10 a.m. for Anasazi Camp and after the photos and the packline, the crew had visited Villa Philmonte. I am sorry that I missed the visit to Villa Philmonte.

Finally, I was escorted into the health lodge building and, as you might imagine, my BP was sky high. Back to the cot, where it didn't change.

Our ranger came down and to health lodge to see and with big puppy dogs eyes, said, "I am sorry." He also wanted to collect any crew gear that I was carrying and confirmed that he had everything. Actually, I forgot to give him a small MSR white gas bottle, so I started worrying about that as well.

I spent my morning reading the latest copy of the Philnews and trying to relax.

The nurse came back in a couple of hours, took my BP and then came back and said I was being given a homebound tent to hang out in and that I could come back that afternoon and have my BP checked again.

Doctor Wible also came back to see me and we began discussing options for rejoining my crew. He was giving me hope! He pulled out a copy of the trek book, looking for a place for me to link up with my crew. Indian Writings on Day 2 looked like it would work, since they would not take me to a trail camp. My drop off point had to be a staffed camp and my crew would be hitting Indian Writings on Day 2. He said his goal was to get me on the trail. I had tried to negotiate to be taken to Anasazi that afternoon without luck. Knowing I wasnít being packed up to be shipped home was quite a relief.

My crew had departed and base camp is a lonely place when you are by yourself.

I had gone to the welcome center to get my tent assignment and they gave me a tent in the homebound tent city near the advisorís lounge. It was the middle of the day and man was it hot it the tent. I tried going to the advisorís lounge and tried to nap on the couch there without luck.

I then decided I would walk over to Villa Philmonte and see if I could go on a tour as a single. I didnít realize that you had to have reservations, so I was turned away. I walked around the grounds for a little while and stopped back by the museum for a while. Hey they had AC in there. I spoke with a staff member there and related my BP saga. This gentleman was from Texas; he and his wife worked at Philmont for the summer. He worked in the museum and she worked at Villa Philmonte. He gave me reassurance that I would get on the trail. I appreciated his pep talk.

I walked around for a while. It was about mid-afternoon, so I decided I would go back to health lodge, where, at least it would be a bit cooler. I walked I the door and asked about getting a BP check. They knew me by name at this point. A BP check, it's still high and back to the cot for some rest to no avail.

I was told to get some rest and come back in the morning. Right.

I went to the dining hall for dinner, trying to avoid any salty foods. What did they have for dinner? Hot Dogs!

After dinner I wandered around camp for a while and thought about attending the closing campfire. I walked almost to the closing campfire arena, but stopped. I told myself that I wanted to save this experience for when I came back off my trek!

I was wondering around camp and decided I would go to the chapel service.

The Chaplain that evening was Rusty Cowdes. It was really a cool chapel service and everyone in attendance received a New Testament with the Philmont logo on the front.

During the service, he has everyone introduce which state they are from and when the Louisiana contingent stood up, he asked if they had brought him some hot sauce. He also likes to pick on people from Texas; his wife is from Texas.

When it came time for me to declare that I was from North Carolina, I stood up and said that I had brought him a bottle of Texas Pete, which is manufactured in Winston-Salem, NC. I had a small bottle of Texas Pete in my pocket that I had intended to take on the trail. It was the whole Texas, hot sauce connection that I seized as an opportunity.

After the service, I went down to speak to Chaplain Rusty. Partially to deliver the bottle of hot sauce, but mostly because I wanted to talk with a chaplain. You see, I was feeling really remorseful and even guilty because I had not told my son that morning goodbye. I had actually avoided him when I saw him walk by the health lodge and it was weighing heavily on my heart. What if I did not get on the trail? This is a trip we had both been anxiously awaiting for more than a year and we wanted to spend it together.

We spoke and he gave me reassurance that I was going to get on the trail. That Philmont often does crazy things to peopleís blood pressure and another evening at Philmont would probably be just what I needed and that I would be ok the next morning.

After chapel I walked back to camp via the health lodge, thinking if I saw someone I might ask for a BP check. Instead I saw Dr. Hamel sitting on the porch of his cabin (I had seen him in the health lodge, but Dr. Wible is who I had been talking with, mostly). After a bit of hesitation, I finally decided to intrude and brazingly walked up to his porch and excused myself for such boldness. He said he was on call, so it was ok. I started to explain my problem and belief that it anxiety and not really elevated BP and he asked me if I wanted it checked then, I, of course, said yes quickly. He did he best to relax me and I felt relaxed, but when he checked it, my BP was still high. He even put the cuff on my arm and we talked about Scouting and other things for five or 10 minutes before he pumped me up. I was dejected!

When I told him my story, he said "oh yeah, you are the patient Dr. Wible was telling me about."

He said, " I wonder where your chart is?" and I immediately said, I know where it is. Check the top drawer of the second filing cabinet in the reception area!

He then said he would be back and came back in a little while with a pill bottle containing two 30 mg tablets of nifedipine XL. His instructions were to take one of the tablets then and the other about an hour before returning in the AM.

When I returned in the AM, my BP was still up, but down quite a bit from what it had been the days before. I was sent back to the cot and Dr. Hamel came by to see me, giving me the wait a minute sign. He came back in a few minutes and said he was going to let me go on the trail and that he would give me enough of the medication to get me through the trail. It was like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders!

I was told to get "my stuff" and hurry back to wait for a ride to Indian Writings, so I scampered off to get my pack, deposit my valuables with the rest of the crewís things and ran back to the health lodge in hopes of a quick ride to Indian Writings. To

finish the story up, I had to wait about 4 hours for a ride to Indian Writings. I had a ride earlier in the morning with a medic, but just as we were about to get into the Suburban, he got an emergency call that took him to another part of the ranch. Bummer.

After lunch I was told I had a ride to the six mile gate, where a maintenance truck was waiting to take me to Indian Writings. Hooray!

When I arrived at Indian Writings my crew was there and they all cheered when they saw me in the truck. One of the leaders told me they all had a circle prayer for me the night before and I sorta got choked up. Later they told me they were hanging around some because they had overheard a staff radio and thought they heard that a maintenance truck was headed their way with an advisor. They were hoping it was me.

I shouldered my pack and hiked with the crew for the 3 miles down the road to Old Camp. It was good to be hiking at Philmont with my crew.

That night during Thorns and Roses, everyone of the Scouts in our crew said their rose for the day was that I was able to join the crew. This was totally unexpected and I totally lost it and sobbed like a baby. I told them they were seeing a side of me they had never seen. It wasn't an apology, just fact, but it didn't help. Our crew leader was standing behind me patting me on my back, but it didn't help. Heck, there are tears running down my cheek as I remember the evening and relate the story here.

On a personal level, I have always believed in divine intervention and my time at base camp helped to reaffirm my faith. Getting to go on the trail with my son and these guys was my personal "MountainTop Experience" at Philmont. I told the crew that night that I had a divine intervention story and would share my story with them at some point, but couldn't do it that night. I still have not shared the story, but really want to someday.

I truly believe I was led to the chapel service that night by a greater power and led to chat with Chaplain Rusty; and was led by the health lodge; and wass led to stop to talk with Dr. Hamel, intruding on his free time.

There is another part of the story that tells me even more there was a higher power working for me that evening. When I got back to my tent after Dr. Hamel gave me the medicene, I was getting my things squared away and suddenly I couldn't find the pill bottle that Dr. Hamel had given me. I was getting panicky and had decided I was going back to health lodge to ask for a replacement and fess up to my stupidity.

After "tearing my tent apart," my first move was to retrace my steps and I walked into the shower house. Another Scouter saw me looking around and asked me if I had lost something and I told him I was looking for a pill bottle. He said he had seen one outside of a tent and started to tell me where. I asked him to repeat the directions and he must have picked up on my anxiety and probably look of confusion, because he said that if I had a few minutes, he would take me there. Sure enough, there was the pill bottle with my name on it that had somehow fallen out of my pocket on the way to the bathroom.

I returned to my tent and finished getting my things together and lay on my bunk that evening reading some random passages from the New Testament and the Philmont Eagles Soaring High devotional book.

I really appreciate the doctors and all of the staff at Philmont working so hard to get me on trail and reunited with my crew. I truly felt they were working for me and doing everything they could to get me on the trail.

Once I got on the trail, there were NO problems, including our side hike from Copper Park to Baldy to Baldy Town and back to Copper Park. We chose to go back up the new Copper Park switchbacks and approached Baldy from the ridge and up the suicide trail to Baldy for our ascent. It was down the skree trail to Baldy Town after we had lunch on the summit.

It was a great trip and I appreciate you allowing me to tell this story. I had shared this story privately with a couple of friends I have met on this Philmont list and they urged to share my Philmont story with the entire list.

Steve Tucker
SM, Troop 919 (Pfafftown, NC)
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