Making Tough Decisions – part 1

Earthquake TrailWe had just finished our hike along the Earthquake Trail, named so because it sat directly on a fault line and showed physical evidence of what happens when the earths plates shift.  The shifts in this trail where caused by the 1906 earthquake.   One place of particular interest was the fence that had shifted five to seven feet during the quake.

I was pleased that this group of students seemed to be made up of more experienced hikers as it took far less time traveling the trail than it had with previous groups.  Having extra time to spare we traveled further on down the trail into new territory.

Suddenly one of the girls screamed and began to cry.  She had been stung by a bee and it hurt…a lot!

As luck would have it, one of my chaperones on the trip was our music teacher and she gathered the rest of the students for some impromptu sing-along under the trees while I applied a mud salve to the swollen leg of a six year old.  It was the first the girl had seen a bee sting being treated this way and watched curiously as I made a mud paste, completely forgetting about the pain.  Just as we had finished, another student got stung and needed some first aide.  It was with this second one that we were able to see the stinging culprit.  It was the smallest bee I had ever seen, about the size of a white fly…with an equally small but effective stinger.

Enough time had passed that I decided we should head back.  I took the lead, our music teacher was in the middle and our last chaperone, a teacher from another school, brought up the rear.  We’d only walked about twenty yards when I hear another scream, and then one more – from a different student.  As I turned to look at who needed help the chaperone at the rear yelled, “Keep going!  We hit a nest!”

TrailOnward we went.  We double timed our way out of the woods and were in an open area when one of the boys came running up to me, tears streaming down his face which was bright red.  He had wrapped his hands around the front of his neck and was gasping for breath. My head began spinning with mental questions.  Did he get stung?  Was he having an alergic reaction? Should I use the epi pen that I carry for another student?  Is he just freaked out?

As I assessed the situation, to see if he responded to simple instructions, getting him to look at objects around him.  Immediately, he started calming down and was breathing normally.  He told me he was stung in the neck and was about to show me when one of his friends came up and started asking him what happened and if he was okay.  Just as quickly as he had calmed down, his hysteria came back.  Sending the student back to walk with the rest of the class, I spent the next few minutes pointing out jack rabbits, birds and squirrels.  Even when there wasn’t anything, I said there was…just to get him to keep looking for them as this seemed to be the thing that calmed him down the most.  After another five minutes had passed, he was pretty much his normal self and had drifted back to be with his friends.

As we rounded the last curve before the parking lot I pondered whether taking the extra hike had been worth it.  I’d taken students to this location for years and never had any concerns.  Now, the remoteness of our location, the lack of facilities, no cell service all seemed to loom as a warning of what could have been a really bad situation.  How long would one epi shot hold?  Could I get to a hospital fast enough?  I needed to really consider whether or not to do this field trip again.

I was relieved to see the school bus as we crested the hill.  It would be time for our afternoon break and I could sure use a one, my adrenaline just beginning to ease back to normal.  But, the closer we got the more something didn’t look right.  When I finally discovered what it was, I shook my head and thought, today was not turning out to be a very good day at all.  After a brief discussion, I had the other chaperones watch the class while I went on ahead without them.

(To be continued)