Mostly Recovered From Altitude Sickness In Medellín
It’s hard to know what to do for your partner when they have altitude sickness.
This article is by no means medical advice. It is our real life story, of what my love Brian has been through, dealing with mountain sickness or soroche. Our intention behind sharing this is that you make an informed decision for yourself, IF you think you have it, or know someone who might. Honestly we had a hard time finding good information about this online.
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Subtle signals of altitude sickness, or soroche…
I’ve never seen my big strong man sick. It’s been almost 3 years that we have known each other, and Brian has always been super healthy, fit, and full of energy. He is mindful of what he eats, loves being super active, and has certainly pushed me outside of my comfort zone when it comes to BEing adventurous.
It all started when we landed in Bogotá Colombia. A city that sits at around 8,660 feet above sea level. Our condo, looking over the Andes Mountain Range sat at 8,700 feet. We rang in the New Year there with really good intentions to exercise daily, and eat really well. Sticking to a routine is often a challenge when you travel full-time & your moving so often, but feeling good in ourselves is the priority of this year.
After our first workout in the great mountains of Bogotá, we couldn’t believe how beat we were. Both finding it hard to breath with faces as red as tomatoes… It had to be the altitude. (At least we hoped we weren’t that out of shape.) I was most shocked over how our 30 minute workout affected Brian. Usually he isn’t that winded, or red in the face at the end of a workout.
Signs of altitude sickness under your nose…
We were eager to explore Bogotá after spending a few months with family up in Canada & the good ol’ US of A. It’s always so crazy to think, that wherever you land on the planet… What you see happening around you is ALWAYS happening. The hustle bustle, people on their way to work, friends uniting in the streets, smiling faces greeting you as you pass, thrilled you have chosen their country.
BEcause our condo was up on a big hill, every time we went out, we had to go down, and then back up to return to our place. To my surprise, nearly every day I was beating Brian up the hills. The ego side of me was excited to finally whoop his butt, but the lover in me was concerned.
Regardless of his heavy breathing, and slow pace climbing the hill… He kept saying, “We gotta climb Monserrate! You want to go tomorrow?” To BE honest, I kept brushing him off, and said… “If we’re having a hard time climbing these little hills… How are we gonna climb that 10,000 foot mountain?”
The moment that took my big man down…
It was almost time to leave Bogotá, and fly to Medellín, and we still hadn’t climbed Monserrate. I finally gave into Brian’s excitement, through my fear out the window, and said YES! After staring at it from our window for nearly 3 weeks, I had to defeat it!
SO, we laced up our shoes, packed our cameras, plenty of water, and we were off. As we approached the base of Monserrate the incline started getting more intense. Before even making it to the entrance we were already breathing heavy. The crowd of people was thick, the sun was getting hotter, and after just moments up the mountain I noticed I was already a good bit ahead of Brian.
Truth BE told this was weird for me. I reveled in the glory for a moment but kept noticing him falling behind, and needing to take more breaks then our usual hikes. As we ducked & bobbed through people blasting down the mountain, we finally made it to the top. My big tough guy was out of breath, exhausted, but still displaying his best self. This is making the hike sound terrible… BUT we did actually have a lot of fun. I am sharing these dirty details because we want you to know the subtleties of altitude sickness, mountain sickness, soroche, or whatever you want to call it. (Want the fun side of the story, read this article about the actual hike.)
Then soroche reared its ugly head…
We went to bed super early that night. To my surprise we both tossed & turned in that beautifully comfortable bed, even after that killer hike, we should have been sleeping like babies. I soon realized why in the morning. Brian fully covered in cold sweat, was laying there shivering. He told me he had been up all night with a terrible headache, and he was freezing.
Right from the get go we figured it was altitude sickness, so I started doing research right away. For mild cases they suggested ibuprofen. I strapped my shoes on, and ran to the pharmacy. Luckily I had typed out what I needed to ask for on my Google Translate App. It was a hilarious back & forth of sign language, but I got my point across & got the pain reliever!
When I got back, Brian was moaning & groaning, acting weird & out of it, and he couldn’t get warm. I made him tea, and heated up some left over curry. Then he start sweating. The poor guy was soo uncomfortable, on a rollercoaster ride from hell.
Medellín seemed like the cure…
The next day we had to fly to Medellín. With high hopes that the ibuprofen would help Brian out, and that he would wake up feeling great before we had to fly. Consequently we were soon let down. (Brian more then me… I just didn’t know how I could help him.)
He was such a trooper going through the airport, and flying an hour from Bogotá to Medellín. We made it to our condo, hoping the lower altitude of 5,730 feet would help him out. No such luck. He shivered so hard that first night, that I didn’t know what to do, except put socks on him, pile blankets on him, and embrace him as I rubbed his back. It was pretty scary.
For several days in Medellín he walked around like a zombie, in our skyrise condo, with loud construction surrounding us. Often dazing off, acting kind of strange, with a headache that he couldn’t seem to shake. Then to top it off the poor guy got a dry cough, which made his headache & head rushes worse.
Enough was enough…
After a week of Brian resisting the hospital, I pushed a bit harder, and encouraged him to go. We both avoid hospitals & doctors like the plague. No offence, but we believe there are holistic ways to heal your body. WHICH usually work very well for us… BUT not this time.
Off to the hospital we went. The nurse checked his vitals, took his blood, and hooked him up on an IV machine. Three bags of medicine later, Brian was feeling like his normal self, smiling, laughing, all the pain he felt relieved. We were really excited. They sent us off with a prescription for something that he is only to take when he is in pain, and said he didn’t need to go to a lower altitude.
The aftermath, up until today as I write this…
It’s been 5 days since our visit to the hospital. Brian has been mostly without the headaches & the pain. He has had foggy moments, where he is in a daze, gets head rushes, and is still having a tough time with big hills even on days like today where he woke up feeling like himself.
Most importantly, I am keeping a close eye on him. Reminding him that it’s ok to have weak moments, and he has got to be honest letting me know how he is REALLY feeling.
In a few days we are flying down to Santa Marta where we will be at sea level. Crossing our fingers that this is the REAL cure for my sweet man. Between now & then, if his symptoms come back, we will make another trip to the hospital.
In addition, here are all of the symptoms of altitude sickness that Brian has dealt with…
- Light headed
- Pressure in his head, headaches & sore scalp
- Head rushes
- Acting weird, dazed & at times totally out of it.
- Foggy, having a hard time focusing
- Hard time sleeping
- Hot & cold sweats, fever, shaking uncontrollably (on & off for the first week)
- Body feels weak, and tires easily
- AND a dry cough (no mucus), we think occured because his immune system has been down. (Nurses didn’t seem worried.)
We are NOT doctors. This is NOT medical advice. We are both stubborn mules when it comes to getting medical attention. If you have, or think you or someone you love may have altitude sickness… Please use YOUR best judgement to treat it as soon as it comes up.
The moral of the story…
No matter how strong, fit, or healthy you are… You can still get beaten down with altitude sickness. We wish we hadn’t been so stubborn, and just went to the hospital as soon as we got to Medellín. Keep tuning in with your body, and make sure you keep updating the people in your life, about how you feel. You may not think what you are feeling is a big deal. Your ego might play a nasty role in whatever is going on in your head. BE honest with yourself. If you can’t shake it, please seek medical attention immediately.
If you have questions or a share about mountain sickness, please leave them in the comments below, or send us a message for a quicker response on Facebook.
Take care of yourself & BE well!
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Brian Garcia + Erin Nicole Bick are full-time location independent, online business owners. Brian’s background is in firefighting, digital + photographic imaging, and web development. Erin’s background is in professional hairstyling, social intuition, personal development, creative writing, and brand identity development. Together, they create eCourses, high-end online business development coaching, and social media marketing strategies. They go by… BE Adventure Partners!
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