Saturday, October 8, 2016

Bee Stings - Allergy & Infection

We had an experience this summer like no other.  I wouldn't normally blog about it, but there was very little information online when I went looking.

My son got stung by a bee.  He's been stung before, but this one was different.  His hand swelled incredibly, and when I called our pediatrician's nurse advice line, they warned about a red line going up the arm that would indicate infection.  Hours later, I wondered "Is that a line?"  I hit up Google images but couldn't find anything that showed photos and gave an outcome (I found photos of lines, of other people asking "Is this a red line?" But none answered the question.)  So...this blog post.  Hopefully you've found this post because you, too, need to know "Is that a line?"

It started here: a field of purple flowers near Eugene, Oregon.  We were dropping my daughter off at a church camp in mid-May and the flowers were gloriously in full bloom.  We noticed the bee boxes lining the field.  Twenty minutes later, 1/4 mile away, my son put his hand on a fence post and felt the unmistakable sting of a bee.  None of us saw the bee, so we can't be sure it was actually a bee.  It may have been a yellow jacket.  While I took my daughter to her cabin, my husband took our son to the nurse's shack for some ice.  End of story, so we thought.


The next morning, my son woke up and wasn't feeling his usual self.  He seemed like he was coming down with something.  And he showed me his hand where he'd been stung.  It was noticeably swollen.  I ran to Walgreens and bought some Benadryl cream to put on it.  I figured it was just because he'd been stung in the palm of his hand.



Still feeling puny, I gave him some ibuprofen and called the nurse advice line at our pediatrician's office.  She suggested buying some oral Benadryl just in case it was allergic and to watch for a red line on his arm that would indicate infection.  Meanwhile, our son fell asleep, something he never does in the middle of the day.


I ran back to Walgreens to buy the oral Benadryl.  When I got home, our son was awake.  His hand was now so swollen that he couldn't bend any of his fingers even a little, and it was hot to the touch.  And...was that a line?  What does a line even look like?  I took this photo outside in natural light, then hit Google looking for photos of "red line on skin" and "blood poisoning red line".  I couldn't find a single photo or post that gave me the answers I needed.  I also texted the photo to my mom, because when I was little, she got bit by a spider.  I remembered her story of the red line.  I had no idea what such a line would look like.  Was this barely-there mark a line?

My mom didn't text back.  She called.

"ER.  Go now."


I was a little sheepish checking into the ER.  "I don't know if this counts as a red line, but my mom said to come in."  The nurse behind the desk took one look and immediately ushered us back to triage.  I took these photos in triage.


Bee sting, blood poisoning, red line from blood poisoning, red line from bee sting

Triage took some basic vital signs, including his temperature, which was normal. They sent us from triage to the waiting room.

We sat in the waiting room for less than 5 minutes.  They called his name before all of the people who'd already been waiting when we arrived.  They settled him into a room and within moments, a doctor arrived.  Things happened fast.  That subtle red mark was indeed a line, and by now it was to his armpit, and was pooling in the armpit. 

red line on skin, is this a red line, bee sting, blood poisoning

First they piled ice onto his hand to relieve swelling, which was now threatening to split the skin.  And his skin was so hot.  On his other arm, they smeared a cream to numb the skin to prepare for an IV.  By now, he was feeling really lousy.  The nurse came in, over and over and over, to take his vitals, including temperature.  The doctor also came in every few minutes.


An IV was put in as the doctor watched.  He explained that our son was having a severe infection due to the sting.  Blood poisoning.  Staph.  They were going to give powerful antibiotics intravenously to combat the infection before it reached his heart.  And, the doctor said, he's also allergic to bees.  The infection and allergy were unrelated he thought, but both needed immediate treatment.  So they also added massive doses of Benadryl to the IV. 



As the IV dripped, the nurse sat with us a while.  Our son was miserable by now and didn't want to even watch movies.  She explained that his temperature had spiked and he'd been running an ever-higher fever while in the ER.  I don't know how high it got.  His blood pressure was also dropping, so they'd put an automatic cuff on him that took his blood pressure every 3 minutes.  These are both signs of sepsis, meaning the infection was spreading to his whole body.

To demonstrate how serious this was, while we were there a multiple-car crash happened and many of the victims were brought to the ER via ambulance.  They paged our doctor while he was with us.  He left, but came back moments later.  None of the crash victims were as serious as our son.

Thankfully, our story has a good ending.   After about 3 hours, his temp and blood pressure returned to normal and he started feeling a little better.  The red line disappeared.  The doctor prescribed oral antibiotics and an epipen.  The antibiotics were for the infection, which he didn't think was likely to happen again.  That should be a once-in-a-lifetime sort of event.  The epipen was for the allergy, which would almost certainly happen again as we're an outdoor family and my kids each get stung about once a year.  This particular episode wasn't respiratory, but any future sting could be, so we have the pen for camping trips and hiking trips where we're away from medical care.  Otherwise, we carry Benadryl with us everywhere now, and it's stocked at school.  Should he ever get stung again, an immediate dose of Benadryl is his best defense against a serious reaction.

The next day, his hand was completely back to normal size and he felt fine.  The hospital discharge papers said he'd gotten a staph infection in his bloodstream due to a bee sting.  Probably, the staph was already on his hand when he was stung.  The bee sting was just the method for it to enter the bloodstream.  Can happen anytime, to anyone, from any skin prick.  If you see a red line, a pink line, a barely-there-maybe line, GO.  This infection moved so fast in our son, if my mom wasn't familiar with a "red line", I'm afraid things would have turned out much worse.  I'd never have taken him to the ER for something so subtle.  So I'm putting this post out there in the hopes of answering that question for someone else. 
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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Timber Butte Lookout - Forest Service

We've fallen in love with renting Forest Service cabins...old guard shacks and lookouts that are no longer used in an official capacity and are now in their Recreational Rental program.  Most of the cabins are very rustic, often very remote, and almost completely without amenities.  But there's a certain charm to them that makes staying in one a lot of fun.

You can reserve a cabin via Recreation.gov six months in advance.  So this year, in February, I started eyeballing dates and researching cabins and lookouts.  We liked the look of Timber Butte Lookout and it was close to home.  I picked out dates and one morning in March, I woke up early and got ready to score our reservation as soon as it was posted.

Timber Butte is located high in the Cascades at about 3600' elevation.  It's in the Willamette Valley in the Fall Creek area.  Located on a ridge top, it promised sweeping views, gorgeous sunrises, and more stars than you can count.

Sunrise on our first day.  I was lucky enough to catch every gorgeous moment, thanks to our 5-month-old.
When it was our day to travel, I called the Forest Service to get the gate combo.  This is important, because once you're standing at the gate, it's too late.  No cell service at the gate.  We followed the driving directions and arrived with no trouble at the gate.  I tried the combination on the lock...nothing.  Uh oh.  My husband tried.  The kids tried.  I tried again.  Nothing.  There's a path around the gate where people have obviously driven.  I eyeballed our minivan, skeptical, but really it was the only hope.  Hope that as we reached the ridge top, maybe we'd have cell service and could call.  And if not, then at least we'd be in, right?  My husband drove the van while I navigated him over the rough terrain.  The bottom of our van scraped terribly, but we made it over.  Started up the (very) steep hill to the cabin as our tires spun in the gravel.  After 1/4 mile, we reached an opening in the trees, high above the surrounding hills.  And voila, 2 bars of service.  Called the Forest Service.  Oh, you're at Timber BUTTE.  New combination in hand, we head back down to the gate to let in our car, which had no hope of making it around the gate.  Whew.

From the gate to the cabin is 1 mile and it's very steep at times.  The Forest Service recommends a high clearance vehicle.  We have a minivan.  And a sedan.  So we took them both up and hoped for the best.  They didn't disappoint, we arrived at the parking area in no time.

Vault toilet just off the parking area.

From here, the cabin is still invisible.  There's a trail, though, and just a few feet into the forest you'll get your first glimpses of the cabin.  It's about 300 feet uphill.  Your kids will run up the hill, but you, hefting water, sleeping bags, and babies, will be huffing and puffing by the time you get to the top.  It's the elevation, of course.  But the view at the top is well worth the effort.



Inside, the cabin is charming and bright.  Windows surround the cabin--it is a lookout, after all--and a cast iron stove is a guarantee that you won't be cold at night.

Best news yet?  This stove is PROPANE.  And propane is piped in from the parking area, so it's provided.  In fact, the pilot light should already be lit and ready to go.  But if you have kids, the glass will be HOT.  We ended up blowing out the pilot light during the day.  There are directions for relighting it in the guest binder.



The bed is a double.  I took queen sheets and they fit fine.  I hate my sleeping bag so I was happy to be able to use sheets and a blanket.




You'll be pleasantly surprised to find a lot of basic provisions...pots and pans, cutlery, plates, bowls, mugs, a teapot, etc.   Honestly, you don't need to take your own and lug them to the top.  The Forest Service, and probably other campers, have done it for you.  There was also plenty of bug spray, matches, lighters, and battery-operated candles (real candles are not allowed).



A puzzle and several decks of cards were a welcome discovery.

These are hidden in a drawer under the table.  There's a drawer of silverware, too.
Outside, you'll find another super awesome feature...a propane cookstove.  I was absolutely delighted to find this.  I can, and do, cook over a fire, but it's so much easier on a stove.


Directions for lighting the stove are also in the guest binder.

Cooking with a view!

We eat well on camping trips.  This became german pancakes.  I prepared the batter before leaving home.


Fettucini alfredo with chicken and broccoli, along with focaccia bread, to celebrate my husband's birthday on our second night.
Cinnamon rolls from a Pinterest recipe.  Yes, please.

But if you really LOVE cooking over a fire, explore just a little and you'll find a fire ring and picnic table.

We had a fire our second night for s'mores and roasted strawberries.  




If the bugs are getting to you, head inside and pick up the decks of cards.  We found 3 decks and each had all the cards!  My husband taught our kids to play Hill and they spent several hours playing.


But toward evening, be sure to take a chair outside and watch the sun set.  The trees will mostly be in the way, but we were rewarded with wraparound color our first night.


When you head for bed, don't lower the shades.  For one, half of them don't really work.  For another, the sunrise is so incredibly beautiful, you won't want to miss it.  The guest book in the cabin suggested that the stars are also amazing, but during our stay we enjoyed a full moon and couldn't really see the stars.  But the sunrise, oh my.  Our baby made sure I was up to witness it, and I wasn't disappointed.

The sun just beginning to color the horizon.  This is the view from the bed.






You may wonder what the mountains in the distance are.  Lucky you, someone has written the names of each peak on the deck railing.  There are about 6-7 peaks that are mostly visible from the cabin deck.



There are several short trails and skid roads around the cabin and parking area.  We explored these and found abundant wildflowers.
Take time to read through the guest binder, not only will you find experiences and tips from previous guests, but there are maps to trails, instructions for how to use the stoves, and practical tips like how to avoid poison oak (we didn't see any).



We drove down the hill to play in Fall Creek for a few hours on our second day.  It's about 6.5 miles from the cabin, and there are maps in the guest binder.  There are lots of swimming holes, hiking trails, and even a cave to explore.
We spent most of our second day down the hill at Fall Creek. 
All in all, it was an amazing trip.  We only stayed for two nights, but they were utterly relaxing and peaceful, despite the treks down the hill to the bathroom.  I'd love to stay again, with or without our kids.  The kids had a blast, even our little ones.  The cabin was a safe place for them to play and there was just enough to occupy our older kids.  Cell service is actually possible at the cabin (we have AT&T), but only sporadically and only for phone calls.  I did manage an occasional, short text to my mom, but it wasn't dependable. 






Cost per night: $65 via recreation.gov
Amenities: pit toilet, fire ring, picnic table, stove, cook stove, double bed
Our kids ages at the time of visit: 11, 6, 3, 5 months
Gear needed: pack n play, baby carrier, coolers, sleeping bags, portable sink, large water container (there is no water at Timber Butte...you'll need to pack it all in with you)

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Slick Creek Cave Trail at Fall Creek - Forest Service

There are several ways to reach Slick Creek Cave, but the only route I've ever taken is the one described here.  It's a safe route, even for fairly young hikers, and it's mostly level.  There's a little poison oak near the cave, so be alert for that, no matter which direction you approach from.

During a recent camping trip to Puma Campground, we took a short day hike to Slick Creek Cave.  It's a small cave near the junction of Fall Creek and Slick Creek that is believed to have been used by Native Americans.

We parked in the Bedrock Day Use area near Bedrock Campground.  We passed through the campground to site #7 to the trailhead.  The first part of the trail is pretty overgrown, obviously we didn't choose the most popular route!  But we could see where we needed to go, so it was fine.





Soon we emerged from the shade into a burned over part of the forest from a 2003 fire.  This section of the trail is neat, partly for the post-fire terrain, but also for stunning views of Fall Creek.  There were abundant wildflowers in purple, yellow, and white.



After maybe 1/2 mile (I didn't keep track, but it wasn't a long hike), we came to a bridge and a sign designating the area as the Slick Creek Cave Interpretive Site.  We'd arrived at the cave, but first we checked out the bridge.  The bridge is over Slick Creek, right before it joins Fall Creek.  It's steep, and from prior hikes down to the creek, I can tell you that it IS slick on the bare bedrock. 



A short walk from the marker are signs explaining the history of the area and the possible history of the cave. 




From here, there's a steep wooden staircase up to the cave.  The cave isn't very deep and it's safe for kids, as long as you make sure they don't venture too close to the steep slope nearby.



The upper walls of the cave show black, possibly from decades of fires from Native Americans.
A pano which fails to truly show the beauty and scope of the cave.




We spent 30 minutes or so at the cave, then hiked back along Fall Creek.  All together, our hike took about 2 hours and we hiked at a leisurely pace.  The trail was very safe for our 6 year old and 11 year old, but parts of it had steep drop-offs and so would not be safe for younger children.  We carried our 3 year old in a frame pack, and of course our 5 month old rode in style!




Cost: free
Amenities: pit toilets at the parking lot, water in the campground
Our kids ages at the time of visit: 11, 6, and 3, and 5 months
Gear needed: good quality, comfortable baby carrier; water
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