Heart Attacks in the Hunt Camp

Cumberland still camp

Sad fact is that most of us guys in hunt camps across the country are over 50 and for a lot of us, the half-century mark was reached 20 or more years ago. Twice within the past few years I have had friends who have suffered heart attacks in hunt camps that resulted in their deaths. I was not in the camps at the time, but that did not make the events any less telling. Both of these instances were similar in that the person having the attack was an authority figure, insisted that he was all right and that others should continue their hunts while he stayed in camp. This was a macho thing, and may have cost them years of life.

All of us are going to die of something, sometimes; but there is no since in rushing the process. Common to both of these events was that the guy having the attack was the senior member of the hunting party, he had a son or some younger hunt member that he wanted to take a deer and had made a special effort to go on this hunt. I do not know if either thought that this might be their last time in the woods, but I do not think this was the case. On the most recent of the two hunts there had been a drive down with a small trailer and a set-up in the rain. Complicating the situation was that the guy also had pneumonia that he apparently caught the previous week.

That morning as they were getting ready to go out before dawn, the older gentlemen said that he was not feeling well. As it turn out he had been, and was having, chest pains to the extent that had taken one or more nitroglycerin tablets. By the time his son returned some hours later after having shot a deer, his dad was in bad shape indeed. The son called his relatives who lived 4-hours away in another state, told them that his dad was seriously ill and they immediately left to come down to the camp.

The property owner, about 100 miles away, received a telephone call from a member of the gentleman’s family. He asked if anyone had called 911, the local emergency number, for an ambulance. No one had. That call was made while everyone was still in route to the camp and an ambulance with an EMT crew arrived to transport the stricken hunter to a local hospital. Almost simultaneously the landowner arrived and took care of the son and brought him to town. Within a relatively short time after his arrival at the local hospital the patient, still conscious, was air-transported to a regional hospital with a cardiac unit. He died within the next 12 hours.

Because they kept in contact by cell phone, the out-of-state members of the family were told to go directly to the regional hospital where they were at the time of the death. The landowner took the son hunting again the next day. This was more to take his mind off his father’s illness than anything. The landowner was informed of the death and waited until the other members of the family arrive before retrieving the son and telling him that his dad had died. With everyone there, the camp was cleaned out and the family started on their trip back home. Sometimes during these events the deer was cleaned and taken to a local processor.

As is apparent, hunt camps are terribly inconvenient places to die. If you or some member of the hunt party starts feeling symptoms of chest pains or even things that are apparently minor like unexplained pain in the shoulder or tightness in the throat, get you/them to a hospital. Once past the mid-40s that bad heartburn may well be something much more serious than an overdose of chili powder or cinnamon. It is better to be thought of as a “Nervous Nelly” and be alive than be a “Macho Man” and dead. It is also considerably less trouble to everyone if you can get someone to take you to a treatment facility before things get critical. With strokes and heart attacks minutes can mean the difference between survival with good outcomes and death. Don’t waste these minutes which will be the most valuable time of your life.

Leave a Reply