NA PALI COAST — A Kauai couple helped rescue a hiker on Saturday on the Kalalau Trail.
“It feels great to have helped her, but at the time kind of stressful,” said Will Elkington. “My wife and I are CPR certified and we were getting close to doing that. It was scary and it really showed how people can come together.”
Will and Laura Elkington had just finished their hike to Space Rock and were heading back down the Kalalau Trail when they saw two female hikers from Sacramento. One was on the ground struggling to breathe and her friend was worried.
“The sun was really high and really bright that day,” Will Elkington said. “We asked them if they were OK. I think it was 87 degrees. If you’re not drinking enough water on the trail, you’re not going to do really well.”
They gave the ailing hiker, they knew as Kelly, sips of water and then, some Fig Newtons to eat.
“We were just trying to get her to stay in reality,” Will said “She wasn’t able to really speak or anything. She was disoriented. She could barely speak. She’d swallow little by little.”
Will said he noticed Kelly’s hands were constricting and getting very stiff, she had sweat on her face and her eyes had trouble staying open. She stopped breathing at times, he said.
The group continued to try to get Kelly to eat and drink for about 45 minutes, while keeping her awake.
Eventually, another male hiker came across the group. He ran toward the Ke‘e Beach trailhead to call for help.
Will, Laura and the friend carried Kelly toward the Hanakapi‘ai landing zone to await the rescue chopper, Will said.
At 6:47 p.m., Rescue 3 received a report of a dehydrated female slipping in and out of consciousness at the Hanakapi‘ai landing zone, said county spokeswoman Sarah Blane.
Rescue 3 aboard Air responded to Hanakapi‘ai while Engine 1 and Truck 1, from the Hanalei fire station, responded to the trailhead, Blane said.
The 33-year-old woman was located near the landing zone and loaded into the rescue chopper. She was taken to Princeville Airport where she was met by awaiting medics.
Will recently heard from Kelly and said she has recovered.
Dr. Allon Amitai, emergency physician at Wilcox Memorial Hospital, said prolonged heat exposure can be life-threatening. He said a healthy adult can lose up to three liters of sweat an hour.
“Sweat is basically water and salt. If this isn’t replenished, dehydration and hyponatremia will eventually set in, causing symptoms like fatigue, lightheadedness, and muscle cramps,” Amitai said. “More dangerously, if you’re dehydrated, you won’t be able to cool yourself down by sweating, and your body’s core temperature will rise.”
At high enough temperatures — typically over about 105 degrees — organs like the brain and heart will start to malfunction, the doctor said.
“Without treatment, this is a lethal process,” Amitai said.