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Grayson Highlands State Park

Grayson Highlands State Park

June 2006

Kellisa and I went on our third father-daughter camping trip and first beyond Florida in June 2006. We went to Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia for a week of camping and hiking. Although we weren't able to summit the highpoint of Virginia, we did enjoy several nice hikes, including a trail to the top of Little Pinnacle.

We were camping deep in the mountains and the rangers locked the gate to the campground at night. Cell phones do not work in Grayson Highlands. In other words, we were experiencing perfect solitude. However, I couldn't relax completely because I was worried Kellisa would have a seizure far from medical services.

Our 3rd night of camping was interrupted by rain storms that included strong wind gusts. It was hard for me to sleep as I was worried about trees falling on our tent.

Kellisa was sleeping through the storm as I continued to struggled. Then, one of my fears was realized. Kellisa started to have a seizure. I wasn't comfortable with Kellisa's seizures at this point and would always over worry since her typical seizure would only last 45-60 seconds. We've been instructed to call 911 if a seizure lasts 5 minutes. I quickly sat up, turned on a light and started timing the seizure. 30 seconds, then 45. I was hoping she would pop out and it would be just a normal seizure and we could go back to bed. 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, it seemed like hours. Then 4 minutes and I still had no idea what I was going to do if we reached 5 minutes. An eternity later the seizure hit 4 1/2 minutes and I was frozen with panic and it felt like my head was removed from my body as I couldn't believe this was happening. As suddenly as the seizure started, it stopped just before hitting 5 minutes. I was never more relieved as when I saw Kellisa's partially paralyzed face looking up at me with blue lips and glassed eyes with a half smile as the other half of her mouth sagged from being paralyzed. This was her look when she came out of a seizure. We snuggled and Kellisa quickly fell asleep as I tried my best to get a little rest with what was left of the night.

Sadly, the month after our trip, a 6 year old girl died in a tent while camping at Nelson Dewey State Park in Wisconsin. As a kid, my dad took me on a couple of camping trips to Nelson Dewey State Park.

To this day (1.5.12), this seizure ranks in the top 5 most terrifying incidents in my life.

We used Grayson Highlands as a base for our day trip to Black Mountain, the highpoint in Kentucky. I was too scared after the seizure to camp the remaining two nights and cut our trip short. Because of this decision, we had an extra day and were able to reach Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River on our drive back home.

I have since reached the summit of Mount Rogers three times as I continue to search for a route that I can use to get Kellisa to the top of Virginia.

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