British Columbia

'If it wasn't for them she wouldn't be here today': family of hiker stung by wasp thanks rescue crews

Sabrina Bailey was airlifted off a Buntzen Lake trail after suffering a serious allergic reaction. The rescue helicopter returned for her brother-in-law after he, too, was stung.

Sabrina Bailey was airlifted off Buntzen Lake trail after suffering serious allergic reaction

Sabrina Bailey, 22, was airlifted off a trail at Buntzen Lake and taken to hospital after having a serious allergic reaction to a wasp sting during a hike. (Kassandra Bergeron-McMillan)

The family of of two hikers who were airlifted from Buntzen Lake after being stung by wasps during a hike on Sunday are thanking search-and-rescue crews for their help. 

Manfred Bailey and five members of his family were two hours into their hike on the scenic Diez Vistas trail when his 22-year-old daughter, Sabrina, was stung twice by what they believe was a hornet and had an allergic reaction.

"She started getting a little dizzy, blurred vision and wobbly on her feet," said Bailey. 

Other members of the family were also stung but had no reaction. Sabrina's reaction, however, was severe. Hives and red spots began appearing all over her body. 

Hives and red spots appeared all over Sabrina's body after she was stung. (Kassandra Bergeron-McMillan)

She took an antihistamine, but her symptoms worsened. After struggling to get a cell signal, the family finally got through to 911 and began walking back to where rescuers could better find them.

"That's when she pretty well passed out and she went blank," said Bailey.

"It was pretty scary to look in her eyes and see that there was nothing there. It was almost like she was gone."

Longline rescue

Emergency-line operators stayed in contact with the family over the phone and by text and, about an hour and half after the initial call, the family heard a helicopter approaching.

"Once we started to hear the helicopter, our anxiety went down," said Kassandra Bergeron-McMillan, Sabrina's older sister, who explained how they got the pilot to zero in on their location.

"They said get your cellphones out and wave whatever you can, turn the flashlights on and wave them at the pilot," she said. 

Coquitlam Search and Rescue crew members used a longline to reach the family. Sabrina was given an epipen injection before she was helped into a bed harness.

She begged her mother to come with her, so both were taken up the long line into the helicopter.  

Sabrina's symptoms had improved by the time the helicopter landed and she was taken to hospital by ambulance.

Search-and-rescue crews strapped Sabrina into a bed harness before using a longline to lift her into a helicopter. Her mother accompanied her. (Kassandra Bergeron-McMillan)

While Sabrina was being taken into the helicopter, Kassandra's husband, Taylor, was also stung and began having a strong allergic reaction. 

The same helicopter returned for him and he was also airlifted off the trail.

Bailey said the rescuers' actions were crucial.

"Thank you for saving my daughter's life. ... I'm convinced that if it wasn't for them she wouldn't be here today, " he said.

The family also thanked hospital staff and other hikers who stopped to help them.

What to do if you're stung

The family had no idea Sabrina was allergic to wasp stings.

Dr. Donald Stark, an allergist and professor at UBC's faculty of medicine, says often there is no way to know if someone is allergic until they are stung. 

Watch Dr. Stark explain what to do if you're stung by a wasp:

Dr. Donald Stark, an allergist, explains what to do if you're stung by a wasp. 0:28

He says the reaction can depend on a few factors as well as family history and general health.

"Where you get stung — if you get stung in the throat or neck — that might trigger a more serious reaction than arm and leg and number of stings," he said.

Stark said vigorous exercise and hot weather, when more blood vessels are near the surface of the skin, can also increase a reaction's severity.

He advises that all hikers carry an antihistamine when hiking, and an epipen if you know you're allergic to stings.

Coquitlam Search and Rescue is warning other hikers to be aware of yellow-jacket and hornet nests along the trail near the first of the Diez Vistas' 10 views.

Meanwhile, it said, Buntzen Lake wardens will work with B.C. Parks to deal with the nests. 

Read more from CBC British Columbia

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.