How do I start? This Tuesday morning started off well, became terrifying, and then ended on a positive note. I am not a morning person, but when I have a duty to perform it gives me the energy I need to get going. I was doing a Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (SWFL) survey with Tayler and Stefan at five thirty in the morning, so I had to wake up at five to be ready. Normally this isn’t that big of a deal, except that I didn’t go to bed until after one in the morning. When my alarm went off at five, I looked at my phone and Stefan had messaged Tayler and I that he had a stomach bug and would not be able to join us. I messaged the group and told them that I would be going and that Stefan should get some rest.
Tayler and I made it out to the McIntyre/Simpson area to perform the SWFL survey, and everything was going well. That morning we heard six or seven different calls of the flycatchers, whereas on other mornings we had only heard only three. So the survey was going well and I was even able to pick out their calls from the other birds in the area, which was something I had not been able to do previously. That is when the emergency started to unfold, as Tayler’s Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator, or ICD, gave out an audible alarm and we immediately stopped. She had a watch that monitored her heart rate and it was normal so we continued, but minutes later she received another alarm. Once again we stopped, and she couldn’t figure out why the device alarm was going off. We continued walking, with Tayler leading the way. I looked down to see where I was stepping, and when I looked up again Tayler was lying on the riverbank. She was stunned and I ran to her side, looking around to make sure it hadn’t been a bite from a rattlesnake or another animal. She was conscious but not speaking, so I pulled off the binocular strap from around her neck and used her pack as a head rest on the river bank. I told her that it would be okay and to just keep breathing, then I asked her what had happened and if I needed to call an ambulance.
She reached for her phone and called 911, telling them that her ICD device had gone off and where we were located. We had to walk back about half a mile to the parking lot where the ambulance could pick her up. We heard the ambulance drive up but could not see it through the thick willows and trees, so we were both relieved that we were only about 75 feet from the parking lot. We could hear the EMTs talking and the ambulance engine running, but we still could not see them. Then I heard Tayler scream and saw her lying on the ground again. I knelt down to her and yelled out to the EMTs that we were in this direction. The device had shocked her again, and was doing it for an extended period of time. The EMTs ran to our side and didn’t know what was going on. When the device stopped, the EMTs and I helped Tayler stand up and move to the side of the road so that the ambulance could drive up next to us. We helped load her in the ambulance and I followed them to the hospital, calling our supervisors and Stefan on the way there.
Tayler was taken to La Jara Hospital, and within an hour she had a room full of people waiting to see how she was doing. We were all able to go in and talk to her, and she was cracking jokes and planning when she would return to work. We all told her she was crazy and should focus on recovering! I have met some pretty incredible people in my life and Tayler is one of those people. It was a rough day, but in the end I was just happy that my friend was all right!