It’s the motto of Boy Scouts everywhere to be prepared. But for what?
The Boy Scout Handbook suggests that the training of a Boy Scout teaches him to not only be ready for emergencies, but to also be prepared for life.
But sometimes even the best preparations won’t be enough to prevent the unexpected.
In 2010, Blue Cross and Blue Shield member Mike Kokotek was determined to become a member of the One-Percenter’s Club, a group made up of the very small number of hikers who get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and spend a night below the rim. In fact, it was on his bucket list.
As a former Boy Scout assistant scoutmaster and single dad to his four boys, Mike knew the value of planning ahead. This scouting family even has an Eagle Scout among the ranks.
Mike also has diabetes, but it is moderate enough for him to manage his condition through a work wellness program that focuses on his diet and routine wellness checks.
He had prepped his sons and two future daughters-in-law for the 10-mile hike down to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The group was well stocked with needed supplies and water. Summer temperatures can reach well over 100 degrees, so having enough water is essential.
As Mike and his group descended the trail, the hot sun scorched their path. The heat had reached the unrelenting 120-degree mark.
And it wasn’t long until Mike knew something was amiss. He was in pain. Serious pain. And even though he was taking water in, his body wasn’t responding. As he tried to move himself down the trail, his muscles refused to cooperate.
Mike had a kidney stone, an intensely painful condition. While painful, a kidney stone typically doesn’t cause damage. But not in this case. Because of the kidney stone combined with the heat, Mike experienced severe dehydration. He developed rhabdomyolysis, a quick breakdown of damaged muscle tissue. In this condition, the products of damaged muscle cells are released into the bloodstream. If protein myoglobin is released, the kidneys can be harmed or even fail.
Unable to continue and in a lot of pain, Mike stopped the hike. Mike’s sons sprang into action to help their father. They hiked to find a phone location where they could call for a ranger. Shortly, a helicopter arrived and he was transported swiftly to Flagstaff where he could receive emergency care.
One thing that Mike didn’t have to worry about was his health insurance. Even though he was far away from home, Mike had peace of mind because he knew he would be taken care of.
While Mike recuperated in the Flagstaff hospital, he couldn’t help but be impressed by how his sons helped to manage his care, the abrupt change in logistics and changed plans for everyone’s return trip home. All skills that they had learned in scouting. Leadership skills that were helping them deal with an unexpected situation.
Since Mike’s trek was cut short, the hike remained unchecked on his bucket list.
That is until July of 2017 when Mike and his new wife, Sandi, a registered nurse, set out to complete the hike. Despite having a knee replaced in the fall, Mike prepared for the trip with many 2-mile hikes to help condition his legs. Armed with knapsacks filled with water, trail mix, protein bars and even gummy bears, they were ready for the return descent to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Their prep and training helped them make it down and up while returning with the only casualties being sore legs and Sandi’s twisted ankle. No helicopter needed. Mission accomplished.
Mike is now looking ahead to the next adventure. It’s time to start planning the next item on the bucket list: a trip back to Hawaii to see the waterfalls that are off the beaten path.