Father hikes 10 miles for help after son has mini-stroke in wilderness

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 11:57 PM AKDT
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PLACER COUNTY, Calif. (KOVR) - A 26-year-old California man is recovering after having a mini-stroke in the remote wilderness. He’s thanking first responders and his father for his life.

Brian Lee, 26, and his father, David Lee, were all smiles on their April 24 backpacking trip on Bake Oven Trail outside Foresthill, California. But the tough trail became the least of their worries when Brian Lee felt a tingling in his arm and lips while they were setting up camp.

“I started just sweating, and then, my speech went out the window. I remember the first thing I said to my father was ‘Why am I talking like this?’”

Brian Lee, 26, (right) suffered a mini-stroke while he and his father, David Lee, set up camp...
Brian Lee, 26, (right) suffered a mini-stroke while he and his father, David Lee, set up camp during a backpacking trip on Bake Oven Trail outside Foresthill, California.(Source: David Lee, KOVR via CNN)

David Lee says he recognized his son’s symptoms as signs of a stroke. As it turned out, a mini-stroke, or transient ischemic attack, had temporarily blocked blood flow to the normally healthy 26-year-old’s brain.

“It was really frightening. At that point, I told my father I was scared,” Brian Lee said.

Knowing the attack could be very serious, David Lee got his son squared away in their tent then hiked more than 10 miles to call 911.

“When I set out to leave him there, I did spend a few minutes thinking, ‘Is it better for me stay with him, or is it better for me to go? I’m leaving him without anybody here.’ That was a really frightening decision,” David Lee said.

Before he left and as darkness set in, David Lee set up a strobe light to show his son’s location.

Early the next morning, Brian Lee was airlifted to safety by a search and rescue team made up of members of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, the California Highway Patrol and others.

Today we’re highlighting an inspiring story of a young man who suffered a medical episode on a hiking trail in Placer County about a week ago. 26-year old Brian Lee and his father David set out on their first backpacking trip to Oven Bake Trail, near Foresthill. After hiking for several hours, Brian began feeling ill and reported having tingly lips and a tingly left arm. Within minutes, his speech became slurred, and he eventually lost the ability to speak. Brian had suffered from a transient ischemic attack, or TIA; a mini-stroke that causes a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain. Brian’s father hiked for more than ten miles (a two to three-hour distance) before he could get help for his son. He was able to call for help, triggering a team response from our fire partners, the California Highway Patrol, and Search and Rescue team. Brian’s episode occurred around 7 p.m. on April 24th, and he was rescued early the next morning. He credits his father’s quick actions and preparedness, in addition to the effort by SAR members and first responders for his life today. Brian’s story is a good reminder of why it is crucial to be prepared for the unexpected when you recreate outdoors, especially in a remote area. Remember to travel in pairs and to bring enough water, food, emergency supplies, warm/cool clothing to last several days, in the event you become lost, stuck, or suffer from a medical episode. We’ll be sharing a summer recreation preparedness video soon, please stay tuned for that. Brian shares some of the harrowing details from that evening in the video below:

Posted by Placer County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Brian Lee is now recovering from the incident, crediting his father’s quick actions and preparedness along with rescuers for his life.

“I appreciate that so much, and it’s very possible that everyone involved that day had a hand in saving my life,” Brian Lee said.

Officials say the story is a reminder to hike with others and be prepared for an emergency.

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