REACH Stories

Kelli Kuykendall

On the Road Again

Kelli Kuykendall

Kelli Kuykendall of Healdsburg, California, along with husband Michael and their five-year old son, Nash, had been looking forward to a little summertime getaway in Crescent City, located on the Northwestern Pacific Coast. Named for the crescent-shaped stretch of sandy beach just south of town, their destination was 300 miles north and just 20 minutes shy of the Oregon border. Their agenda was varied and fun. They would camp. They would go to a roller derby game, where Michael and Nash would cheer Kelli and her teammates on in their quest for victory. At the end of the trip, when Michael needed to get back home, Kelli planned to drive another four hours north to visit family in Newport, Oregon, and Nash would go with her.

It was about half an hour into the mother/son portion of the trip that Kelli stopped having fun. “When we got close to Brookings, Oregon, I realized I was having an allergic reaction to some medication I’d taken,” she says. The good news is that having had previous allergic reactions to medications, she knew more or less what to expect. “I’m prone to them,” she shares. The bad news is that having had previous allergic reactions to medications, she knew more or less what to expect. “First I get hives from head to toe—really fast. Then my blood pressure drops. Basically I go into shock,” she says. Then she adds, “There were a couple of times in the past when I passed out from this type of allergic reaction. That’s the part that scares me the most, knowing that I might pass out.”

Given her potentially brief window of opportunity, Kelli needed to decide what to do. In a perfect world, she would find a nearby urgent care facility or hospital emergency room, but she couldn’t in good conscience stay behind the wheel, especially with her young child in the car. With that awareness, she pulled over and parked. Then she dialed 911. And then she tried not to panic. “My husband was heading in the opposite direction, I was having an allergic reaction that might make me pass out, and I was alone in the car with our five-year old son,” she says.

Understandably, Kelli was more worried about Nash than about herself. She explained to him that she was sick and that an ambulance was coming to help her. He had only one question. “Mom, can I go with you?” he asked. It was incredibly hard for Kelli not to be able to give her son an answer, but thankfully she had one before too long. Cal-Ore’s Brookings base had responded to the emergency request for help by immediately sending a ground ambulance to Kelli’s location. On the ambulance were paramedic Michelle Tarwater and EMT Derek Wood. “When they got there, they assured me that my son could ride along,” Kelli reports. “I was so relieved to hear that, and Nash learned a valuable lesson that day about how first responders help us when we’re sick or hurt.”

Michelle and Derek didn’t waste any time. They knew Kelli needed special medical care ASAP. They would transport her to Sutter Coast Hospital, which was back in Crescent City. And on the way there, they would take very good care of her. “I can’t say enough about how great they were,” Kelli reports.

The Cal-Ore crew is happy Kelli made a quick recovery. The Cal-Ore crew is happy Kelli made a quick recovery.

“They were really calm and very attentive. First they made sure that I was okay, then they accommodated Nash’s needs.”

Kelli was grateful for the ambulance and grateful to have Nash with her, yet she remained anxious. “The allergic reaction just scares me,” she explains, “and the Benadryl I have to take makes me very nauseated.” Kelli says that her fear caused her to become really emotional at one point during the transport. “Somehow Michelle managed to comfort me and keep my son engaged,” she shares. Michelle also called Michael to tell him what had happened and where they were taking his wife. “He was in Eureka when he got the call,” Kelli remembers. “Michelle was so great on the phone with him.”

Throughout the transport, Michelle and Derek checked in with their patient, doing whatever was needed to keep her stable. “As soon as they knew that I was all set, Michelle would go back to interacting with my son,” says Kelli. “He was pretty unsure about everything, and it really helped that she just kept talking with him. Plus, like I said, he got to learn a lot about how ambulances help people!”

Upon their safe arrival at the Sutter Coast Hospital ER, the crew wheeled Kelli in on a gurney. When she was examined, it was clear that Cal-Ore’s quick response, efficient transport time and excellent medical care had made a difference. She was already on the mend. “The hospital only had to keep me for a short time,” she reports. “They just wanted to monitor me for a little while to make sure that I was okay.”

With Kelli in good hands, the Cal-Ore team could head back to Brookings to prepare for the next call that came in. Michelle wanted to take care of one thing first. “She came back into the ER to check on me one last time before leaving,” Kelli says. And things just kept looking up. For instance, when Kelli found out that she didn’t have to worry about how to pay for the ambulance ride. “I had no idea when the ambulance picked me up that Cal-Ore was a part of REACH,” she says. “Because we live in a remote area, we’ve had a REACH for Life membership for years. Within the scope of emergency medical service incidents, I feel kind of silly telling my story,” she says, “but there’s a reason I wanted to tell it. It’s because of the service I received. It’s all about the service, and I have only the very best things to say about Cal-Ore.”

Everyone at Cal-Ore appreciates Kelli’s kind words, and even more, they appreciate having been of service when she was in need. Here’s wishing all the best to the entire family, along with extra special wishes that Kelli never has to worry about passing out again!

Kelli is happy to be back home with her son Nash. Kelli is happy to be back home with her son Nash.
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