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Mom: Daughter died from altitude sickness in Colorado

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Posted at 6:06 PM, Aug 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-24 00:03:17-04

PITKIN COUNTY, Colo. – A 20-year-old Pennsylvania woman who became fatally ill while hiking Conundrum Creek Trail last week died of “acute altitude sickness,” the woman’s mother wrote on social media.

Susanna Deforest was hiking the popular Pitkin County trail Thursday with three other friends when she became severally ill. The Collegeville, PA woman died overnight while waiting for rescue crews.

While an official cause of death has yet to be released, Kate DeForest, Susanna’s mother, posted on Facebook Tuesday that her daughter had died from the illness that can strike people not accustomed to higher altitudes.

“Dear Friends, many of you already know this, but on Friday, we lost our daughter Susie DeForest. She was hiking in Colorado and suffered acute altitude sickness. Her friends who were with her did all they could to get help to her in time,” Kate DeForest wrote.

Although extremely rare, altitude sickness can become fatal if the victim develops lung problems or has brain swelling, called cerebral edema, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Experts recommend gradual increases in altitude while getting plenty of rest and fluids to avoid symptoms, which usually appear at 8,000 feet or higher.

Those symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid pulse (heart rate)
  • Shortness of breath with exertion

Friends of the Pennsylvania woman told the Aspen Times that the group brought with them all the necessary supplies, including food and water, but nothing they could have done would have saved Susanna. She was quickly overcome with violent symptoms and succumbed to the illness inside a tent.

The elevation of the Conundrum Creek Trail begins at about 8,000 feet and ends at the Conundrum Hot Springs at about 11,200 feet.

A memorial service for the victim is scheduled this Sunday in Pennsylvania.