After having hiked all of his life, NBC News correspondent Morgan Chesky had never heard of high-altitude pulmonary edema — until an incident he described as “absolutely frightening” could have led to a cardiac arrest.
“I could have never imagined a trip to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks would end on oxygen in an ICU,” Chesky said Thursday as he opened up about the ordeal on NBC News’ “TODAY” show.
It was the journalist’s first time in an ambulance and the intensive care unit. He had no idea what was wrong, he wrote on Instagram in April when he first shared details of the emergency.
The hiking trip was to celebrate his 37th birthday. On the show, Chesky recalled “feeling off” while walking with his uncle Eric, who in turn noticed his nephew was moving a little slower than he normally did as they began hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
“That’s why I continued to watch you like a hawk for the rest of the trip,” Eric Chesky said.
Hiking in Zion National Park, Utah, the next day, Morgan Chesky felt even worse — lightheaded and weak, with a skyrocketing pulse — and had to stop frequently to catch his breath. The symptoms were especially frightening because his father had similar warning signs before he died of a heart attack at 48.
Sensing he was in trouble, his uncle grabbed his backpack, helped him off the trail and drove him to an urgent care clinic one hour away. Tests showed his blood oxygen saturation levels were at 58% — half of what they should be.
An ambulance took the journalist to Cedar City Hospital in Utah on April 23, where Dr. Jarid Gray found his lungs were filling with fluid and diagnosed him with high-altitude pulmonary edema